Many expats you’ll come across don’t like to be called expats. With the world in chaos around us it seems like a good time to a light hearted look at who we are.
My definition: an expat is a person living outside their country of origin for the time being.
Others prefer to be called immigrants.
My definition: an immigrant is a person who has made a permanent residence outside their country of origin. Immigrants have given up their home country permanently and taken on the passport of their new country.
There are many different expats you’ll meet though we all have one thing in common. We all need to adapt and learn how everything works, find the basics and often do it all in a language we don’t yet understand. There’s a common misconception that we’re all women drinking gin on the lawn of the club with a maid at home and husband doing something important somewhere and I’ve discussed the expat image before on the blog.
This then is a more humorous take on expat life with the 14 different types of expats I’ve come across so far in Greece and the Middle East. Maybe you could add a few more?
1. Expat by choice
Those that became expats because they found something they couldn’t find at home. Think great weather, good food and lower living costs. Some also come for job or business opportunities. With the country still in the grips of a financial crisis, there aren’t many of this category today and they can mainly be found setting up their own small business and deserve a medal for trying.
2. The rotating expat
You’ll mainly find these in Athens. They are the diplomats and those working for international companies. They will hurriedly try to learn the language and history, attend cultural events and organise coffee mornings. Not often here by choice and gone in a couple of years to their next posting, they tend to be an asset as they have cash to spend in the local economy.
3. The expat in love
These expats often started out by coming to Greece on holiday and then fell in love, with the place but also with a Greek. They have married and settled down, often having children.
They integrate well usually, learning the language and bringing up their children as bilingual. Welcomed on whole the by the local population especially in the outlying areas where the gene pool needs to a good mix up every now and then.
Many have headed back to their country of origin in recent years due in part to the financial crisis and lack of jobs in Greece and also to educate their children. Those that do stay have the advantages of both countries and children that often seem to have picked up the best of both cultures.
4. The bad expat
These are the ones who have run away from criminal behaviour back home. The ones that can’t ever return home. I’ve not personally met any but there are rumours they still exist. I think they were probably more likely to be found in Spain 20 years ago than Greece today.
5. The ‘Walter Mitty’ expat
These type of expats are living out their own daydream fantasy with claims to have once been fighter pilots or special forces. If you’ve been somewhere or done something they’ve been there and done it better. We’ve found these in every expat location we’ve lived in and Greece is no exception.
6. The do-gooder expat
These are the kind of expatriates who do good. Sometimes they just move to their destination country with that purpose. They help refugees, minorities, animals, they save the environment or organise demonstrations. Good expats are incredibly good at being good. They even think they are better than anyone else including the local population. They mean well, their intentions are good and often they do change things for the better. Though there are times they should stand back and remember that they are just visitors in Greece.
7. The expat complainer
These are the ones who know everything better than the locals. At least they think they do. They can be found sitting in an expat bar complaining on a daily basis. They complain that the locals don’t work, don’t pay their taxes. They complain about the weather it’s either too hot or too cold. They complain about the food and think it should be more like back home. They complain about corruption, the education system, the healthcare. In fact, they complain about everything. Occasionally they have a point but on the whole, they are just annoying to expats and locals alike.
8. The escaping expat
These can be found in any expat location. They are escaping their lives and often the people they have become back home in the hope that things will improve in their new country. A marriage that needs mending won’t be fixed by location and an alcoholic or gambler will still have their addiction in the sunshine. They don’t tend to last very long and will usually be found more broken heading back home with their tails between their legs.
9. The holiday expat
These are the ones that come on holiday and through the rose tinted glasses of a few too many ouzos, decide it’s a good idea to move to Greece. They do fit into some of the other categories but have a few special points of their own. Many in the past bought dodgy properties and gave over life savings trusting people in a bar in a way they would never have back home. These are the ones that stay in holiday mode even though they are now living here, they are the all-day drinking crowd in expat bars. They often turn into expat complainers, are not usually well travelled often only having visited the one place on holiday and stayed and not explored their new country any further either.
10. The retired expat
These do also fit into the do-gooder, complainer, bad and choice, but there are so many they deserve a category of their own. Many have bought properties and pensions with them. They put more into the economy on the whole than they take out if you exclude healthcare costs.
They are often found in groups, some can be reluctant to fully integrate and tend to be the reason that expat shops exist. They are great at making excuses for not integrating and often complain that there should be more signs in their own language.
There are a few who have worked in the Greek economy long enough to be Greek pensioners these tend to be better integrated and have better language skills. Those that do make the effort to integrate tend to stay longer and are less likely to turn into complainer expats.
11. The expat kids
These are found in every location and tend to be the most balanced of all the expats. They integrate and learn the language quicker than their parents. They take everything that happens in their stride and on the whole turn out to be great adults. They tend to be better with languages than their counterparts back home. They are also more citizens on the globe, have a broader view of the world and its problems and are less likely to be nationalistic.
12. Greek expats
Depending on the survey there are anything between 3 million and 7 million Greek expats spread around the world. The largest single concentration of Greek expats can be found Melbourne Australia, with substantial populations in North America, Germany and Canada. They will fit into the same categories as other expats in the countries they have settled in. They tend to keep a link to back home and still speak the language after several generations. There are also 3 other categories of them.
13. Greek expat property owners
Often down the generations, the Greek expat will still own a part of Greek soil. They can become a problem for those who remained especially when they come to want to sell land or property. As it gets passed down the generations a building or plot can end up being owned by several cousins and you need the consent of all to sell. Not wanting to lose their link to the homeland the expat Greeks are often reluctant to sell, despite those living in Greece who need to sell to raise much-needed finances. It’s in this way that so many properties fall into disrepair.
14. Greek expats on holiday
This group tends to be found mainly in July and August on the islands. Some return once in their lifetime others come back every few years. They arrive loud and proud with money in their pockets and often help out in the local communities in some way. One example is the ‘Kassies’ originally from Kastellorizo and now living in Australia who has set up associations to help the home island, in recent years they have started to return to set up businesses and rebuild the properties bombed out during the war.
15. Greeks who are expats in Greece
These are Greeks brought up in the diaspora who have decided to return and make a go of it in the homeland. They usually speak Greek well, speak Australian/American or German like a local but often can’t read Greek when they first arrive. Many come and set up businesses or return for love of country and sometimes for marriage.
With many Greeks leaving during the current crisis one village near us has been repopulated in recent years with Greek Americans wanting to return and bring up their children here.
It’s been more in the news in recent years, but with a very long European border, there have always been refugees arriving on the shores of Greece. Escaping war, persecution or poverty, only a few stay on to live and work in Greece. Some may disagree that this category should be here, but we have come across hard working refugees from many different countries in many different places in Greece.
Though more are now stuck since the borders were closed, they can be seen working in the fields, cleaning in tavernas, doing building work or more recently, begging in the streets in Athens. Many are hidden away in horrendous conditions in camps. Most just want to transit through to find a place where there’s work to put food in their mouths and roof over their heads until it’s safe to return home.
17. The expat that hates expats
Yes, these really do exist. The main problem with this particular group of expats is that they tend to group together. They can be overheard discussing how much they hate hanging around in expat bars or with those other groups of expats mentioned above. They hate or claim to hate all other expats. Either because they think they are above everyone, or because they’re jealous, or simply because they were the first ever expat and everyone else copied them.
Occasionally you’ll find one that’s been hidden away in a remote village with only locals for a few years. But they are a very rare expat indeed.
Although very much a tongue in cheek look at expat life, there is a need as an expat to find your tribe. We all need to be a part of a wider community and the help that we give each other is invaluable. Most of us don’t fit neatly into one category but are probably a little bit of a few if we’re honest.
What type of expat are you? If you enjoyed this post and found it useful or entertaining please comment and share. Thank you