I’ve noticed something odd about the British – if you move to live in another country, you are referred to as an “expat”, which is short for “expatriate”, defined as
a person temporarily or permanently residing in another country and culture other than their own
However, if a non-British person immigrates to the UK, they are not expats, they are immigrants, which is Not A Good Thing To Be, in many cases – try to keep up.
I guess I’ve always been an expat, as I moved to England as a young woman, and have lived either there, or in Spain, for many years. Americans living abroad tend not to refer to themselves as such, however, or at least not in my experience.
British expats can be a very odd bunch. From what I’ve seen, they fall into two groups – those who “stick to their own”, and socialise (and often live) with other British, and those who join in. The latter group are often said to have “gone native” – for some reason, this also is Not A Good Thing.
Now me, I could never figure out why you would want to move to a country, but not join in. How else can you learn the language, the customs and the culture? How else can you make new friends?
I’ve always considered myself an American, no matter where I live – but one lucky enough to intimately get to know cultures other than my own. I wish everyone could do this. It totally takes the fear out of life, when you see that others (whatever their politics, colour, religion and so on) are pretty much just like you. They want the same things from life – food, water, and freedom for their family, and if they are lucky enough, perhaps some control over their life, too. I find that it becomes much more difficult to be xenophobic or nationalistic – the lines blur when you experience the hospitality of other countries, and you stop seeing bad guys under the bed.
So if you can, travel. Meet people, talk to them. If more could do this, I’m sure the world would be a much safer place, and governments would have a harder time scaring us with the bogeyman.