Ex Patria

Look, right, I just hate that they come here, take over half the city, disrespecting the actual locals. Some parts of this city you legit have to speak their language. They only hang out with their own, refusing to integrate, and they expect everything here to cater to them. It’s like London is turning into Little Nigeria.

(paraphrasing a former friend of mine)

In hindsight, I should have known back then the rotten opinion this person harboured. It became more evident over the years and finally led to our friendship dissolving like an Alka Seltzer in a puddle in the backyard. After all, I take the Specials advice on the matter seriously.

However, in a twist only life has to offer, I find myself faintly echoing some of these sentiments. It gets even weirder, it was them who first taught me the word that was to become one of my biggest pet peeves today: expat.

If you live in any bigger city around this globe that does not belong to the ‘anglo-sphere’, you know them.

Expats are the people, who at home lord it over the unworldly cretins that never leave their hometown while complaining about everything that isn’t like home in their ‘adopted’ residence.

Seriously, look up /r/berlin, for instance, and be astonished how many posts one can read in a week full of questions that read like this:
Where do I find an English speaking barber? Does anyone know an English speaking lawyer? Where do I find Poptarts in this city? Why does the cashier in the supermarket not speak English? Any idea where I can get a decent Irish beer here? How dare these people be culturally different? Are there any Australians that wanna hang out tonight?

It does not help matters that almost all of these questions would be answered faster if those people would just google them, but the worst bit is the entitlement. The terrifying assuredness with which many people simply assume the world will provide them with the comforts of home they expect on foreign soil.

Now, let me make two things abundantly clear:

1.) Not everyone from these places acts that way, of course. I am deliberately exaggerating.

2.) I don’t have an issue with foreigners for being foreigners. I think I am usually quite good at having issues with people because they are dicks. You’d be astonished that ‘being a dipshit’ truly knows neither race, religion, nor gender or sexuality.

What gets me the most is the apparent undertone of the distinction between ‘immigrants’ and ‘expats’. In a perfect world, both would be terms describing the same circumstance, but let’s be real here: We know it is not. ‘Expat’ is overwhelmingly used for white people. At the same time, ‘immigrant’ has become so synonymous with (unwanted) coloured people that it might as well be a slur.

Do not get me wrong here. I want Berlin to be a multi-cultural, international hotspot where people of all creeds meet. I ALWAYS want people meeting each other. It literally is how I think we’ll save the world. However, people have to accept that places have history and identity. People should be a lot more aware that making a new home abroad should not mean turning abroad into home.

By far the worst defence for the word ‘expat’ I ever heard, by the way, pretty much sums up the issue. The person argued that ‘expat’ is used for people who move to another country without truly belonging there (sic!).

Tourist….you are describing a tourist. And I’ll end with immortal words of Jarvis Cocker.

Everybody hates a tourist. Especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh.

(Pulp – Common People)

Edit: Today, (January 26th, 2021) I had the thought that the origin of the word ‘expat’ itself best describes the issue I have with expats. Ex patria roughly translates to ‘out of the fatherland’. But being away from home does not mean you arrived at your new place. And here lies the problem, methinks.

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