Or am I an immigrant?
This has been on my mind a lot lately. The notion of an expat is filled with romanticism and wonder, take an average citizen and send them off to Paris or London for a year and watch as they try to assimilate*. When I was in college, in an American Studies class about communities, I did a large research paper on expats in Paris. I was obsessed with this notion of leaving behind the banality of everyday life in Southern California and being transported off to a city where I would shop in open air markets and laugh with friends (who understood my English perfectly) over the follies of my learning how to use the metro.
The reality is while the definations of expatriate and immigrant are the same living those words in the modern world is not. I am an immigrant. I am living the harsh reality of a small town in a country where I do not know the language and very few people understand me or want to take the time to listen. I had to line up outside an office with armed guards and receive a card that is to be with me at all times stating that I am an immigrant. To learn Swedish I will attend classes called Swedish for Immigrants.
In America I was a young, college graduate, working at a respectable job. In Sweden I have been told I could possibly be hired as a cleaner. I am not saying cleaning up classrooms is wrong but we all know that is the job of an immigrant no matter the country. An expat is working for the international counterpart of their company or staying home while their significant other is doing that.
Mr. Hemborg said to his mother “we did not move to Sweden so my wife could be a cleaner, I support our family” (o wait I did not mention it was my Mother in Law that told me I should go do this!). This does make me lucky I think that while I myself am in immigrant my husband is not. Mr. Hemborg is able to navigate the waters of getting my social security number, finding an apartment, and all the little things like getting our cell phones and setting up cable.
I cannot imagine being an immigrant without a partner that is able to do all of this. It really gives me great respect to people without this advantage that take a giant leap in the name of bettering the lives of their family.
Believe me I am happy with our choice and some days I do get hit with the “O MY GOD I live in Europe” this is real life though and sadly it is very rarely sugar coated and romantic!
*Assimilation to me is a very complex dynamic filled with my families past and my education so that will be a whole post on its own