Consider the word ‘migrant.’ Despite it’s original neutral definition, in the Lithuanian media it is usually used in a negative way. As soon as a person crosses a border for more than one month they are considered to be a migrant. They are generally looking for better opportunities abroad. You can’t tell whether the negativity is jealousy or just an honest concern for why people have to leave their home country to find optimism or happiness.
Maybe for these reasons, I’ve never considered myself as a migrant. Even though I’ve lived overseas as a student and worker for about 4 years. I consider myself a citizen of the world, as cheesy as it may sound. I think it’s important to live in cosmopolitan societies, where everyone feels welcome and can play an equal part in the fabric of social living. I’ve never had any personal complexes about this, such as being from a small country or not being completely fluent in English. Therefore, I’ve never looked for a shelter in ethnic societies, but was way more interested in other people’s stories that were so different, so exciting and at the same time so relatable, since we’ve all shared this global view on life. It was also great to share stories of my heritage, which makes everyone so unique in our global society.
Finally, even after returning home, I’ve been constantly looking where I can find more people like me, who would have a similar attitude and would see experiences from abroad in a positive light. Though I’ve received some judgement even for coming back from my life of a ‘migrant’, I don’t get offended, because for me being a global citizen means living anywhere on planet Earth, including my birth country. I don’t see myself tied to any place and am always looking for new opportunities everywhere. I live in Lithuania today, but who knows what tomorrow brings for me – as I have a passport!
I can’t say this is the only point of view – it’s my point of view. Of course, there are many people who can only bear being abroad if they have some collective gathering with others from the same background. And that’s all great. The problem here is that word ‘migrant’, which shouldn’t then be used to diminish what these people do. Especially since most of the time they are actually working abroad to help their relatives back in their respected countries. Of course the media can highlight the minority on social benefits, but most migrants are hard working and looking to help their families economically. We should definitely share more positive views on the great migrant citizens of the world.
I’m proud to work for TransferGo as they by help those living abroad to send money back to their home countries which has a transformative impact on families. The money they send home can be 20% of an average household income, which is undoubtedly a significant amount. I’ve had the pleasure to develop a transaction fee-free month for Lithuanians to help everybody with the transition to the Euro. As a global citizen I want to do all I can to improve the lives of migrants.
How can you spot a migrant? This question raises answers that are not always pleasant. Do we think about a person with poor education, working long hours for minimum wage? Speaking English only a little, but a proud owner of a big flat TV surrounded by the intense smell of kielbasa or another heavy meat, mist of rolled cigarettes precisely filling the small room inhabited by 5 people? Migrants are often perceived as isolated or community people, unwilling to contribute to the new reality they’re living in. On some level they have never left their native country, at least not mentally.
On the other hand when the word ‘migrant’ comes to mind, I can see an elegant man wearing a pricy suit, perfectly trimmed, with a leather suitcase in his manicured hand and British accent, that could have been practiced during long philosophical discussions at Cambridge. He would introduce himself as ‘Tom’ or ‘Jack’. The only thing that gives him away is a foreign name on his passport, full of rustling and unfamiliar sounds.
‘I’m not a migrant’ I hear people say. ‘I’m a citizen of the world, I feel comfortable everywhere’. Yet, I read that ‘migrants are voracious underdogs’ and I see pictures of angry faces on the cover of the ‘Daily Mail’.
According to the academic definition, ‘migrants are people that were motivated to leave their native country for many reasons – beneficial career prospects, escaping conflict or simply desire for better economic prosperity’. In an era of globalisation and cheap flights we can cross borders and cultures in just a few hours. We shouldn’t be afraid of becoming an active member of various communities. At the same time we can’t pretend that we are not different. It’s a fact that we come from a different place, with unique experiences and views. This bond is important and we should keep it alive also by being in touch with our friends and family back home and helping them out when they are in need.
Today, whilst we celebrate International Migrant Day maybe we should look deeper into the Information Age and the flux of values and truths that is so typical for us. Don’t let ourselves be ‘a universal size’, that fits everywhere equally well. Remember, that we all have our motherlands, our childhood memories that cannot be translated. Especially today, we shouldn’t forget about what truly constitutes us as individual human beings and – among many other things – it is the place we call ‘home’ whether it was chosen by our parents or us.