Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Types of Expats

I totally lied to you guys.  I'm so sorry.  I can't help myself. 

I'm not going to stop writing right now.  Mostly because my brain will not shut up and if I don't write this post my brain is going to keep going blah blah blah and I have grad school applying stuff to do.  Why do I do this to myself?  Procrastinating is bad.  Anyway.

In our little blogging community there is a debate about who is and isn't an expat.  I have to say I agree with both bloggers.  I think military expats have perks the rest of us don't get.  I wouldn't go so far as to say they aren't expats but they are not exactly living in Germany the same as everyone else.  Do you know how much money access to US postal service would save my family!?  That got me to thinking about how different all our experiences are.  There are lots of types of expats.  All different but all living abroad for different reasons.  Some only stay for a short time.  Some people (like me!) consider staying indefinitely.  Our experiences overlap and some are not at all the same.  Let's look at who makes up our eclectic group.

1. Tourist visa expats- people who live in a country for a couple of months on a tourist visa.  They stay long enough to soak up the culture but they won't go through the immigration process.  They also don't technically live in the country but they stay for a while so it's fair to include them.

2. Students- I've never been in a foriegn country on a student visa so I have no idea what it's like.  I imagine the university helps them out a little but really, no idea.  It does sound like it wouldn't be too lonely since school is a great place to make friends.

3. Expats for work- if you manage to get to Germany on a work visa then you are lucky!  They don't give out many.  Sometimes this can be the hardest visa because companies don't always help their employees with things like housing, moving, getting kids in school.  Families and singles who come in on work visas usually don't speak German.  Some work visas are only for a couple of months but others are here for the long haul.

4. Expats for love- by far most of the expats I meet are expats here to be with their significant other.  Having a spouse who speaks the language helps but you get to deal with cultural differences in a relationship, foriegn in-laws, and navigating a new culture without any official help.

5. Expats for adventure- some people pack a suitcase, get on a plane and then arrive in Germany hoping to find a job and land a visa.  A lot of my former English teaching colleagues braved the unknown for adventure and managed to thrive in Germany. 

6. Military and government expats- I have only met one or two expats who were here with the US government so I can't comment too much on what they experience.  There are some good posts on them here

7. Hipster expats- you know who you are.

8. Artist and athlete expats

9. Foriegn retirees.

10. Refugees- I knew several refugees when I lived in the US.  I think it's only fair to include them in the expat group since they have lost their homes and go through the immigration process.

11. Trailing spouses. 

That's all I can think of, do you think I missed any?  These categories are fluid.  I find myself to be an expat for love who has also worked in Germany and I hope to go to school here, though I won't be on a student visa.  In a way I am a trailing spouse because we move all around the country for my husband's work.  If I had to pick one identity it would be difficult, but just 'expat' covers everything.

I already talked about the difference between an expat and an immigrant in this post.  Do you think the term expat should be inclusive or exclusive?  Do we have more in common than we have differences?  Please, let me know your thoughts.


P.S. sorry for lying to you.  You have Shannon and Deanna to thank for my speedy return.  I'm a sucker for a good debate :)


  1. Glad we managed to drag you back to blogging! ;) you're right, lots of different experiences are possible when you leave your country for another. No one's overseas journey is the same. But that's life, right?

  2. Just popped back in after a longer absence----was disappointed with your Post earlier this week, but I get it. The list of "stuff" to do only gets longer as the children get older too (sorry to burst THAT bubble if you had it!). But then, I read that the others have talked you down from the ledge! HOORAH! I really enjoy following your blog. Maybe we can catch up sometime when you find yourself bored in "die schönste Stadt der Welt"?
    And for the record/poll: I am Nr. 4 - Expat for love...ahhhhh

  3. Love your blog so much..wanna follow each other? Let me know,

    Bryony xxx

  4. What are Hipster Expats? I'm totally intrigued... :)

  5. Great post! I tended to see both sides of that argument as well.