Saturday, 20 March 2010

Expatriate vs. Compatriot

I am Canadian. I think. After all, that's what it says on my passport. I wasn't born there and I've spent more than half of my life outside of Canada on three different continents. I grew up with friends from India, Nepal, Thailand, England, Australia and New Zealand (to name a few). I spent 7 years of school at a boarding school in South India while my parents were missionaries in Bangladesh. So in some ways Dhaka was "home" but in a more real way my boarding school was "home" and my friends were my family. (We'll leave the whole concept of "home" for another discussion!) There wasn't a second culture to fit into because it was a multicultural context. For most people who live and work overseas, their community is multicultural, be it their work community, missionary network or volunteer agency. And they enjoy the sense of being an expatriate among a diverse group of others who also identify themselves as such. As I've thought back over my time in boarding school, university in my "home" country and subsequent years of teaching and living overseas, I've come to realize that I truly love that kind of expatriate experience. You are not required to lose your "home" culture and are able to pick up things from other cultures. Most people do not immerse themselves so fully into the foreign culture that it becomes their own. In a way the expatriate community that surrounds them acts as a buffer with the second (foreign) culture. Here's my question; can a foreigner, an outsider ever really be considered a compatriot? Are they destined to forever be labeled as a stranger? And how do we reconcile ourselves to this reality?

These have been my thoughts as I've entered a new culture, possibly for the long haul. My husband is Brasilian and so it feels as though I've not entered an expatriate community (as I have in the past) but am attempting to integrate straight into Brasilian culture. This is where my idea of dual voltage comes in - I feel like I'll always need an adaptor to "work" here.

Any thoughts?


  1. I'm looking forward to reading your musings on here, Taara. Definitely think you have more experience "adapting" to various cultures than anyone else I know. creative metaphor. :-)

  2. Love the name of this blog. It is so fitting. Please update regularly sis!

    I have some thoughts about the site design though, it's kind of hard to read with the background =/


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