One question we are occasionally asked is "Are you expats?"
To which we always reply "No, we are immigrants".
In fact, if we were brutally honest (it happens sometimes) we would say "no, we are economic migrants".
Of course, economic migrants are exactly the sort of people that some would say are ruining their country, but that's what we are. We came to France because we couldn't afford (or more accurately, didn't want to work the long hours needed to afford) the sort of life we wanted to live in the United Kingdom.
We swapped this...
We may not be in France permanently, but it is where our home is, and we have set up a business here. We have migrated. We have no real plans to move on, or return "home". We have joined the French health system, pay French taxes, and belong to a number of French societies. We will probably never be French, but we are here, and trying to fit in. We are even trying (one of us less successfully than the other) to get our language skills in order.
But what is an expat? I always thought an expat was someone who went to another country temporarily because of work, but we have met people who have lived here for many years (often in retirement) who call themselves expats. They have no intention of returning "home", but nor do they try to fit in where they are: they join expat communities, and often seem to hark back to a time that never actually existed - a kind of Victorian world without the grime, disease or rampant crime that Dickens actually wrote about*.
We have met people who are "expats" because they can't stand all the foreigners now living where they came from. I once even met someone in England who said they were going to live in Bulgaria because it was cheap and he couldn't cope with all the ********* eastern europeans coming into the country. (He was a taxi driver, reliably never the most logical of thinkers...)
So we have reclaimed the word "migrants". It's what we are. Economic Migrants, just like my parents and millions like them who left the UK for other countries, whether it be Australia, Canada, the United States, or even retirement in France or Spain.
And no better than thousands of people who have left war torn regions with their families in the hope of finding a better life. In fact: maybe they are the true expats, because I have no doubt that many of those people currently arriving in Europe in desperate conditions or hoping to arrive in Australia or the UK, want to return home once it is safe.
Simon and Susan. Serial immigrants, and proud of it.
*actually what they hark back to is about half a paragraph of "A Christmas Carol"