From expat to allochtone – beloved traveller or disliked local?

So when does it happen? The transformation from expat to “allochtone”? When is it not ok anymore to not speak the language? When are you supposed to have local friends, or a local partner? Buy a house? Have a job in a Dutch company instead of a multinational? When is it not tolerated anymore to complain or to long for your own culture? When is the turning point of no more excuses, but taking responsibility? Is taking responsibility the success behind local integration? Is that good for us, being integrated, and becoming an ”allochtone”?


“Allochtone”, a word of contradictions, literally meaning someone who was born abroad or who has a parent that was born abroad. Socially meaning, you are different, coming from another culture. Your success is tested and your behaviour is watched. While an expat is celebrated as a global citizen, successful and living up to the standards, an allochtone is associated with racial differences, lack of ambition and criminality.

Forever expat

Some of us still lives and feels like an expat even after long years of having a local contract, or having a local life. They keep on talking their own language and move around with other foreigners. They postpone settling down, buying houses or pursuing carrier choices because they might still leave. Frequently they feel stuck in their lives: on the one hand staying here for a reason, on the other hand still wishing to move on and by that not taking the responsibility to integrate. The glamour of an expat life is hard to maintain, as your expat friends come and go, and the locals slowly turn their back on your resistance.
Loneliness it becomes. And lots of insecurity: time is flying and we own nothing yet, on the other hand it seems less attractive to start all over again somewhere else. Alone again.


Some of us did open up to the local life, and made the choice to learn the language, to mingle between local people and perhaps raise kids in Dutch schools. They went through this conscious transformation in which they adapted to some local habits and learnt to appreciate the local culture. They got accepted and people stopped asking how long they plan to stay. What they also know is that they will never be completely Dutch, but in a way always an outsider: an allochtone. Having an accent, celebrating different cultural events, raising kids in another way, different values and moral. Still being afraid that locals will not want to be friends with us. Even though successful in work or social life, we still might feel isolated or not understood. Insecure. Not dare to talk about our problems. Alone again.

What can we do?

In my practice we will talk about wishes, choices, responsibility and consequences. We will focus on what makes you you, the unique person who you are. What do you need to make your choices, and what blocks you from going for them? Are you aware of what makes you different and do you celebrate that? Are you aware of what is common in you and your environment? What connects you with them? At the end it does not matter what your choice is, as long you make one.

Enikö Hajas

Born into a diplomat family in Hungary, I lived in Vietnam, Italy, the Netherlands and Portugal. My lengthy experience of understanding different cultures makes it natural for me to work with any nationalities.

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