Many expatriates are able to find large communities of their own nationalities far flung from their homes, and this in another significant factor in the choice of expatriates to stay away from home (United Nations, 2006).
When people of any origin begin to build their own community in a new place, it is harder for them to move away from that which has become safe and familiar.
Perhaps, of all people, the African-Americans who were originally brought to the new world as slaves suffer from not being truly able to return home again. Brought to a country against their will, forced to take on names unfamiliar to their tongue and work for men who claimed dominance and supremacy above them, the African-American population is quite possibly the most interesting diaspora of all. The Museum of African Diaspora provides and interesting look into a culture trying to regain itself, by slave narratives, by photography, by movement and origin stories. This is the gathering place of a culture trying to find itself, despite attempts by others to destroy the culture all together.
The following is an excerpt from a first person narrative by Margaret Nakechi Onwuka in which she describes her experience as an African in America.
You are not one of them." Those were the words spoken to me by my father the first and last time to his knowledge that I said the word ain't. "You are not one of them." The "them" were the students at the predominantly African-American elementary school that I attended in Inglewood, California. It was the first time that I became aware that, although I looked like everyone else at school, I was different. I knew that my last name was different. I knew that my parents had accents. And I knew that my mother served fufu at least once a week. I also knew that I dressed like everyone else, my speech was a mixture of valley girl and slang, and that I loved McDonald's. All I wanted to do in the first grade was play jumprope and tag, not contemplate my identity. It was at that moment when I heard my father's harsh words that I began to question who I was." report before the Icelandic ministry of foreign affairs on migration noted a significant increase in the number of foreign immigrants from 1996 to 2006. The labor market in Iceland is now felt to owe 7% of its labor to immigrants from more than 100 different nationalities. While Iceland had previously been felt to be too remote, or too harsh of a climate to become a significant home for migrants, it appears that the globalization of the economy as well as the presence of jobs resulted in Iceland seeing both positive and negative effects from international migration. Many migrants to Iceland moved their due to the gender equality which exists in that country.
Maria O'Shea is a researcher and independent consultant of Middle Eastern affairs, and her works have required her to spend great amounts of time in that region, especially in Iran and Kurdistan. While completing her doctoral studies, she spent quite a bit of time in Iran ad has written extensively on the effect of being in and life after Iran in her book "Culture shock: A Guide to Customs and Etiquette in Iran." O'Shea relates some of her experiences gained as a Westerner in Iran. Although a foreigner, she loves the Middle Eastern Culture and even so found that it was difficult to assimilate back into Western Culture once her time in Iran was over. She explains that, as a Western Woman married to an Iranian, she was free to work in any capacity she chose but did note that most expatriates chose to either teach English or else run businesses which cater solely to the needs of other foreigners. Because of her studies, Dr. O'Shea was exposed to a broader element of society than most Westerners who go to the Middle East. Upon her return to London to resume her teaching career, she found that many of her home countrymen where unable to give up what she considered to be a distorted view of life in Iran, beliefs which were mostly based upon media focus on hatred of Western culture, religious fanaticism and terrorist acts. Dr. O'Shea found it hard to convince people of the world that existed outside that environment within Iran, although she did her best to give her home countrymen a greater depth of information on Iran and the Iranian people. Dr. O'Shea describes Iran in her book as."..Like no place else on earth...it is rife with contradictions and internal contrasts. Part of the Middle East and yet not an Arab country, firmly within the Islamic world although it's people practices a different form of Islam than other Muslim Countries." Dr. O'Shea writes about the relative isolation she felt as a westerner in Iran, but also about the same feelings she noted when she returned to the West. People in the West were more willing to follow their own preconceptions regarding life in Iran than the true to life stories she had to share. She felts somewhat cut off from her countrymen who were unable to understand the complexity of the country and the Iranian people. In this way she found herself relatively isolated again, in that people were unable or unwilling to understand her experience.
Joanna Halpern is another individual who has written extensively about her experiences as an expatriate returning home. After spending seven years in Germany, she returned to her home in New York City. She resigned from an important position with a prestigious institution in Germany to pursue her doctoral degree. As she describes herself, she left Germany a confident and experienced professional who had made a significant contribution to the internationalization of a small German University and returned to the United States to find herself in a city, county and culture which seemed very foreign to her. This led her to do further research on the specific problems of those who return home after time away. She found that those who return home are often undervalued and are themselves often times unrealistic in their expectations of the world to which they return. The overwhelming sense of the returning one is feelings of being slighted and undervalued,
Sam Bahour is another somewhat unwilling expatriate who in his own way cannot go home again. In 1993 he left the United States to work in Palestine, believing that the newly signed Oslo Accords would bring opportunity for the Palestinians based on new economic venues. A Palestinian American himself, Bahour had a somewhat vested interest in seeing Palestine rise as an economic force comparable to Israel. He built a telecommunications company which employed more than 2,000 Palestinians and was worth $100 million dollars. He developed a large shopping center within the Palestinian Territories, employing more Palestinians. He even married and had children. For twelve years, during his work he awaited approval by the Israeli authority to approve an application for residency in Palestine, and felt that the issue was moot since his family was from Palestine. He had been allowed to live in Palestine by renewing his tourist visa and had done so every three months for over 12 years, however he was recently notified that he would no longer be allowed to stay in the Palestinian territories and would have to leave his businesses, move his family and go back to the United States. The only other alternative is for him to stay in his adopted country on an illegal basis and run the risk of being deported to the United States and being denied re-entry privileges. While Bahour's children are American Citizens, they have never known the United States. With his denial of his visa, he has effectively lost his dream to contribute to the development of his homeland. Israeli's support their decisions to deny visas to people like Bahour because they feel that a growing Palestinian populations represents a demographic threat to the Israeli state.
Bahour chooses not to return home, but now the choice is taken away from him.
Ugandan refugees have spent the better part of the last ten years in refugee camps trying to escape civil war. Now, with the advent of peace talks between the Ugandan government and the Rebel Resistance Army it may be possible that the refugees will be able to move back from the displacement camps which have been their home for so long into what are termed "relocation camps," simply because the home they used to know does not exist any more. Those who live in the resettlement camps are willing to take their chances. It is not surprising that more than anything the refugees of Uganda want to return to what they consider some degree of normalcy, no matter where it is or how they get…