vendredi 19 février 2010
Yesterday, one of the speakers for my Intellectual Property class introduced himself as follows (in French):
"I was born here in France and then emigrated to the US at the age of 15. I then went to college in the US and have been living there ever since."

I was surprised by his use of the term "emigrate". Of course, it is the correct term, but I have never considered that I have emigrated from the US, immigrated to France.

For all you other "immigrants" how do you feel? What do emigrate/immigrate mean to you?

At lunch, some of the other students and I discussed this term. Another woman, of Spanish origin and living in France for the past 15 years, had also noticed his use of the term. She had found it strange. Why not just use "moved"? or "went to live"?

We talked about the use of terms immigrate/emigrate, whether it implies (subconciously) a group of people fleeing a poorer country, looking for a better life in another one.

I think that the reason why I don't use emmigrate/immigrate in my head when thinking about coming to live here is that, for me, those terms imply a certain cutting of ties with the previous country. Like, you never plan to go back and that it really is permanent. Whereas "yeah, I came to live here for a couple years, who knows, we'll see, maybe one day we'll go back..." does not.

I guess I don't want it to be permanent. Not that I have any specific plans to move back, but I don't want to close that door. defines emigrate as:
to leave one country or region to settle in another; migrate: to emigrate from Ireland to Australia.

However, if we look at immigrate:
1. to come to a country of which one is not a native, usually for permanent residence.
2. to pass or come into a new habitat or place, as an organism.

Looking at what Wikipedia has to say on the matter,
"Motives to migrate can be either incentives attracting people away, known as pull factors, or circumstances encouraging a person to leave, known as push factors, for example:

Push factors
War or other armed conflict (no)
Famine or drought (well, there was one dry season in Virginia, but not enough to make me emigrate to another country)
Disease (aside from the occasional cold and allergies, no)
Poverty (I wouldn't have said no to a raise but I made enough for what I needed)
Political corruption (no comment)
Disagreement with politics (no comment)
Religious fundamentalism / religious intolerance (religious fundamentalism, well, sometimes those born again Christians can get scary, but as long as you don't let them in when they coming knocking you shouldn't have too much trouble)
Natural disasters (there was a slight rumble maybe a 3 on the Richter scale in VA once)
Discontent with the natives, such as frequent harassment, bullying, and abuse (no)
Discontent with immigration rate, causing frequent harassment, bullying, and abuse for home populations (no)
Lack of employment opportunities (certianly not - had easier time finding job in US than here)
Lack of various rights (no)
Goal of spreading one's own culture and religion (no- they already have McDonald's here)

These factors, excepting disagreement with politics and discontent with natives and immigrants, generally do not affect people in developed countries; even a natural disaster is unlikely to cause out-migration.

Pull factors
Higher incomes (definitely not)
Lower taxes (are you kidding me?)
Better weather (aside from the lack of snow in the winter, no)
Better availability of employment (heck no)
Better medical facilities (cheaper but not better)
Better education facilities (no- I don't care what they say, there is no way the bare-bones Université of Marseille can compete with University of Virginia)
Better behaviour among people (meh)
Family reasons (yes)
Political stability (about as stable as the US)
Religious tolerance (yes. Unless you are Muslim. Or Jewish. Or really anything else other than Catholic.)
Relative freedom (I suppose)
National prestige (I suppose- or at least the French like to think so)

So where does that leave me? Have I emigrated? Have you emigrated?

7 commentaires:

screamish a dit…

Interesting question...somethng I often think about when i hear debates on national identity and immigrant "problems" like precarious employment, the rate of unemployment, illiteracy, language acquisition,....etc

Yes, I think that white immigration (whether that be Americans, Brits, Dutch, Germans) isn't really seen as "immigration".

I understand you not wanting to commit to never ever going back home, I feel the same way. We also speak English at home. And yet this is precisely the sort of behaviour and thinking that loads of people condemn in north African communities, Armenians, Chinese...people talk about difficult quartiers, and ghettos of ethnic communities not integrating.

Have you read anything about Third Culture Kids? It 's a line of thinking that describes what happens to kids when they're raised in a foreign country- to foreign parents (eg an English couple living temporarily in say Saudi Arabia, or Spain). There are loads of things I relate to in the idea, but also there seems to be a denial, it's like white people are Third Culture, and everyone else (poor people? less than white?) are simply immigrants. Yet the issues that the third Culture idea raises are as old as immigration itself.

I suspect that when people talk about immigration and suchlike what they're really talking about often is a certain type of immigration, of a certain type of social class and colour.

? what do you think?

Starman a dit…

It's interesting that the definition doesn't imply that one is a permanent move while the other is usually temporary.

Betty C. a dit…

I also never think of my move here in those terms. For me I'm an expatriate, occasionally I use the verb "s'expatrier." I definitely think of myself as an "expatriée," although now I have dual nationality, so I guess I'm French like everyone else (which the French seem to have a hard time understanding...)

Mwa a dit…

I think the crucial thing is the permanent bit. I never emigrated because I never expected to spend the rest of my life in Britain. I suppose my husband is now keeping his options open as well, as he has just "moved to" Belgium.

meredith a dit…

Emigrated, I guess, as it looks like I'm here to stay. Wasn't really the plan. But then, back then, I didn't have a plan.

Anonyme a dit…
Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.
Rachel a dit…

If I had to give myself an identity, I'd say expat. Immigrant always makes me think of my own ancestors who arrived from Poland to NYC 150 years ago along with all the other poor people hoping for a better life.

I notice the push factors don't include 'following a man' or 'marriage'. Maybe pull factors 'family' applies.

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