So Trump would build a wall on the border to Mexico, England voted for Brexit to stop Poles from coming into the country, Hungary does not want Muslims on their soil, the German Right does not want Boateng as their neighbour, yet noone would mind if George Clooney chose to live with them. I try to explain, why we behave the way we do and what we can do about it.
What’s the difference between an expat and an immigrant? (In German this can be compared to the difference between „Auswanderer“ and „Immigrant“.)
An Englishman living in sunny Spain? Expat. An American working and partying in Berlin? Expat. A German relocating to warm and cheap Thailand? Expat.
A Syrian refugee seeking shelter in Germany? Immigrant. A Polish waitress working in England? Immigrant. A young Nigerian hoping to get into Europe? Immigrant.
Difference number 1:
An expat is a good thing, the word has a cosmopolitan, positive connotation. An immigrant not so much. Why is this? Well, here comes
Difference number 2:
Expats could just as well stay in their home country, they are not forced to leave, at least not by life-threatening reasons. So it is all sunny and shiny. An immigrant however comes for serious reasons, these being poverty, possible death and hopelesness. And as we as human beings prefer to surround ourselves with nice things, we prefer expats to immigrants. Immigrants, the word alone makes us feel slightly uncomfortable, because it conjjres up all those dreadful images.
Difference number 3:
Where do they come from? In England, Polish workers are called immigrants. However: In the decades I spent travelling to, working and studying in England I was never seen as or called an immigrant. Coming from Germany simply has a different feel to it than coming from Poland. This again is very natural: We as humans prefer to surround ourselves with familiar things. Our friends have the same hobbies and favourite bands like us. We chose a neighbourhood of people like ourselves. We associate with things that are close to us, while strange things frighten us. And to the Brits, even a German is closer than a Pole.
So us making a difference between expats and immigrants is basically a very natural behaviour. This is how we as a species work. We like good things which a