thoughts on an itinerant Thanksgiving
Happy Thanksgiving from me, an immigrant.
Or am I an expat? There’s a huge difference in privilege and expectation between those two words. I wasn’t forced out of my home country by oppression or war or danger, thank goodness. But I am American, and I live in the Netherlands, and I plan to stay. I applied for dual citizenship when that became possible, and now I am “Dutch-American soprano Katharine Dain,” a phrase I put at the beginning of my bio to indicate both my hireability throughout the EU and an aspect of my identity. So, I’m an immigrant: a permanent settler in a new country. The word “expat” often implies something temporary: a state of privileged displacement for a period of months or years, a chosen state of non-integration. Expats don’t learn the local language; expats only hang out with other expats. Some people start as expats but stay long-term, and some find the transition to a new place too difficult and leave despite earlier intentions. Artists are sometimes put idealistically in a different category—citizens of the world, drawing inspiration from everywhere, etc.—but whether we just study abroad (as I did in London from 2004-06) or permanently relocate (as I now have), we’re still immigrants, or expats. We still have to grapple with feelings of cultural displacement, loss, and loneliness, and never more so than around the holidays. Read More