Words by Christos Zervas
I know that you rarely hear from me. I know it makes you sad. But you know very well that July 13th, gave me no other option. There was no future for us in Greece. Thankfully, this year already looks promising.
Anna found a very friendly context in Rome. The well-known expression “Una Faccia – Una Razza” (one face – one race) is indeed cherished by Italians for us, their Greek peers.
She was welcomed as an expat and her Italian language skills helped her to integrate faster into local society. The myth of the lazy Greek does not apply here. Not like in Bratislava…
Pavlos seemed to be the luckiest one, getting a job before his departure. Reality proved the lie. His working environment is not what he would have wished for. The accountants from central Europe treat him like almost a refugee from #Germanistan: The poor country that belongs to Germany because of its debts. Thankfully, not everyone thinks that way.
For Kostas, having his cousin living a bit outside Oslo was of major importance. His cousin gave him some connections that Kostas managed to turn into fruitful tools. He was always keen on what the TED speaker Amy Cuddy, a top social psychologist from the USA, once said: “Fake it, till you make it”.
Starting from the lounges of Regus business centres, he did a lot of networking. Right now he is working on an innovative start-up idea with a Norwegian congressman.
As for me…? I found your old friend, here in Glasgow. From my arrival in the airport, I was welcomed like one of his own. His family embraced me in a way I could never expect, and guess what! That degree in Tourism Administration was useful, at last. I am working in a 4-star hotel, as a receptionist.
Please, give my greetings to everyone and be sure about one thing. When the tide is high, I will return – but only to visit you. All of us have turned the page. We do not have anything holding us back. Yet we cannot totally turn our back on our home country.
At the end of the day, we just need to do what we want to do. And be who we want to be. Regardless of how we may be perceived: expats, immigrants, allocated professionals or locals. No matter what, every new morning has its own glory.
This fictional letter summarises the progress of four friends that left Greece last September, trying to find a better future abroad. Four young Greeks with similar dreams and mind-sets, yet considered and treated very differently. The social norms & stereotypes were there before they arrived. Still, there is one question paddling around. What is the difference between an expat, an allocated professional & an immigrant?
It is said that Europeans are expats, while non-Europeans are immigrants. Although the existence of this belief is not what an educated and open-minded continent should cultivate, the current reality is immersed in it.
When we find ourselves at a crossroads, there are a number of different ways to go. Each destination has its own ethical rules & social norms.
A gala night in Sweden can be a totally different event from a gala night in Spain, for example. From food to music, from oral language to body language, everything depends on whether you set our soul & mind into experiencing an unexpected context.
Humans will always criticise that which is different. I guess it’s in our nature. Yet, we can still control how are we going to be perceived. Likewise, we may not control what happens to us, but we always have the power to react in the most suitable way. We should keep in mind that nothing happens for or against us. Things simply happen.
In order to try to bring more clarity to this topic, two entrepreneurs, who built careers on helping those who decided to live abroad, share their personal opinions.
Arunas Jonas Kastenas is half Lithuanian & half Russian. He is working as a multilingual tour guide on the west coast of Norway, mainly in Bergen. He moved to Norway only 3 years ago, but he is already working on his social project platform, which aims to bring together locals & foreigners: www.newfriends.no
“From what I have seen, we do have two notions or concepts – expatriates and immigrants. Both have similar, yet different meanings. I think that people mostly from English-speaking countries, tend to call themselves ‘expatriates’, while most of the others, tend to call themselves ‘immigrants/foreigners.’
It is not only society, who “label” certain aspects of our lives, but ourselves as well. We give meanings to words, while describing ourselves. Think about it. Anyone that lives abroad is basically an immigrant. However, due to the somewhat negative meaning of this word, educated and affluent people, started using another term – expatriates.
Personally, I find it funny! Yet in Europe, people still believe that people are graded by their blood/culture/roots. Nevertheless, this is changing in Norway. If you are able to find Norwegian friends, learn the language in order to “sell” yourself better & integrate yourself into activities, you are treated with a higher respect.”
On the other hand, the topic can be also dealt with quite simplistically. Kevin Somany is the founder of two start-up companies in the heart of Europe, Brussels. “Lemon’s Life” organizes events aiming to bring foreigners closer together, as well as to the local lifestyle. His other endeavour, called “Tribes.City”, is a platform which anyone willing to organize a house party can access.
Somany points out that: “For me, an expat is just someone who immigrated, in order to find a job at an international company. The person doesn’t have to speak the local language to work there.”
No matter the approach, our humanity is the most important thing. And beyond that, we all share 97% of our DNA. Ultimately, are we so different to each other?
Header photo by Bobby Hiddy