I've been thinking there needs to be another word for whatever comes after expat ... ex-expat / unpat / post-pat / (not Postman Pat) / nonpat ???

A BBC friend's parents started me off on this. I was thinking how they had lived in the UK for a long time, but still lived a Chinese life and spoke with a strong Chinese accent. The train of thought was just passing "strange how they can have lived there so long yet remain apart", when I had a little jolt that that describes me too. In fact their use of English is way better than my Chinese, so where does that leave me?

Even though I'm never going to blend in seamlessly with local society (not even with a paper-bag over my head, and long trousers & sleeves to cover the hair) I definitely count this as home. I don't have any plans to go back to the UK, where I am from originally. So I haven't lost my expat-ness by virtue of picking up a new country, it's more that I am in a midway place between the two cultures, a midpat, or a mixpat maybe?

Being a mixpat sounds like it could be a bad thing - feeling lost, and not quite belonging either place. The Chinese terms for Chinese-race people that have grown up overseas (banana, juk-sing) can also carry a bit of a put-down. I like it though, and find I prefer spending time with other people that are a mix of cultures. It knocks away some of the certainties around our prejudices, which is always a good thing.

Hurrah for mixpats!


PS "BBC" as in "British-born Chinese", not the TV station.


Hi Mr. B,

I think the word you are looking for is "immigrant".

At least, that is how I felt myself when I first moved to Taiwan back in 1987. I felt really in touch w/ my ancestors who emigrated to the USA.

I landed in Taipei and a friend from college met me as arranged (in sociology this is sometimes called "chain migration", where people follow relatives and close associates to the new land). I stayed w/ her for a few days and she helped me find a place to live, where another of our ethnic subgroup was moving out. She helped me find some jobs in the field of work that my ethnic sub-group specialized in, English teaching in cram schools. With my ancestors it was sewing in garment factories. :)

So, in my view, "Expat" is just another word for a well-heeled immigrant. LKF and SoHo and Midlevels are "Euro-town" or "West-town" just like there are Chinatowns in large cities in the West.

Of course, legacy of colonialism, economics, etc. make the power and political dynamics different for Western expats in HK and most immigrants in western countries.

It's kind of like that cartoon by Hamilton in the New Yorker years ago. A very "high WASP" family is sitting around a dining table and the little girl asks "Daddy, are we ethnic?".

So, we "expats" are an ethnic enclave in a large city. Some of us are "sojourners" and some are true immigrants, planning to make our lives here.

Emigrating to Hong Kong

Hi skmama,

You're right!

Funny, I'd never thought of it like that. Even though I made a very clear decision to move overseas and get away from the UK Winters, I never called it emigrating. Oh well, "mixpat" won't make the dictionary then :wink:

Lan Kwai Fong as Gweilo-town makes a lot of sense too. For British tourists visiting London, China-town is on the list of things to see. And Chinese visitors to Hong Kong seem to feel the same way about Lan Kwai Fong.

Have a good weekend,


Non-resident with HK ID

The HK Immigration Dept says I am a [i][b]'dependant' [/b][/i](degrading) and since I have a visa to live and work here, I thought it safe to call myself a resident. But what a shock (at the airport) to be kicked out of the 'HK Residents with HK ID' counter to the 'Non-residents with HK ID'. My husband says it's because I am just a temporary resident (visa only good for 3 yrs). Maybe some feel this is enough to call HK home. But I do not. I just feel inadequate.

I can't call myself an xpat becos I associate this with the blond, blue-eyed, Caucasians. And most people who do call themselves xpats (or what ever pat) are mostly blond, blue-eyed, and always Caucasians. And most establishments catering for the "xpat community", do mostly consist of Caucasians (be it whatever eye or hair colours). My husband is an xpat because he is blue-eyed, blond and Caucasian. His Chinese looking wife on the other hand, has never been called one.
Hence, [u][b]Gweilo = xpat. Not gweilo = not xpat.
I thought I was [b]Asian[/b], much like the French, Germans or Italians who say they are Europeans. But while studying in the UK, I learned this is not for me as it is reserved for Indians, Bangladeshis or Pakistanis (or decendants of). In HK, they are known as [b]South Asian[/b]. I am neither. So I tried [b]South-East Asian[/b], but this only works if you are Thai or Vietnamese. I am neither.

I thought about [b]Oriental[/b] but decided that I look Japanese enough to get myself into trouble. Yes, it is very troublesome when you don't speak a language but people insist you do. Every attempt get louder and louder!! Japanese ladies are known for their deference and genteelness. I have neither!!!

What abt the obvious and calling myself [b]Chinese[/b]? Please. This is suicide. Anyone who looks Chinese but don't speak any variety of the language knows this is foolish. Why admit to being Chinese and risk being sent to a 'rehabilitation centre' for causing shame and disgrace to the Mother Country.

Does it help when I say I am [b]Malaysian[/b]? No. Sometimes this is as bad as saying I am from Cape Verde (a real country too by the way). But those enlightened few immediately assume I am from KL (Kuala Lumpur) That's in Peninsular Malaysia aka West Malaysia. Which I am not. I am from Sabah, the north bit of that island called Borneo, on the east side of Malaysia. Telling a Sabahan she is West Malaysian has the same dire consequence as telling Sean Connery he is English and The Beatles they are from Brighton. All could have you viciously chased around with a steel pipe.

A true[b] Sabahan[/b], born, raised and very proud of it. So it frankly disgusts me a bit, when faced with biffudled looking faces, I am forced to clarify that Sabah is that state formally known by the British Colonialists as British North Borneo! "And no Borneo is not part of the Phillipines even if the Sultan of Sulu thinks so". So you see, being a Malaysian or a Sabahan is no simple matter either.

My husband is a Brit but feels Asia is his home. I on the other hand, feel a connection to the UK and wouldn't mind making it my home. But I know I can never be British nor do I want to be. Just like my husband who can never be Sabahan, Malaysian or Asian, eventhough he feels he already is one. Some may say it doesn't matter what you call yourself, but frankly it does. If I know what I'm not, I'd like to know what I am.

I would like think I am a [b]citizen of the world [/b]- not bound to one nation, free to travel the world, live & work anywhere I wish, connected to the entire world. I feel I am but still, I know I'm not.

"Permission to remain in Hong Kong until....2006" Oh well

PS Can't bring myself to use the term immigrant. Sounds too desparate. Desparate as on top of inadequate? Too much. :roll:

Roots and Branches

Expat, mixpat, Immigrant or Citizen of the world...for some of us no label or box truly fits, and perhaps that irks us a bit...if only because everyone wants to belong to something or somebody.

I was born in Singapore, lived in Malaysia for 4 years, HK for 28 Years, East Africa for 2 years, Middle East for 3 Years and am now based in the UK...the country that issued my passport.

I am british, but don't really know what being British means and certainly do not identify with many of the lost souls I see on the tube every morning.

If asked, I'll say HK is where the heart is, but perhaps that's because I spent 28 glorious years there as a spoilt colonial, though I was never one to throw the tea towels up into the fans of the Lamma Island restaurants.

Some years back, a mate of mine was heard to comment that we, all those with no roots or fixed place in space, do indeed belong together and are collectively known as "Members of the Lost Tribe"

I like that.... :)


I thought everyone who had a HK ID card were residents, just not perm residents until after seven years?