Are EFL Teachers Expats?

m553404.jpgWhile most sources define an expat simply as someone living outside their own country, a discussion arose on Dave’s ESL Café about this very topic, and most teachers seem to agree that they, at least, do not consider themselves expats.

It’s interesting to me in the sense of how people identify themselves or others; I don’t feel a great personal stake in whether people consider EFL teachers in general or me in particular an expat. Some teachers felt the title of “expat” usually goes along a high salary, or a relocation more focused on a specific job or position (the company sent the person abroad to do the same job; the person sought out one particular position abroad). Concerning the last point, I don’t think this would always exclude English teachers, but there’s still some distinction in my mind. Could the defining factor be that the employer is in the person’s own country, or is not a local employer? While I don’t know how much of a difference this always makes in practice (though sometimes it makes a big difference), it might best fit who people just consider expats and who they do not.

The reason or incentive for the move also seems to matter in who is consider an expat – generally people do make a distinction between, say, economic immigrants to more developed countries or refugees on the one hand and “expats” on the other. But I don’t think it’s easy to explain that distinction either – is it just something about “social class”? Is it whether or not the move is considered permanent or not? Again, I don’t know that any definition I come up with fits the “natural” distinction people seem to have in their heads.

I also think that the longer I live abroad, the less likely I am to think of myself as an expat – it strikes me as interesting that people feel the need to define themselves on whether or not they are living in their own country. ..and I think there are people to whom it’s really important to be considered expats. I suppose I feel that where I live in contrast to where I’m from is one part of me as a person but not really central enough to merit a special title – as opposed to just one more description, any more so than prior jobs or what I majored in during university. I’m pretty sure I’m a bit of a weirdo, but I don’t think it’s because I live out of my own country (though that may play a role in why!)