Newly landed in Sweden: Expat or Immigrant?

It took me forever to accept that I was an ‘immigrant’ in Sweden. Over the years I’ve pondered, examined, deliberated, researched and ‘played with’ the common struggle with word choices and terminology usage.

I didn’t associate myself as an immigrant for many years. The word ‘immigrant’ from popular usage while growing up was used to connote ‘poor or suffering people who want to live in my great country to make a better life like our forefathers did.’ It never meant white people from Europe unless they came with the WW2 wave (my parents were/are immigrants). My friends with parents (or themselves) from Armenia or countries where Armenians lived were immigrants, but our classmates with Irish or Italian parents were ‘off the boaters’…since they were from ‘the old country’ rather than trying┬áto get away from ‘bad’ to arrive at ‘better.’ Immigrants made desperate decisions to give it all up for a ‘chance’ and ‘others’ were like I am now…relocated due to meeting someone from ‘somewhere else’.

It is my position of privilege as a wealthy westerner who met a life partner who happened to live in another administrative region that wasn’t in a treaty with the one I was from. We call them countries today, we now regard countries to be nearly exclusively nation-states. But (ok, this whole paragraph is more academic than debate but can add a dimension to the discussion nonetheless) the notion of ‘ethnic nation states’ is relatively new and certainly not applicable across the board.

What does that all mean? Well, that despite how we’ll argue the dictionary defines ‘expat/expatriate’, immigrant, migrant, migrant/guest worker etc, the whole reason we debate the nuances of the usage is to distinguish between those with privilege and those without.