Expats versus immigrants

Last week was a German Film Festival week here in Bangkok. Moo, who speaks fluently German and has her connections to the Goethe Institute and the German Embassy, got a few free movie tickets.

The first film to be screened was called the ‘Golden Goose’ and since I had no idea what it was all about, I went along. Had I thought a little bit, or had I only started to dig in my memory, then I would have realized that the ‘Golden Goose’ is a famous Brüder Grimm fairy tale, a story I had read over and over again as a kid. The film was, of course, aimed at kids and was really well made and nice, but the audience was only made up of adults. Probably expats most of them, who needed to hear some spoken German, meet other German expats, and get some free beer at the reception before the movie started.

Expats is actually a funny word. Everyone calls the English, German, Swedes, Danes, French, Dutch, Australians, Americans, Slovenians, Russian, etc. expats here, and so do the expats themselves. They have their little clubs, where they meet, their not so little restaurants where they eat (run by expats), their expensive food shops, where they buy food, and their own little resorts, where fellow countrymen/-women come for holidays (much nicer to be among themselves than mix with the locals).

But a much better word for all the expats here would actually be immigrants, because they all are immigrants here in Thailand (not officially, but unofficially) and they behave just like many immigrants behave in a foreign country: meet fellow countrymen/-women, buy groceries that remind of the food at home, eat the food they are used to eat, and do not speak the language of the country they are living in.

So what is actually the difference between being an expat and an immigrant? Who defines what is what? The big difference in my opinion is that immigrants feel like underdogs and expats feel and behave like they own the place – a typical expression of feeling superior. Same, same, but very different!

This entry was posted in Bangkok sabbatical, Thailand fieldwork and travels, Thoughts and Tales, Travels and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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