M. van Bochove
- Beyond cosmopolitanism and expat bubbles: challenging dominant representations of knowledge workers and trailing spouses
- Population Space and Place
- Volume | Issue number
- 21 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Expatriates - in this paper understood as highly skilled temporary migrants and accompanying spouses - are generally portrayed either as cosmopolitans with universal ties or as organisation men or women who live in a local expat bubble. On the basis of 75 interviews with expatriates in the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, we argue that both dominant images are partly true but do not do justice to the fragmented nature of expatriates' local and cross-border involvement. First, our study shows that expatriates' identifications are characterised by fragmentation. Instead of seeing themselves solely as cosmopolitans or expats, they have multilayered identities, of which national identity is often an important component. Second, our study proves that the scale and nature of expatriates' activities depend on what aspect of life is taken into account: many can be characterised as organisation men or women in the economic sphere, moderate cosmopolitans in the political sphere, and ‘wannabe’ locals in the sociocultural sphere. The dominant representations of expatriates thus need to be reconsidered. Expatriates actually have particularistic ties (with people who are like them, based on a shared expat existence or nationality) as well as a universal, cosmopolitan orientation (i.e. the wish to bridge cultural differences). Instead of setting expatriates apart as an extraordinary type of people, their differences and similarities with other types of migrants deserve more future attention.
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