Monday, February 1, 2010

Ex-pat Schmex-pat

Last week I received yet another email from yet another "ex-pat" website asking for my input in helping others relocate. I usually try to help, but I am starting to become annoyed by the term "ex-pat". I don't feel like an ex-pat anymore. I associate the word with someone who has recently relocated outside their country of origin or someone who has changed their location temporarily or someone who only associates with other "ex-pats" instead of becoming part of their new community. I don't really fit in those categories. Living in a country outside of my birth country is no longer new, it's no longer about adjusting or making comparisons between there and here, it's just the life that I am living, I am simply a resident of Mexico who happens to have been born somewhere else. In a relatively short time (year and a half? two years?), I will be a citizen of Mexico, will I still be called an "ex-pat" then? Holder of dual citizenship? MexiCanadian? Am I doomed to a lifetime of being called "ex-pat", implying that I am not a part of any community except for that of others who have chosen to live outside their country of birth? Why so many questions? Hey Canucka, who put a bee in your bonnet?

I don't know why my panties are in a twist about this. I don't know why people would assume that I am an "expert" in the area of relocation. Hey, read the bio folks, I didn't plan this move, it just kind of happened, I came on vacation and didn't go home, do you really want to take advice from someone who would do such a thing? If I had sat down and planned this move, it probably would never have happened. I always laugh heartily when someone sends me financial questions about relocating. You're kidding right? I live pay cheque to pay cheque with no assets and no savings and you want to ask me about money? HAHAHA. Sorry, you've got the wrong girl.

Now, if you want to talk about the emotional aspects of living in another country, I might be able to help you. MIGHT. Every person has a completely different experience, everyone has totally different coping mechanisms and no two people will react the same to the same set of circumstances. But I can at least give an idea of the kinds of things that usually bother people when they move to Mexico and offer suggestions on how best to cope. I've witnessed enough meltdowns from people who try to make the move to determine "this is the wrong way to handle it". I've also seen the success stories and can say "this has worked for some people". How someone else handles adversity is completely up to them, but I'm willing to play counselor with a "buyer beware" caveat and small print declaring "I am not an expert though I have played one on TV".

I am Canadian. I am a resident of Mexico. I'm a mom. I'm a Pisces who loves long walks on the beach. I'm short, creative, sensitive, cute, generous, and funny. I've got plenty of labels, must we use the "ex-pat" one too? Or am I just moaning about something ridiculous because it's Monday and it's raining? Can someone help me get this knot out of my knickers?


KfromMichigan said...

Well said amiga! By the way, don't stay away so long! Did you hear about the teenager from MI that went missing in Cancun? Found her in PDC said she had a job and didn't want to return home. Crazy kids!

Bob Mrotek said...

I'm with you kid. I hate the term ex-pat. I have been living and working here in Mexico for eleven years, I am a permanent resident, I speak Spanish fluently, I have a Mexican wife, and I ain't going back to EEUU. So what's with the "ex-pat" thing!

ElleCancun said...

Hahaha - well first let me say I hate this weather today, yesterday.... Ohhh please come out sun, i'm the pastiest gal in cancun!!

As far as expat - you should no longer be considered as one, I agree. To me the term is silly - I am not retired, I haven't even lived half my life ( i hope) so I'm just beginning a new life, in a new home with my mexi husband! Also, definitely not an expert on the subject!!

Poofbegone said...

Man, you could totally make a business out of this. Become a Cancun Living consultant, charge by the hour, and answer people's questions by email and over the phone. You can coach people who want to move to Cancun and help travelers plan their vacations. I'm serious!!! Then you can eliminate that living pay check to pay check part. You seem like a pretty bubbly gal, and I think you would make a great consultant. I am in a marketing class right now and I see people making a living doing all kinds of stuff. This is totally a viable business model.

I still call myself an expat. But I feel out of place just about everywhere, so I think expat is a term that makes sense for me. That being said, I don't really hang out with other expats or do all the typical expat stuff. I'm just a weirdo, I guess.

Steve Cotton said...

I rather like the term myself. Makes me feel as if I might run into the Scott and Zelda over coffee at The Ritz. Or not.

Judy said...

Interesting, defines expatriate as:
1. expel from a country;
2. move away from one's native country and adopt a new residence abroad
3. exile: a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country;
So then I typed in immigrate: "come into a new country and change residency;" some of the other sites added 'for the purpose of permanent residence.'
My little brain pondered further What is a refugee then? "an exile who flees for safety" (same source).
My conclusion? I think you and Bob and several others are both expatriates and immigrates but not refugees (escaping from cold and snow don't count ;>)) Maybe you and Bob should start using the term emigrate or immigrate (which mean the same thing) and throw them off! Now I must ask when do you use 'emigrate' as opposed to 'immigrate' if they mean the same thing. Because you know there is a rule for it! Judy

Bob Mrotek said...


I think you nailed it in a way, Judy. I like it here because there aren't so many rules...okay, maybe there are, but most of them you can safely ignore. I just don't want to be lumped in with the "Bubble People"...those trapped inside bubbles of their own making for fear of letting go. That's why they stick together and call themselves ex-pats. I just want to be called "Bob" :)

Sue said...

I don't like the term 'ex-pat' either. Even though I no longer wish to LIVE in Canada, I am still a Canadian and will never turn my back on that, regardless of the status I eventually attain in Mexico, my new home.

Hope you feel better after getting things off your chest. :-)

Leslie Harris (de Limon) said...

I don't like the word "expat" either! When I hear the word expat, I imagine retirees living in expat communities with other gringos living the American way in Mexico. Not that I have anything against that, it's just not me. I'm an American (quarter Mexican) who's now living like a Mexican with her hubby and 4 kiddies in a small Mexican town with no expats around! :D We need our own word! Any ideas? Nouveau Mexican? :D

CancunCanuck said...

KfromMichigan- Yes, was keeping up with the Detroit girl. It was sad to read the comments on the news stories before anyone even knew what was going on. People declaring Mexico to be an unsafe den of kidnappers when it was just a teenage kid running away to paradise. ;-)

Bob- First off, THANK YOU for calling me kid, haha, I needed that. I'm the "viejita" in the office and forget sometimes that I am not really that old. Aside from the ego boost, I really appreciate your support on this, I respect your opinion and admire you, thanks.

On Mexican Time- Yes, frustrating weather latly, grrrrr. I know that we technically fit the definition of the word, I just don't feel it, as you say there are connotations that go along with it that are outside the dictionary definition. Hugs chica! (And why oh why haven't we met yet??) ;-)

kumichan- It's an interesting idea, and one that I have thought about. Hubby is forever telling me to stop giving away the cow for free (in a manner of speaking). I just feel like I really don't have a good enough grasp of the financial aspects of making the move to really be of any help. Most people who want to come down want to buy property, start a business, etc, and I really don't have a head for numbers. Might be worth hooking up with a real estate agent, call myself a "relocation counselor" who deals with everything except the financial stuff. Real estate agents seem to have a handle on the numbers game. Might make an intersting partnership! And girl, I love "weirdos", life is more interesting when we don't all fit in little boxes with labels! :)

Steve- You always make me laugh, thanks. I think champagne with Scott and Zelda would be in order for sure, I do a mean charleston.

Judy- Thank you for a great comment! I think if I am speaking with Mexicans, I would call myself "inmigrante" (I immigrated to their country), and with Canadians, "emigrate" as I emigrated from Canada. Perhaps I'll just stick with "Kelly". :)

Bob- "Bubble people", I love it. So appropriate. The people who isolate themselves in their little community of English speakers, "protecting" themselves from the wilds of Mexico and from having to explore new areas of their own psyche and abilities. ;-)

Sue- I'm with you, I am proud to be Canadian though I do not wish to return. And yes, I feel better, thanks! :)

Leslie- I'm going to have to put on my thinking cap, see if I can come up with a new word. I agree that you don't fit the word "ex-pat", though I am guessing you probably are called "guera" far more frequently anyway, haha. Seems it's only "ex-pats" who use the term!

Kelly said...

I just had a similar conversation with a friend of mine who has been living in Spain the past 9 months!

It seems to me like the term "ex-pat" is more applicable to people who move to another country and don't stray from the small "ex-pat" enclave. When my mom moved to Puerto Rico, she didn't consider herself an ex-pat, because she didn't attempt to surround herself with other foreigners. She was just an American living in Puerto Rico. I'm sure it's different everywhere, but it seems like the ex-pat mindset is a different one. The people I know who call themselves as such would never consider persuing citizenship.

Those are some pretty broad generalizations, I realize. But I agree with you!

Poofbegone said...

I think you could definitely hook up with local hotels, travel agencies, and real estate agents. You could set up a deal so that you earn a commission every time you refer a customer to them. There is a woman based in CR named the Travel Experta who works as a small-scale travel agent, helping ppl. plan their vacations in CR.

You could record Q&A interview sessions with real estate agents, retired people, and people who have started a business in Cancun and sell them as a package. These are just ideas off the top of my head. There's obviously a huge market for it, and with this blog, you've got people's trust. I'm sure there are many people that would agree to do interviews with you because it's publicity for them. You could also write some ebooks using information you get from research and from talking to people you know. What do you think?

Theresa in Mèrida said...

I loved this post, I get emails asking me to link to sites and fill out questionnaires etc, for both my cooking blog (which I rarely blog on) and my normal blog.
I wrote one site back and said that none of the questions that they asked would have helped me, and did they really think that there are jobs in Mexico?
I am an expat, I don't plan on becoming a citizen. I won't be having kids here or a family. I also am not moving in with the country club set and living in an enclave.
You are an immigrant, like my parents. They immigrated to the USA and became citizens because that was what was best for them, long before other Cubans came seeking refuge from Castro's government. A refugee may accept that they can never go home again, but they didn't get to choose. My grandparents were refugees.
I don't get a lot of questions about relocating to Merida, mostly because my blog isn't really about that.
They say that lots and lots of people will be retiring in Mexico. They are going to need help, why not you?

IslaZina said...

I also bristle when I hear expat. It sounds like you are renouncing your birthplace and the country that kept you secure for decades. I choose to live here but feel like someone without borders. ExWhat?

KfromMichigan said...

Yep, I was pissed with the news media regarding all the negative comments said about Cancun and Mexico. That girl was 16 yrs. old and stupid. You know that Cancun is my second home and I don't like to hear repulsive comments.

Anonymous said...

I think by definition, you are an expat (from Judy's definition number two). Still, I'm new to the blogging community, so I'm not 100% sure what negative connotations "expat" might have. I've been here for 5 years, and I only recently made 1 American friend and 1 British friend... everyone else has been Mexican. I still think by definition that I'm an expat, and it's helped me sort a lot of things out emotionally by finding all these expat blogs online. I'm not that American anymore, but it's nice to have a virtual community that's going through the same things I am. I'm a proud member of the expat community, even if I'm more Mexican than American now.

CancunCanuck said...

Kelly- I think it's a word that goes beyond a simple definition, it has many connotations. Today I am leaning toward the label of "human", see how that fits. ;-)

kumichan- Wow, thanks, you've got some great ideas! You've stimulated me to think about some alternatives, thanks!!

Theresa- Lovely to see you! I must agree, many of the so called "FAQ" questions don't seem all that useful to me either, but I know that everyone has completely different concerns about making the move. I am definitely not a refugee, that would imply so many other things, immigrant fits, so does emigrant, ex-pat fits by definition, just not in my heart. Hope you are well.

IslaZine- I think perhaps it's the "ex" in "ex-pat" that makes us feel like we have given something up. I am not an "ex" Canadian! Sticking with "human" today. :) A world without borders, the land of my dreams.

KfromMichigan- It's so tempting to reply to the negative comments, but I know it just leads to online fights and trolls and I don't have the energy to debate with people who have their minds set on something. I have done it in the past and it just drains me! Thank goodness I have this outlet, lol, allows me to express myself in my own way, on my own terms.

gringation- Yes, by strict definition I am an "ex-pat", it's just the implications of the word that bother me sometimes. I agree, having the community is fantastic, particularly the blogging community. Many ideas, opinions, thoughts, experiences, we may not always agree on things but it's nice to know that there are other folks out there living similar circumstances. Saludos!

Unknown said...

I totally agree with u! I was born in mexico, raised in Brazil, lived in Canada for a while and now Im back in mexico, so I feel like I belong here but ppl always refer to me as an ex pat too, weird feelings! I might be moving to Cancun soon for work, hope we can get in touch as I have no friends there!
Cheer up!

mr.bear said...

I’ve always had strong admiration for Americans, Canadians and Europeans who live in Mexico; I always wondered what kind of people chose to live in Mexico? I always found expats, at least the ones that I’ve met, when I go back home to Mexico, to have a special sprit or personality, different from most average Americans living in the states. Most expats are highly insightful about what’s important in life and know how to live it. I can only describe the life style that most expats live as envious, even if it is from pay check to pay check. As for me, I was born in Taxco gro. Mexico and I have spent the past 15 years living in Los Angeles, yes the wages are high and the standard good, but morale for most people living here is very low. So much so, that it seems that almost everyone who lives here is unhappy and discontent with their lives. So prevalent is this mindset that psychotherapy is a large business here, most shrinks charging $100 to $150 dollars an hour to help people cope with everyday living. A close friend of mine who is a clinical psychologist says that business is booming. Love to read your blogs, I wish; I was there with you guys, even if it meant living from pay check to pay check.

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