Am I Really An Expat?

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


12 thoughts on “Am I Really An Expat?

  1. Great post! I’m sure that the experience isn’t always as romantic as we picture–I’m trying to prepare myself for a difficult year where I struggle with language with some really amazing adventures inbetween with my husband.

    It is wonderful that you have a husband who is a citizen and that he’s sticking up for you and your ambition. I do hope that you find a job that satisfies you.

    • Mandy I think as long as you know that not everyday will be amazing and some days you just might want to crawl up and cry will make them few and far between. Also in my experience having an end date forces you to make the most of it, since we are here indefinitely it is hard some times to force us out and experience life and what Sweden has to offer.

  2. Try contacting this club, maybe there is someone american living near you.

    I would try for a cleaning job, get your swedish better and then go for something else – language is the problem, it takes time to explain things to non-swedish-speaking workers even if the employers’ english is good.

    • Thanks for the information!

      Luckily for me now I do not have to work so we are holding off and with a job such as a cleaner I would not be working with Swedish people really so I am not sure if it would be helpful.

  3. Really interesting post. Although I am definitely an immigrant, I find it such a laden word here in Sweden that ex-pat sometimes is easier to grasp and identify with. I find a lot of people use immigrant when they really mean someone not like us, or often someone of another race.

    This post reminds me that I need to start embracing the whole immigrant business a bit more.

    • I am glad you liked it! I completely agree that the word immigrant is often used towards distinct groups of people here and I am not sure if it is because we are in a small town or unfortunately the people we are around but I am really made to feel like the people not like them.

      I would love to hear more about what makes you feel more towards an expat vs an immigrant and I will continue to be honest on where I am leaning.

  4. Even here in the UK it can be hard to make friends with the locals, just from moving from one area to another. There is no specific area, so you can’t learn where not to move to, which is really unhelpful, but in one area that my inlaws moved to they refer to newbies as ‘incomers’ in a slightly derogatory way. Where I am, they are dragging you out the door to join in with everything. It varies hugely – maybe it does in Sweden, too. I only you suggested you get out to work so that you don’t feel so isolated, really. I have had to move around a lot, and it can get lonely unless you have a reason to get out and about.

  5. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog! I’m enjoying reading yours- especially this post. It’s an interesting distinction. Since I also have a husband who is a citizen in my adopted country I can say there is a definite difference for that dynamic, as opposed to when- say, 2 Americans move together to another country. I totally helps to have an “in” and a personal translator (for culture as well as language). I’ve ended up just helping my husband with his business, which is really nice. We get to spend lots of time together and have total flexibility. On the other hand, when I have looked for jobs in my field, I’ve found it confusing to the point of paralysis. I can’t imagine being told that I qualified for a job as a cleaner! I will say that, a year and a half in, I still haven’t made any friends and that is probably largely due to the fact that I work alone with my husband. Ah well, with our little one on the way, I’m sure I’ll make lots of mommy friends :)

    • I have also enjoyed your blog, it is very interesting to read about others in a similar situation! I have been lucky that my husbands best friend is engaged to a British girl and they live in the same town as us so it was an insta friend of sorts!

  6. I loved this post, loved it! I felt pretty isolated in a small village in England – I can only imagine when you truly don’t speak the same language! I wish you the best of luck <3

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