Sometimes I ponder on my official label as a Filipino living abroad, the existential question of: “Ano nga ba talaga ako DITO?”
With emphasis on the word “dito” (i.e. Filipino, /dee-to/, meaning “here”) because since I’ve left the country, my global citizenship, a Filipino of the world, is highly subject to my current place of residence.
Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW)
The first go-to term is OFW or Overseas Filipino Worker. A pretty straight forward term for Filipino workers, who work abroad.
But then, at this point in time, I am not employed (unless you count The Husband as an employer) and cannot be employed. My US visa stipulates specifically that I am not allowed to work (More on that later on), so, technically, I cannot call myself an OFW.
So sometimes I still use the term OFW but define it as “Overseas Filipino’s Wife” instead to stress the fact that I am not working abroad. I think they’ve come up with a term for that: “trailing spouse”, but then you can read more about that here.
The next term to consider is “immigrant”, which, for me, connotes a condition of permanence. As reinforced by the word’s dictionary definition, “a person who migrates to another country, usually for permanent residence”
I cannot say that we are immigrants yet as we still have not planted or even decided to plant our roots permanently in the US. Permanent residence in the US is a long and winding road, which The Husband and I are still praying for.
As with some OFWs, we go where the Benjamins, greener (i.e. dollars) pastures are, so now that is here…for now.
The last label, which I often use to call ourselves, is the term “expat” or the shortcut for “expatriate”, which The Husband and I often debate on.
He always adamantly refuses to accept that we are “expats” as the term, to us, carries the image of foreigners (According to this piece on The Guardian, the “expat” term is attributed to white people more), who enjoy all-expenses paid compensation package for working abroad. These are the guys who do have the privilege of a relocation package, which takes care of travel expenses including plane fare, car rental / lease, shipping of belongings, costs of home furnishings and the like, almost all-expenses paid living situation, where housing, utilities, transportation and communication expenses are taken cared of by the company and perhaps even tax free or exempt salaries.
The “expat” is apparently the more sushal term for people living abroad. If we go by this image, obviously, The Husband and I are not expats.
Well, some travel expenses like The Husband’s plane ticket was taken care of. But that’s it. All others like my plane ticket, the rental car, gas and baggage expenses were all out of pocket. The usual expenses like housing, utilities, transaportation – car lease, gas and insurance and communication are, of course, out of pocket. And we also pay our dues to Uncle Sam even if we are not citizens.
BUT I argue that the real definition of “expatriate” from the dictionary are as follows:
- It is a noun, which refers to “a person who lives in a foreign country”
- It is also a verb (used with object), meaning “to banish (a person) from his or her native country, to withdraw (oneself) from residence in one’s native country or to withdraw (oneself) from allegiance to one’s country.”
- It is also an adjective, which describes a “resident in a foreign country” or someone “exiled or banished from one’s native country”
There is no mention in detail of the living situation of being an expat. Hence, each person, who is not living in his or her native country is an expatriate. Do you agree or disagree?
So ano na nga ako? OFW, immigrant o expat? Or all of the above?