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The terms that define the type of visitor that you are to Italy can be a little confusing at the best of times! Are you an Expat, an immigrant or a tourist? Most people who have taken the leap and moved to Italy have found themselves wondering at certain points what the best way to define themselves is!
You’re also bound to be asked about your status by the new friends you make and when you’re dealing with the state bureaucracies. So what is the answer you’re looking for?
Are You A Tourist in Italy?
This is by far the easiest of the three to define and generally speaking you’ll know already if you’re a tourist in Italy. Technically and legally speaking, you qualify as being a tourist in Italy if you are staying in the country for less than 90 days and have not applied for a longer term Visa or residency permit.
Tourists travel to a country to spend a vacation with no intention of settling down in the country. Most tourists will only visit for a few weeks however for those who really want to discover the essence of Italy a longer vacation is always preferable.
Are You an Expat or an Immigrant in Italy?
This is a far more sensitive distinction to make and people might even get offended if you mislabel them in this regard! Both words, ‘Expat’ and ‘immigrant’ have a whole series of connotations that can often be loaded with ideas about the past as well as the way we see ourselves today.
The word Expat certainly has overtones of the old world colonialism which is largely seen as a negative part of our shared history. An Expat in India in the past was often forced to move from their home to do their job – in the army for instance. Later, an Expat also included bureaucrats and other officials that were working in the Indian Raj who oversaw the colonial projects of the British Empire.
For this reason many people shy away from being called an Expat while living overseas. Other people see no problem with labelling themselves as Expats and so the debate continues with no sign of an end in sight!
The word ‘immigrant’ also has some negative connotations, particularly in some parts of Italian society. An immigrant is often associated with a poor person from Africa who is fleeing their own country in the hope of finding a better, safer and more economically viable life in another country. There is still a certain amount of intolerance to immigrants from poorer countries in Italy however these prejudices are, generally speaking, on the decline.
Who Exactly is an Expat?
The standard definition of an Expat is someone who has moved to a new country to start a new life. The word is derived from Latin and literally translates as ‘out’ (ex) and ‘native country’ (patria). Together the word is defined as a person who is living out of their own native country.
This means that literally speaking anybody who is living overseas is an Expat although, as previously mentioned, some people prefer not to use the word based on various negative connotations.
Who Exactly is an Immigrant?
The standard definition of an immigrant is somebody who has moved to another country on a permanent basis. An immigrant is setting out to start a new life without the intention of returning to live in their native country again.
Immigrant populations make up large parts of American and Western cities and although Italy is catching up in terms of diversity they do still lag behind some of their European neighbors.
What’s the Difference Between an Expat and an Immigrant?
Although the two words are often used interchangeably and some people have negative associations of them, there is a technical difference between them.
An immigrant is somebody who has moved to a country with the intention to stay there on a permanent basis. An Expat on the other hand, is somebody who has moved to another country to live or work but may well go back home one day.
In Italy immigrants tend to be associated with poorer countries in Africa and Asia whereas Expats are linked to wealthier countries. Most immigrants move to Italy for socio-economic reasons whereas Expats move for lifestyle reasons. It’s these distinctions that can make the definitions of people who are moving to Italy from overseas a little thorny! This is not always the case though. Many Expats move to certain countries because they cannot afford the same lifestyle in their own countries. So Expats have a socio-economic reason to relocate just like the immigrants.
The reasons for the distinction between the use of the words is because many of the foreigners who move to Italy from Africa, Asia and other poorer countries, are doing so on a permanent basis. However, many so-called ‘Expats’ are also moving on a permanent basis which makes these kinds of distinction difficult.
So given the potentially controversial nature of the distinction between the two words, why do we still use them?
Despite the fact that some people find the word ‘Expat’ has difficult connotations it does accurately describe people are able to move freely around the world to pursue their careers or to experience the lifestyle in a foreign country. Many people like to refer to themselves as Expats, particularly when they are speaking about their own communities.
Benefits of Immigrants and Expats to the Italian Nation.
The increase in both immigration and the arrival of new Expats in Italy has had many beneficial impacts on the economy, the culture and the diversity of society. The vast majority of Italians welcome newcomers to their society, no matter where they have come from – especially among the younger generations.
Helps to Solve the Growing Skill Shortages in Italy
Over the last few decades Italy has seen large numbers of its younger and most talented people leaving the country to live in other parts of the European Union and America. This has led to increasing shortages of many types of skill sets – particularly in the more rural areas. New immigrants and Expats bring skills, experience and services that are in great demand in Italy.
Brings Economic Benefits to the Country
As well as the many benefits of tourism, which is a major industry in Italy, Expats and immigrants increase local demand for all kinds of goods and services. This helps to stimulate the economy of the nation.
Increases Diversity in Society.
Both immigrants and Expats bring greater diversity to Italian society, which includes the cultures of their homelands as well as world cuisine, art and musical influences.
This is an side effect of immigration in general, but I do not believe this is a driving force behind the immigration polices of any major country.
Boosts Government Revenues
With more people moving to Italy the government is able to collect more taxes which can be used to improve local services, infrastructure and maintain the cultural heritage of the country.
Helps To Address an Aging Population
Italy has been struggling to deal with its aging population for some time now and the recent influx of immigrants and Expats are helping to address this. An elderly population requires a lot of services, such as healthcare provisions, to ensure they live a happy and healthy life. Immigrants and Expats are increasingly filling this vacuum in Italian society; not only in healthcare but also in other crucial services that the elderly require access to.
Tourists, Expats and Immigrants All Bring Benefits to Italian Society
No matter what you decide to call yourself when you move or travel to Italy you’ll find a fantastic new life awaiting you. If you plan to work and further your career in Italy you’ll be playing a role in rejuvenating the economy and as long as you are respectful of the local culture, traditions and ways of life you’ll have an incredible experience.
Both expats and immigrants bring great value to Italian society and with excellent property prices, a high standard of living and world class cuisine, culture and art, this trend looks set to continue long into the future.
What are your thoughts on the debate between expat and immigrant?