When I started blogging, I was in the Philippines starting my Family Medicine residency training. I don’t have a niche topic for my blog. I would blog about anything and everything under the sun. As I continued on my blogging journey, I also learned that blogs are better if they have a certain niche, more specific the better. Being just a lifestyle blogger can be like a jack-of-all-trades but master-of-none. I wanted to narrow down my blog topics and identify who my audience are. When I gotten serious with my blogging, I was already in Singapore pursuing my career as a physician. I slowly discovered my niche in blogging. I decided that I will be blogging about my life abroad, how it is to live & work in a country that is not your own. (Though, I rarely write about my work life for confidentiality issues). I also have my personal experience as a third-culture kid during my high school days in Saudi Arabia which adds to my exposure in living abroad. I could have blog about being an OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker) life. OFW is a term used to refer to Filipino migrant workers with Filipino citizenship living in another country for a limited period of time due to employment contract. But I realised I wanted to have a bigger scope of the blog community to include & engage other foreign workers employed in other countries, not just my fellow Filipinos. So I decided to rebrand my blog as an Expat Blog.
Define the word: Expat
In Wikipedia, an Expatriate (often shortened to Expat) is a person residing in a country other than their native country. In common usage, the term often refers to professionals, skilled workers, or artists taking positions outside their home country, either independently or sent abroad by their employers, which can be companies, universities, governments, or non-governmental organisations. So by this definition, it is safe to call all OFWs, all migrant workers, all those working & living in country that is not their birth country to be expats.
But honestly, I was a bit timid to call myself an expat blogger or let alone, an expat because I realised they reserved that word only for high-paying Caucasian or European nationalities working in a foreign country. Check out this article from The Guardian which echoes my exact sentiments.
When I was working in Singapore, I am comfortable to call myself a OFW because it is a term we used as Filipinos but with the E-word, I was a bit squeamish to use to describe myself. Some would say, usually locals, “Oh that area in Central or that resto in that area are filled with expats” which means Caucasians or Europeans working in Singapore in a big company with high paying jobs. The expats in that sentence doesn’t mean ‘all types of expats’ in the correct sense of the word. That ‘expats’ in that sentence definitely does not include Filipino domestic workers or Indian or Bangladeshi construction workers.
So what qualifies to be called an expat? Is it the race or the country you are from? It looks like people from third-world countries like Philippines, India, etc working overseas cannot be called an expat in a first-world country. So, let us look into the company or the job you get in the foreign you are working at. I learned that they assumed that expats or expat-living are exclusive for those who were invited personally by the foreign company to work in the country with a generous housing allowance. So take my example, I am a doctor so that is a profession with a title and I do receive housing allowance from my (previous) company. But I wasn’t invited personally to work in Singapore by the company but I was hand-picked by a Philippine-based headhunter agency to take an exam & interview for the Singapore job. So, would that qualify me to be called an expat? Hmmm, the technicality of the word is so confusing.
I do not know if that play-of-words and “who is an expat, anyway?” are similar to all countries across the globe. But living in Oman for 5 months now, I realised the word Expat or Expatriate are freely used to all persons working & living in the country who are not Omanis. You are easily distinguished and identified as an expat. If you go to medical center, your profile would identify you as an Expatriate because your medical benefits are different from the locals. (However, expat government employees do have good medical benefits compared to non-government expat employees.) So I can freely use and call myself expat here in Oman.
In that note, I would like to restart my blog series of Expat Diaries where I invited fellow expats of different nationalities to share their experiences and adventures with you and me. Check out previous blog post from the series:
If you are an expat or know any expats that I can feature, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the form in this link.
I am excited to read and learn about the different expat stories around the world.