The Expat – Definitions: my experiences

So what is an ‘expat’? ‘Expat’ is a short term for ‘expatriate’ meaning “a person who lives outside their native country” (Oxford Dictionaries 2012). The funny thing is that when I was in the Philippines, about to pay my airport tax, the guy in the counter asked me, is your father an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) because he was filling a form in behalf of me (I am not sure what the reason was and I have long forgotten)? I stopped and could not answer because I was wondering if he is considered as an ‘OFW’ because based on my observances from other Filipino workers I have come across with, abroad, it seems that ‘OFW’ is a term used to describe people who are working overseas but do not have the advantages as an ‘expat’. This is why I am struggling to come to terms the actual difference between the two. I am not going to write a whole essay about this so please do not criticise me in terms of not having much sources to back up my claims. Moreover, I intend this post as a journal rather than an academic style writing so I hope you guys will not expect much from this post. As I stated in the topic, this whole post would be based on my experiences.

So, to start with, what is the difference between an expatriate and an OFW? For me, an expatriate is more than just a person living in a non native country. An expatriate is working in a foreign country with a decent job that actually allows the person to have luxuries. My dad is fortunate enough, thanks to God who elevated him throughout the years, to work in a position that allows him to have budget for a good housing, a car with a driver, all his children’s education paid, he and his family’s return flights paid so on and so forth. OFW on the other hand, may not have such an advantage. As I have stated before, my claims would be based on my experiences and observances having lived in Malaysia for five years, Vietnam for almost a year, and then currently in Hong Kong (but I do not really reside there as I am here in Aberdeen, Scotland pursuing my degree but I am saying I live in Hong Kong because that is where I will land when there’s term breaks). Returning to the main point, the OFWs I have come across with are completely different from my part. Their families are back home, their housing are quite a humiliation for a human because they need to live in a cheap accommodation as much as possible to send money back home, in the Philippines, to provide for their families/relatives whereas me, when we move to another country, we have the opportunity to live in what I call ‘expat’ areas because there’s  just everything there fostered for foreign workers (i.e. embassy consulates, CEOs etc.) There are more reasons but since I am an anthropology and archaeology student, I need to stress that my experiences with OFWs  would not be the same with your experiences. Therefore, my accounts would be different from yours. Nevertheless, I do not agree with the association of OFW with the disadvantaged because OFW means Overseas Filipino Worker hence, Filipino expatriates ARE OFWs no matter how much salary and benefit they acquire. I do not like discrimination between OFWs, as I have seen throughout the years, by the Filipino expatriates nor by Filipino officials. When the guy in the counter asked me the second time if my dad is an OFW, I stated as a curious young novice in university, “What is your definition of OFW? Because my understanding of OFW may not be the same as yours. Yes, my dad works abroad but he’s not the typical OFW” and then the guy cut me out and quickly stated “okey, then he’s an expat” without me having to say that word. Since that was the very first time I had come to a situation where I was wondering what the two terms may imply, I just had to ask the questions to the guy to reaffirm my understanding of the terms.

In essence, is there really a difference between the terms ‘expatriate’ and OFW? If so, let me know in the comment section because I would really love to hear other people’s opinion in this.

For me, there is a difference between the two. One is more advantageous then the other however, a Filipino expatriate is an OFW, after all, Filipino expatriates are overseas workers and, according to the universal definition of ‘expatriate’, someone “who lives outside their native country” (Oxford Dictionaries 2012). But, does ‘living’ imply ‘working’?


Oxford Dictionaries Online. 2012. Expatriate. <> %5BAccessed 6 April 2012]