Social Issues: Expats & Immigrants

Social Issues: Expats & Immigrants

Do you know the difference between an expat and an immigrant?

As per Wikipedia an "An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing." The word comes from the Latin terms ex ("out of") and patria ("country, fatherland").

This is in contrast to the term immigrant, which is defined only as "a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence," as defined in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The terms are similar in that both refer to people living outside their own country, but may differ in how long that relocation will last.

Expats & Immigrants: supporting the adjustment

In both instances, these groups must deal with living in a new country. Organisations like Expats & Immigrants acknowledge this and try to provide support in people’s adjustment, whether it is for a long or short stay.

Expats & Immigrants states, "Expatriation and immigration from motherland to fatherland has positive and negative consequences. Obvious consequences are the results of encountering an unknown fatherland.

"Unknown fatherland matters include climate, landscape, mores, social and work environment, but also individualism, sexual permissiveness and raising children. Less obvious consequences are missing one’s motherland, collectivism, missing family, lack of refuelling (going back and forth to motherland), the system of social connections and working habits.

"Expats and immigrants are balancing between father- and motherland, between adventure and un-rootedness. If un-rootedness maintains, the result might be an expatriation or immigration trauma."

Thus, whether you are here for the long or short haul, whether you define yourself as an expat or an immigrant, adjustment has its challenges.

Interview with Expats & Immigrants founder

Dr. Carl H. D. Steinmetz is the founder of Expats & Immigrants, together with Nezahat Yildirim and Bas Knoop. The organisation helps expats and immigrants in the Netherlands, other western countries and BRIC countries.

What does Expats & Immigrants do?

Expats & Immigrants’ (E&I) mission is creating a tolerant and just world. E&I focuses its energies on two trends: the dynamics of super diverse Western cities with indigenous people as a minority; and the dynamics of groups mourning their motherland, adapting to their fatherland and coping with acculturation stress.

E&I provides consultancy, coaching, training and research, attempting to find "Social Tissue DNA" based on ethnicity. Our work includes: extended family, mothers of immigrants kids climbing the SES ladder, and idioms of distress. All are the result of dedicated investigations into the "Social Tissue DNA" of civilians in the bigger Western Cities.

For expats, E&I developed an internet coach who helps expats learn the necessary skills in order to survive the expat experience better. E&I furthermore provides business recruitment services for the Netherlands and financial advice. E&I hopes to accomplish a world where all people are equal and, not unlike Martin Luther King suggested, are judged not on the colour of their skin but on the content of their character.

Where is the work done?

The office is in Amsterdam. Most work is done in Amsterdam, but we also have international projects. E&I is global in its scope and the Dutch Chamber of Commerce helps E&I with international business via the international hubs.

When was E&I founded?

E&I was founded in March 2013. E&I’s knowledge base is one of intra-ethnic mental health and education, as well as career services for immigrants.

Why was E&I created?

E&I was founded because both immigrants and expats in western countries experience exclusion and discrimination.

How does E&I accomplish it goals?

E&I accomplishes goals for immigrants by finding them work at municipalities, government, schools and businesses, while for expats, goals are accomplished by contacting international businesses, international schools and expat networks.

How can someone help E&I?

E&I could use help in sourcing international businesses interested in reducing "expat failure" (usually defined as a posting that either ends prematurely or is considered ineffective by senior management). We could also use assistance in finding Mayors and other government officials who want to make their city ready for its diverse global future.

Further information

People who are interested in the work E&I does can check our website or read the publications we have produced:

 Steinmetz, C.H.D. Immigrants and Expats. (2013). Pan European Networks, nummer 8, november 2013, p. 66-67. Steinmetz, C.H.D. Extending Family relations. (2013). International innovation. September 2013. p. 72-73.

Any final thoughts?

Expats/internationals experience exclusion and discrimination. Examples are numerous. Apart from not being seen as partners in the community, locals can sometimes make comments from the odd "You smell strange," "Why are you not eating local food" to "Why should I help you, you do not speak our language."

Thus, the expat is left thinking, "How do I cope with this experience?" You can start by telling the other person that their remark is painful, that you feel excluded and not accepted as a human being. It can be helpful to try to understand the other person’s fear. Raise the Socratic question "What is X?"; what is the nature of their remark?

Some find humour helpful, as long as it is not offensive. In the case of the strange smell comment, one might say, "Yes, I noticed that everyone avoids me. My son replaced my deodorant and I haven’t smelt the same since."

Most effective would be starting dialogues including ones on diversity. (Address the issue that "whites" react as if they are colour blind and acknowledge that people of colour have a right to be emotional about the aggressions and micro-aggressions that they are experiencing in the here and now).

Expats & Immigrants current projects

Expats & Immigrants in Pan European Networks
Finans Network
Finans Network Meeting in Amsterdam
Research at the Expatriate Archive Centre
Framing narratives of immigrants/expats
Family violence among immigrant/expat families and their children
Introducing ethnic diversity in an institution
The psychodynamic of the extended family in different fatherlands and one motherland

Many thanks to Dr. Carl H. D. Steinmetz, Managing Director Expats & Immigrants B.V. for providing his time and expertise.

Christine  Fischer


Christine Fischer

Christine Fischer holds an M.A. & a M.Ed. in multicultural counseling psychology from TC, Columbia University, NYC. She created FischersFiresidechats discussions, workshops, and seminars to foster warm, informal, yet informed...

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