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Turkey - Are You an Immigrant or an Expat?

17th May 2016

There’s a lot of talk about Turkey and immigrants right now and some have even gone to use the term to describe the many expats living in Turkey as well. So if you’re living in Turkey right now which one are you? And what is the difference between the two?

Expat or Immigrant?

We’ll go to our good friend the dictionary and see what that says first. According to Webster’s an expat or expatriate means someone who is living or working in a foreign land. While an immigrant is a person who comes to a foreign country to take up a permanent residence. They might sound similar but there’s a key difference an immigrant is someone who is seeking a permanent residence.

While an expat might stay for a while and then leave, now of course many expats don’t especially in Turkey where there’s very strong expat communities that have been build up over the years but they still for all intent and purposes could leave whenever they pleased.

Is Racism an Issue?

The expat or immigrant label has been argued as being racist by some who believe that white westerners use the expat label to differentiate themselves from other races. While there’s debate for both sides of the argument I don’t believe it’s fair to say that either label is being applied with racist intentions. Although the term immigrant certainly seems to have more negative connotations then the term expat.

Is Money a Factor?

It’s fair to say that when we hear the word expat and the word immigrant we picture different things. Expats are often thought to be rich and living in a nice fancy home enjoying all the luxuries of a foreign land. While immigrants are often pictured to be poor and shabby and fleeing a war torn or dangerous country.

But the truth of the matter is usually much more complicated, not every immigrant is poor or fleeing a dangerous country and not every expat is rich. Much of this stereotyping is likely due to the media’s use of labels which creates a negative image of one group and more positive image of the other.

So what’s the Difference?

The meanings of expat and immigrant are very ambiguous and mean different things to different people. While immigrants seems to have been mired with more negative connations in the eyes of some people in actual fact an immigrant and an expat are very much alike.

The only real factual difference is really the dictionary definition, a migrant is someone who intends to start a new life for themselves in a foreign country, while an expat is someone who is living in a foreign country but might leave one day.

It’ unfortunate that one term is so negatively stereotyped today but remember that the term doesn’t reflect who you are and being an immigrant or an expat is not something to ashamed of and whichever you class yourself as be proud of it.

Written by David Varty - YellAli Content Team

Turkish Residence Permit


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Comments (1)


18th May 2016 Could the difference be that an expat lives off their own money, whereas an immigrant plans to either work or get benefits?

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