For a long time now I struggle with the expression “expat”. Our journey here in Australia for sure started off as being expats but it developed into so much more. When I write about this side of our lives, trying to describe the longing we had before moving and the experience we had afterwards, I always try to find the right expression.
The words Expat and immigrant just simply don’t cut it for me. Especially when I look at their definitions:
An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing, as an immigrant, in a country other than that of their citizenship. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (“out of”) and patria (“country, fatherland”).
Immigration is the international movement of people into a destination country of which they are not natives or where they do not possess citizenship in order to settle or reside there, especially as permanent residents or naturalized citizens, or to take-up employment as a migrant worker or temporarily as a foreign worker.
I said before that both of these words don’t really cut it for me. That doesn’t mean that each of them describes what we are in a way and yet they don’t.
Yes, we are permanently residing in a country other than that of their (original) citizenship. But by now we are actually citizens here. So does that mean we are no longer expats? We also didn’t move around on a regular basis just like “normal” expats do. We had no deadline, had no move home date in our calendars, knowing our stay would have us tick off another country on the map, of course making friends and memories but never settle for good really.
We also moved to a country of which we are not natives and originally did not possess citizenship of. The plan was to settle here. So maybe we were much more immigrants than expats. And yet we never knew if we would be able to.
I tossed this words around over years and years, especially over the last two years writing this blog. I wondered if I’m rather an expat or rather an immigrant. I wondered how to best describe this rearranging of things, habits and connections. And today I had this realization.
I’m a transplant!
To be honest, I did not come to this realization all by myself. Like many times before I was inspired by a comment of a blogger friend of mine on my Changing Skin post. My friend who blogs at My Self Evident Truths mentioned the word in her comment, leaving the link to this post there.
For the first time I had a word for our situation that I thought matched exactly.
A person or thing that has been moved to a new place or situation.
It’s exactly the way I see us. We have moved to a new place into a new situation. Just like a transplant we were removed from a place and then settled into a new one, implanted in a new place we grew to. A place we started working in, started functioning, adjusting to the new environment, in such a way that we now belong to it. We connected and the pulse of the new place is ours now. If you would remove us from here now, we would bleed.
I believe that if you consider yourself an expat or immigrant you never truly let go of the place you left. You feel you are still part of it. A transplant in my eyes is different though. Of course it bled when it was removed, after all it was part of something. There was a risk it would not work well in the new environment, maybe never be a successful implant but once it is, it belongs. And when it belongs removing it would lead to more bleeding.
A transplant can’t just simply be moved around. It’s a one time shot. I I feel it’s exactly what describes us.