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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  26 Jul 2016

IMMIGRATION: A Third Of Expats Living in the UK Want to Be Considered ‘Immigrants’


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A new study from London shipping and removals firm Kiwi Movers has found that almost a third (29%) of people traditionally classed as ‘expats’ would prefer to identify as ‘immigrants.’

The Kiwi-born entrepreneur behind the study was motivated by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the referendum debate and believes the term ‘expat’ privileges certain cultures.

The majority (71%) of those who took part in the study, involving foreign-born UK residents from predominantly English-speaking countries, identify more closely with the term ‘expat.’

The study, involving more than 500 Kiwi, Australian, American, Canadian and South African citizens currently living and working in the UK, found that those identifying as ‘expat’ had clear reasons for doing so, while those identifying as ‘immigrants’ were generally unsure of why.

The study also found:

South Africans living in the UK are more likely than other nationalities to identify as ‘immigrants’
Australians are least likely to identify as ‘immigrants’
19% of ‘expats’ identify as such due to growing up in a similar culture to UK
18% do so because they speak English as a first language
The majority see their temporary residence as the key distinction between ‘expat’ and ‘immigrant’
Three quarters (76%) who do identify as ‘immigrant’ don’t know why

Study participants were asked to select the statement with which they most closely identified:
“I’m an expat” - 71%
“I’m an immigrant” - 29%

Of those who identified as immigrants, more than three quarters (76%) said they didn’t know why. 24% said it was because they live and work in a foreign country.

More than a third of respondents (37%) who identified as ‘expats’ said it was due to their temporary residential status in the UK. This was the most common response.

However, 1 in 5 (19%) said they viewed themselves as expats rather than immigrants because the UK had a similar culture to their home country. A similar proportion (18%) said that they considered themselves to be expats because they were native English speakers.

16% didn’t know why they identified more closely with the term expat than immigrant, while 9% said it was due to their peers referring to them in that way.

1% of those identifying most closely with ‘expat’ said it was because they live and work in a foreign country.

Of those who identified as immigrants, most were South African (29%). Followed by Canadians (22%), Americans (20%), Kiwis (15%) and Australians (14%).

Regan McMillan, director of Kiwi Movers, who hails from Invercargill in New Zealand, believes the term expat insulates English-speaking, predominantly white foreigners living in the UK from the challenges faced by immigrants from countries with differing home cultures:

“I typically refer to myself as an expat rather than an immigrant, but rhetoric used during the EU referendum made me reconsider this. The term expat has a tone of privilege to it that may unfairly elevate us above others who’ve moved here to work.

By definition we’re immigrants as well as expats.But it’s rare to hear Kiwis, Australians, Canadians or South Africans being referred to this way.

There’s a strong ‘expat’ community in London and that’s a great thing. Australians, Kiwis, South Africans seem to naturally come together and form strong social groups. It makes sense. We’ve got a lot in common culturally.

Some of the EU referendum rhetoric focused on immigrants. But not on expats. I personally didn’t feel stigmatised or marginalised by this, even though friends of mine who are Polish and Latvian definitely did, but only because I consider myself an expat.”

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