“ENVY” AS immigrants/expats

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In this article, I choose to speak about ENVY in the context of immigration and multiculturalism.

I know it may not be fashionable to speak about less positive feelings, yet I choose to speak about them because we cannot have positive feelings without feeling the less happy ones. Life is not only sugar and honey. We can get sick of so much sweetness. Feeling the salt, sower, and bitter tastes can make life more interesting.

Envy is a feeling we have known very well since we were children. We were envious of the other toddler’s toy, and even if many other toys surrounded us, we wanted precisely that one the other kid was playing with. 

This feeling follows us all our lives in various situations. And, since I like to be clear, I looked up the definitions of Envy. 

It can be a noun and means: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Or it can be a verb and means: desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else).

So, we deal with unhappiness provoked by comparing ourselves with other people’s success, qualities, and possessions.

Here is an article that explores the origins of this feeling in a much deeper sense.

When it comes to people who travel to live abroad for longer, shorter, or permanents periods, I find that this feeling of Envy can occur because of the comparison between three big categories of people:

  1. People who are locals, and people who are immigrants/expats; 
  2. Immigrants/expats among themselves;
  3. People married into the new country and locals, or people who married into the country among themselves.

I will explain what I mean by giving examples for each category. 

A. Locals envious of immigrants:

Suppose we think of the immigrants who are refugees. Which means they have escaped their home countries because of war.

We can think about Envy, which occurs among some locals who see immigrants who are coming as refugees. If the government of that country has friendly politics towards immigrants, it will offer a lot of help to the refugees. It will have programs to help them learn the language, help them get jobs, and even give them housing and an amount of money they can live by for a specific time.

Some locals are going to be envious. Why? Because they may feel it is unfair that the refugees are getting so much help, which is paid by the taxes the majority of the locals pay. From some local’s point of view, these people coming from strange shores are getting something without doing anything and may not understand why. They may not know much about the wars in these refugees’ countries; therefore, they may have little tolerance. It may be challenging to understand the reasons behind the action of fleeing, even if that is war, when people have had a safe upbringing sheltered by war. 

Suppose we go beyond the refugee category and consider all the immigrants in a country. Some locals will feel envious of the foreigners’ jobs, and we may hear affirmations like “these foreigners are taking our jobs”. At the same time, some of these locals are unwilling to do those jobs because they may be too hard to do either physically or intellectually. Moreover, not all people in a country are getting an education. Therefore, if some special skills are needed, the companies in need of those skills will bring people from abroad to do the job because they couldn’t find what they were looking for among the locals.

Sometimes leaders of companies prefer to get in new people from other countries and break some patterns within the organizational culture. When people work in the same team for many years, they become so familiar with routines that it can be hard to develop new ideas. Therefore, new and fresh eyes from abroad can either refresh the group or shake it a bit, just like splashing fresh water on the face in the morning, to help wake up. 

Three things may happen when a foreigner is brought into an already formed group.

  1. It may be that the older members will work together to assimilate the foreigner and persuade him/her into the same thinking patterns.
  2.  The group’s older members will stick together against the new ideas and the foreigner. 
  3. Suppose the older members of the group do not get along. In that case, the third thing that could happen is: that they will use the shared experience of the foreigner in the group to bring them together by having him/her as a person and the new ideas that are brought in as a conversation topic. The foreigner may not be unaware of this process since he/she doesn’t have the history of the place. He or she unknowingly may bring the group together.

B. The layer of Envy among immigrants/expats groups has many under categories. 

– between immigrants/expats who were there before and those who just came; 

– between immigrants/expats who receive help from the government in the new country and those who don’t;

– between immigrants/expats who receive a residence permit easier and those who are not allowed to stay without significant reasons;  

– between immigrants/expats who happen to have issues with the religion or skin color of other immigrants;

– between immigrants/expats who have jobs and who don’t;

– between immigrants/expats who didn’t manage to speak the local language at a good enough level so they could have good jobs and those who did use time, money, and effort to learn it and to have good jobs;

– between immigrants/expats who have higher education and those without. Yet, in today’s world, when we have the internet and access to a lot of information, people can become specialists in a field without necessarily having a degree. 

– between immigrants from the same country who perhaps belong to different social classes. If someone from a lower class succeeds in the new country, which offers more opportunities to everybody, then people who belong to a higher class in the country of origin may not like it.

I am sure there may be even more layers and shades of envy among immigrant groups.

C: Spouses. People who are married into the new country. 

Locals can consider that people from other countries are just taking their men and women, and it feels unfair, especially if one has been struggling with finding a partner. One example you can find in this inteview.

Among immigrants, this can also be a subject of envy because it depends on why people marry into the country. Was it love, or was it a necessity and the marriage was used as a ticket to emigrate?

I am sure we all met this kind of marriage, and we also know that many of them can break apart as soon as a residence permit is obtained or citizenship. If this category of people feel like being married to a person they didn’t really like, they have sacrificed years of their lives so they can have the chance to live free in a free country, they may be envious of those who didn’t have to pay this price. 

I have been asked this question many times. My reason was love as well. I loved myself enough to believe I deserved a better education in a different educational system.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Envy is a very complex feeling that we experience since childhood in our families. We will have more or fewer resources to handle it, depending on how it was managed at the time and the support each of us has received from the adults responsible for our upbringing. Nothing more, nothing less. 

The next step would be to work with it, acknowledge it and, put a name on it, speak about how you feel and what would be your reasons.

Are there any other layers of Envy you can think about?

Please share them in a comment below or tell them to me, in a private conversation, by clicking on this link.


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