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Conversation Starte...

Conversation Starter: Expat or Immigrant?  

Posts: 13
Active Member
Joined: 1 month ago

Conversation starter for the week...

In your opinion and to your knowledge, what is the difference between being an expat vs being an immigrant in Portugal (or any other country)? .


5 Replies
1 Reply
Joined: 12 years ago

Noble Member
Posts: 1228

I guess it all depends on context and viewpoint.


I'm a Brit now living in Portugal, so in that respect I am an immigrant to this country. What this means, in reality, depends on context and viewpoint.


- From the official PT State point of view, I'm an immigrant and do not have the same rights as PT citizens.


- But, as in the UK when discussing immigration, different people have different agendas. An immigrant can be a “foreigner nicking all our jobs and scrounging off the state” or “a valued and hard-working member of society”. I've only been in PT for about 2 years, but I don't get the feeling that there is any real discussion of immigration or deep feeling about immigrants here – long may that continue.


- When considering demographics and population change/movement, I will always be an immigrant (even if I were to take PT citizenship, I'd still be an immigrant in this context.)


- In the social context, depending on how much I mix/share within the community, I might be considered an “outsider”, but this could be the same even if someone were to move around within their own country – a “townie” moving from London to the countryside, or a southerner moving “up north”. I remember many years ago I moved to rural Anglesey and my next-door neighbour was another English person. On our first meeting, she indicated she was glad I had moved there as we now had a little “enclave”. Needless to say, there wasn't much ongoing chatting over the fence.


Expat – now there's a term filled with different meanings. In popular culture in the UK, expats are historically portrayed as “White men and their wives running the plantations in India or Africa, dining in exclusive clubs”. More recently, the emphasis has switched to groups of retirees living the life in bars and on the beaches of southern Spain (or a touch more middle-class, living in Gîtes in central France).


This can lead to the term expat being seen in a negative context – people in the UK questioning, with more than a touch of jealousy, why expats pensioners should receive their winter fuel allowance, or even receive the state pension at all.


Whether groups of people from one country living in another should refer to themselves as expats again depends on context. Using the term in a general, neutral sense to refer to a group that share a common characteristic (eg say, the angling community; Doctor Who fans) or who want to discuss shared problems (eg people with a particular illness) is, in my book, OK and acts as an easy short-hand. But, if the term is used by a group to set themselves apart from others, then I'd say that is not a good look.

So, context is all.


Sorry – I've banged on at length, obviously a lazy expat sunning himself in Portugal with too much time on his hands...



Posts: 2575
Famed Member
Joined: 13 years ago

Hi All

Whilst i agreed with Steve. I feel as this is my home i am an immigrant and Expats just want a title so if Expats is the title they want so be it.

Really it's how you want to be defined.



Posts: 13
Active Member
Joined: 1 month ago

Loved reading your response Steve, and it is funny how depending on where you come from things are looked at differently.

My father's family immigrated to Australia after WW2 to make a better life for themselves, similar to what "expats" do these days. They were white and reasonably well off so the could have possibly fitted easily into the "expat" category, but at the time, I doubt this term existed.

Perhaps being an expat is less permanent? An immigrant is a "forever"? Open to other ideas.

Posts: 2451
Noble Member
Joined: 10 years ago

This is an interesting subject for me.  For five years in the 80s i worked in the UK for an Australian company who owned a diamond mine in Guinea, West Africa.  I was IPM-CPP Certified in Expatriate Contract Law.  To us an Expatriate was a National of one country (in our case the UK, France or Belgium) but worked in another country for 183 or more days in the foreign country.  This entitled them to tax free income in their home country.  Expatriate comes from the Latin ex, ex- + Latin patria, native land.

I consider myself as an Immigrant because I have left my homeland and gone elsewhere permanently.  I have done the same thing previously living in America for 14 years where I held an Immigration Card.  Migrant and Immigrant both come from the Latin migrare to move from one place to another.

I don't know why I have two different fonts here?


Posts: 161
Estimable Member
Joined: 11 years ago

Personally, I have always associated the term ex-pats with someone who has moved to another country but wishes to retain the same lifestyle that they enjoyed previously but in a better environment.

We moved to central Portugal to be 'Portuguese ' and we try not to emphasise the fact that we are British Citizens.

Therefore we consider ourselves immigrants and are proud to be members of a Portuguese village ?


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