Who counts as an International?

Following on from my last post, expatriate women confront issues of nationality, communication and inclusion, on a daily basis.

When I did my fieldwork in Malaysia, one of the women’s associations was having discussions about who can and who should not be a member of their International organization. It can be really difficult to determine who to include and who to exclude in such a community. If it was initially established to support ‘expatriate’ women, then how does one determine who is an expatriate? If the word ‘international’ is central to the group’s ethos, how do you decide who is International? Is it defined in opposition to local? Do you really want to exclude locals? And what if a local is married to a migrant?

In our project we use the term ‘lifestyle migrant’ to refer to people who have moved abroad for better quality of life, recognizing that some groups are able to privilege this over other (economic, political security) considerations. But lifestyle migrants can be corporate expats, nomads, travelers, self-employed workers, retirees, unemployed, and any nationality. Members of international and expatriate associations are increasingly mixed in terms of nationality and so are some individuals!

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