Why am I not a migrant worker? Expat Privilege

Why am I not a migrant worker? Expat Privilege

I have had a cleaning lady for years in Switzerland. She is not Swiss; she is a migrant worker with a permit. She, like myself, is an expat of sorts but she is not seen as one and I am.

In all of the countries, I have lived in I have had to go through some kind of registration process to get a permit. The lines are awful; there are refugees, migrant workers, and executives all together waiting to be processed. 

When a company takes care of you, it is a bit easier because they go with you, prepare everything and try and make you feel special. Still, there you sit waiting with the realities of being foreign and being processed with everyone else.

In Amsterdam it was different. I was greeted by a friendly lady, coffee was served, and I was handed a welcome pack with gifts. Shortly thereafter I was whisked away to fill out papers. This should have been a simple process, but the relocation agent forgot something ...my husband is German while I am American. The man looked through my papers and looked up, "Where is your husband? He needs to give you permission to live here and live in this house." 

I would have loved to see my face just then. "Excuse me, WHAT? My husband and I own this house together, and he doesn't permit me to do anything, sir!" A sharp disagreement erupted as I complained ferociously of his use of words.

I ended up being dismissed to have an appointment with immigration.

I landed with the 'other' foreigners, no longer that privileged expat; no coffee and no gifts this time. I am glad it happened. I don't want to be 'that person,' the one who doesn't see how others are treated.

On a daily basis I am seen as an expat, and I even write about being one, but in reality, I am a migrant worker and so is my husband; we go from place to place to get a better job; we just don't work in the fields and we have more privilege.

—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash