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April 04, 2009

Tourist VS Ex-Pat

There's a huge difference between being a tourist and being an ex-pat.

Perhaps "tourist" could be defined as someone who visits and looks at other cultures...

...for their own entertainment or pleasure. An ex-pat, I am convinced, is someone who considers their host culture as "home" - for however long.

It could be months - even years, but it is long enough to make a place a second - or third - home. A tourist is never "home" in a distant land. He or she is like a spectator at a concert or sports event. An ex-pat, to some degree actually becomes a part of his or her local community.

Coming "home" can be traumatic for the ex-pat. The tourist is usually glad to come home - primarily because nowhere else was "good enough".

Consider these lines from the song "Sand in my shoes" by Dido

"Tomorrow's back to work and down to sanity
should run a bath and then clear up the mess I made before I left here
Try to remind myself that I was happy here
Before I knew that I could get on the plane and fly away
From the road where the cars never stop going through the night
To a life where I can watch the sunset
And take my time"

As Dido puts it, home is where we find sanity and get back to our "normal" routine.

I encourage you to have as many "homes" as possible. You will become a far deeper and more interesting person the rest of your life.

Any thoughts on this?

Later in April, I'll be starting a series on book recommendations - books related to language, teaching, travel or anything related to the ESL teaching & learning experience. So send in your travel stories soon.

My best to you,


Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and riding his bicycle in unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Posted by mmorf at April 4, 2009 12:19 AM

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Surely it's what we do in life that makes us deep and interesting. Where we live is purely arbitrary. I've met many ex-pats who have embraced the local culture, but equally there are those who want to enjoy a similar lifestyle they had at home, simply with better weather and cheaper living!

Posted by: Matt (former EFL teacher Bangkok) at April 9, 2009 07:52 AM

Nice article. Reading this made me realize what I'm feeling being back here(in the states) after some time in South America, is that I was indeed an ex-pat. :o)

Posted by: Christine at April 21, 2009 12:05 PM

I agree totally, I have lived and worked overseas a lot, I prefer to live places to understand them, rather than just pssing through.

And whe I come back home.. well, reverse culture shock can be a killer.

Posted by: Mardo at April 26, 2009 10:34 AM

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