Which Came First, the Chicken or the Expat?
Who owes who in an expat/nation relationship? Does the expat owe their newfound residence eternal gratitude? Does their new country owe them for bringing over their mad dog skills? Or does the balance lie somewhere in between? (Hint: the PC answer is always in the noncommittal negotiated answer).
As I watch the migrant/refugee/future expat Syrian crisis unfold from afar I first believe it’s they who owe it something; if Europe be so kind as to take in the downtrodden of another region, those welcomed in have only to be grateful.
Then I think about my own situation; a professional teacher asked to please, please, pretty please come to a developing country to enlighten the masses. Or something like that? Surely Vietnam owes me – me with my Master’s degree, my yellow journalism-ed style CV and my always-appreciated fake blonde hair. The Vietnamese seem to think so. Why else do they tell me how they wish they were American? Stroke my freckled arms creepily? Wear American flag T-shirts and constantly give me the thumbs-up sign?
In a flash I see my own warped sense of entitlement.
I read once somewhere that the only difference between an “immigrant” and an “expat” is the color of their skin. Certainly I benefit from that automatically exalted citizen status by virtue of my pale genetics. But, certainly, I still see, that this may not be just.
Dang you, social justice! Always the buzzkill!
I know my overseas experience is different from most of those who leave their countries. Rather than hunger, famine or despair, I left for Buzzfeed-type highs of finding myself!, encountering new cultures! and seeing what else is out there! While so many emigrants leave home in a rush, I left with well packed excess baggage and a comfy spot to land. Never have I ever had fear or anguish pushing me on to a plane.
And so with delayed Kindergarten awareness I begin to realize that all those who wander are not lost necessarily the same. That becoming an expat – and ultimately it’s what all us bohemians and refugees should pool to become – is not a common experience. Travel is profound in different ways and on different levels to those who embrace, abhor and are forced to accept it.
Maybe, just maybe, the who-owes-what expat/nation balance is settled by the who and what involved. Maybe those who can give, should, and those who need to take should also. Maybe this generation’s welfare stamp is next generation’s break through scientist, or grocer, or badminton enthusiast.
It’s not so simple as a Donald Trump Big Wall solution or a Germany Open To All (Until We’re No Longer). If the answer to immigration, expatriation or even sanitation could be found in a blog, it wouldn’t be a CNN debate problem.
So, no, no grandiose statement here. Only the timeless question; Which came first – the chicken or the expat?