A new book by a former AsiaLIFE photographer explores the lives of those living abroad through intimate portraiture. Photos and words by Fred Wissink.

EXPAT by Fred WissinkWhat is an expat? What does the word mean to us, and who decides to pursue this lifestyle?

There was a time when we thought of expatriates as those sent abroad by a country or company to head up projects overseas. Today, the term is a lot more nebulous. The majority of expats seem to expatriate themselves, and not always intentionally.

If the term ‘expat’ doesn’t fit the bill anymore, then what should we be called? “Foreigner” is too strange for a person who gets to know a country and its quirks in-and-out. “Wanderer” or “nomad” has a tinge of romanticism that often holds little in common with the day-to-day reality of expat life. Until a better term surfaces, we’ll just have to continue with the title name of this book.

In Expat, I’ve endeavored to show a cross-section of these wonderfully fascinating human beings. Every person featured in this book has spent at least five years of their life in Vietnam, a country I’ve been lucky enough to call home for almost a decade.

The most common question I’ve had from others while creating this project is: “Why?”

I don’t have a great answer, but the truth is that I’ve always loved other people’s stories. These tales are not just about cultural differences and cheap beer, although that does come up a lot. They are about motivations. Why we move and why we stay.

Much of what we’ve lived goes so far beyond what’s familiar in our home countries, that it can’t even be comprehended by the people we’ve left behind. All the same, we miss our families. We miss birthdays, births, deaths, weddings and countless other moments. Our friends become our new family. In the end I don’t think any of us would trade the lives we’ve led, the adventures we’ve had or the friends we’ve made for anything else.

This book is an attempt at documenting, through portraits, the diverse group of people that make up the expatriate subculture. People who have traveled and lived in other countries for significant amounts of time come to know and experience this world intimately.

These people come from all over, with many different backgrounds and philosophies, yet all have one thing in common: they call Vietnam home.

This book will be released on the 11th of March, and there will be a launch and exhibition of the photos at Pendolasco Restaurant on that date.

Order a copy of Expat for VND1,000,000 directly from the artist by emailing fred@fredwissink.com