Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 26/Jun/2004: "Expat or Emigrant?"

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Expat or Emigrant?

I hope I understand the distinction between the words correctly, my interpretation of Expatriate (or short Expat) is someone who lives abroad temporarily with the intent to return at some point, while an Emigrant moves to another country permanently. Native speakers, correct me if I'm wrong here.

A post I just found at Duncan's blog (American in Germany) raises the question of deciding whether to stay or to go. Duncan has lived in Germany for half of his life and from what I've read on his blog he's probably going to stay in Germany for the rest of his life.

I'm not anywhere near the time Duncan has spent abroad, I "only" get to just over 20% of my life spent abroad. Seven years in the UK and 9 months in the US. Yet I'm wondering where my life will continue and if I'll ever return to Germany or not.

The longer I live here in the UK the more I think the move will at some point be permanent. To an extent I still feel German, yet at the same time I notice that my distance to Germany is growing. When I visit Germany (which doesn't happen often, probably once or twice a year for a few days with my parents and/or my sister) it feels more and more like a "foreign" country to me.

Partly this is probably because I don't live there, so a lot of everyday activities and discussions don't mean much to me. A lot of the politicians I don't know, a lot of the discussions about current affairs I don't understand because I don't know the background. I know the English and Scottish football players better than the German players (Schweinsteiger? Huh? Who's he?) and am more familiar with Motty, Gary Lineker or Alan "Shoddy Defending" Hansen than any of the Germany pundits (Apart from Franz Beckenbauer, and I need PapaScott's face-recognition auto-mute system for him).

I'm also getting used to more and more things here. When I moved back to Germany for a period a few years ago I already missed a lot of things I had gotten used to from the UK. Often little things, but still. As far as I know Germany doesn't have any decent Sunday newspapers (No, Bild am Sonntag is not a newspaper). I missed the Today Programme, Sport on Five or John Peel and Steve Lamacq. I missed the cup of tea offered so frequently. I've started to drink ale and when I find the time cook bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Despite the Schadenfreude posting I was slightly disappointed when England went out of Euro 2004. I don't think I'll ever support England (more likely Scotland, but that's another story), yet can relate to the England supporters grief.

I'm starting to get upset about some in my eyes unjustified criticism of the UK in some of the German press. I'm starting to defend the way things are done here. I'm getting more and more annoying with a lot of the moaning I hear from Germany and prefer the more positive outlook here in the UK (yes, there's a lot of complaining here as well, but in my eyes it's of a different quality).

This is probably for another posting, but just to mention it: I'm still strongly Pro-European though, as are a lot of other people here. Don't think that UKIP and the like represent everyone here in the UK.

My English is far from perfect or where I would like it to be, but I'd like to think I'm improving. I mostly think in English, a lot of things I struggle to explain in German because I only learned the English words for it. I also noticed more and more mistakes creeping into my German as well as having to think much more how to write something.

75% of my working life after university I've spent in the UK, meaning most of my pension payments I've made here. I'm also very much used to the work style of an American/British company (I work for an American multinational, but I guess there are some local influences here as well), I think I might find it difficult to adapt to the style in a lot of German companies.

Where does this leave me? When will I make the transition from an Expat to an Emigrate, assuming I make it? I'm almost certain that I won't return to Germany within the next 2-3 years, assuming I'll still run this blog then I'll revisit this entry once I've lived in the UK for a total of 10 years. And I've got the strange feeling I'll have made the transition by then.

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