I Want Out… But How and Why?

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This Way!, Bank Street, Ottawa

I often hang out on r/IWantOut, Red­dit’s offi­cial expat sub­red­dit. Peo­ple post infor­ma­tion about immi­gra­tion and ask for feed­back regard­ing a par­tic­u­lar place or coun­try. But this sub­red­dit seems to be dom­i­nated by those (a major­ity of Amer­i­cans) who are sick of their coun­try and want to get out of it. Posts titled “I’d go any­where”, “Can’t take it any­more, look­ing to move out of the U.S.A” are legion.

Like one Red­di­tor put it, “I’m a lit­tle tired of posts that say ‘I’m in high school and I don’t know any lan­guages but the USA SUCKS MAN.’ Can we restrict this to posters who have done some research, know they might have qual­i­fi­ca­tions that could assist in get­ting out and are in process to get­ting out?”

This atti­tude is com­mon when it comes to immi­gra­tion. A lot of peo­ple want to leave their coun­try for polit­i­cal or eco­nomic rea­sons. I get emails through this blog that basi­cally say: “I’m des­per­ate to leave XYZ coun­try, how I can move to Canada eas­ily?” And when I start explain­ing that mov­ing to Canada is usu­ally do-able but that you have to meet a few require­ments, do research etc. their inter­est vanishes.

I com­pletely under­stand peo­ple who are sick of their coun­try. I didn’t par­tic­u­larly enjoy liv­ing in France either and I often thought that being born and raised there wasn’t a good enough rea­son to stay. That said, I think a lot of prospec­tive immi­grants need a reality-check.

First, do you real­ize what immi­grat­ing entails? I per­son­ally think that see­ing and expe­ri­enc­ing the world is a must before set­tling any­where. Get out of your city, of your province, of your coun­try and see what you miss and what you don’t. Some­times it takes a trip abroad to real­ize that you actu­ally enjoy liv­ing in your coun­try, no mat­ter how imper­fect it may be.

Sec­ond, do you have a real­is­tic plan? You want to move. Good. Now, administratively-speaking, can you actu­ally live in your coun­try of choice? Some coun­tries, includ­ing Canada, the U.S.A, Aus­tralia and New Zealand do have offi­cial immi­gra­tion pro­grams. But you still have to be selected, and most of the time you will need to have the skills, work expe­ri­ence and edu­ca­tion that the coun­try is miss­ing. Other places are a bit of a grey area. For instance, if you want to move to China you will have fewer options since the coun­try doesn’t actively seek immi­grants. In fact, it only started draft­ing the country’s first immi­gra­tion law. Mean­while, most for­eign­ers are only allowed to reside here for rea­sons of work, study, travel, or mar­riage over a cer­tain period of time.

Are you will­ing to adapt to another cul­ture? First you will likely have to speak the country’s lan­guage in order to get a job. Even expats in, let’s say, Thai­land have a bet­ter life if they can actu­ally speak Thai. Eng­lish may be the inter­na­tional lan­guage of choice but in many coun­tries it is only spo­ken by the upper-class or at work. Adapt­ing to another cul­ture also means being a “life stu­dent” for a few years. You adop­tive coun­try won’t change for you—you have to change.

Are you will­ing to make com­pro­mises? No coun­try is per­fect. Broadly speak­ing, in devel­oped coun­tries you may face extreme con­sumerism, polit­i­cal extremes, selfishness—I already wrote about the Unpleas­ant Real­i­ties of Amer­i­can Life. In less devel­oped coun­tries, cor­rup­tion, pol­lu­tion, poverty, inef­fi­ciency can be an issue.

Finally, I can’t help think­ing that hat­ing one’s coun­try doesn’t make for a suc­cess­ful immi­gra­tion. It can cer­tainly play a dynamic role but it’s not every­thing. You also have to be curi­ous about the world, eager to adapt to a new cul­ture and open-minded. Don’t leave home resent­ful and bring your anger with you. In most cases, immi­grat­ing doesn’t solve any prob­lem you may have.

Case in point: I think it’s pretty clear to any­one who spent time on this blog that I’m left-wing. I hated Chirac’s gov­ern­ment and I dis­like Sarkozy’s even more. I don’t like Harper’s gov­ern­ment either. Am I going to leave Canada because the Con­ser­v­a­tive are in power? Nope. I’m going to vote and make my voice heard. Hope­fully, next time, we will get a smart gov­ern­ment. Fingers-crossed. I’m not going to run around the world look­ing for the per­fect gov­ern­ment. To my knowl­edge it doesn’t exist, plus I’d rather try to make change happen.

I know a lot of French who moved to Canada and absolutely love to tell every­one around them how much bet­ter Canada is, peo­ple are more effi­cient, smarter, more polite, bet­ter edu­cated blah blah blah. I often feel like say­ing “er… do you know you are still French?” Indeed, not only this kind of atti­tude can get really tir­ing (bitch­ing about France is… so French!) but once abroad you will real­ize how much your birth cit­i­zen­ship is imprinted in you. It’s only in Canada I real­ized that because of my back­ground I was indeed very much European.

Immi­grat­ing is an adven­ture. But I don’t think slam­ming the door on your birth coun­try is the best way to start it. Close it qui­etly instead, and enjoy your new life.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

19 Comments

  1. Well, you’re lucky, because most of the French peo­ple I meet here keep say­ing how much bet­ter France is! I just want them to go back home. I actu­ally appear as a fran­co­phobe, not because I say that every­thing is so much bet­ter than in France (it isn’t and as you say, no coun­try is per­fect), but because I have come to despise the arro­gant atti­tude of most French peo­ple I have met here. Thank­fully, not every­body is like that and there are some sound-out peo­ple from anywhere.

  2. here’s what i think:
    some kinds of peo­ple think immi­grat­ing is an adven­ture. they think their lives will be mag­i­cally trans­formed into some­thing excit­ing and bet­ter.
    wouldn’t it be great to leave ill­ness and unpaid bills behind, to leave an unhappy mar­riage or a dead-end job and start over?
    the real­ity is these types of peo­ple prob­a­bly will have the same prob­lems, no mat­ter where they go.

  3. I won­der every­day if my move to Canada was a good idea. Every­day the answer is “yes”. It’s not rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from what I’m used to being a upstate New Yorker-but very dif­fer­ent dif­fer­ent at the same time. (I know that doesn’t make sense some­times)
    I’m happy to be where I am, I’m still American-and will always be so-even if/when I get cit­i­zen­ship here. (I am, how­ever, get­ting tired of being the for­eign pol­icy ‘explainer’/ambassador for every move the US of A has made in the last 20 years!).
    I know it’s bet­ter for my kids, my wife and me. I just wish the beer was cheaper! (and not I’m not dri­ving to Que­bec to buy Coors lite at the Cosco peo­ple! I don’t drink that crap! I may be Amer­i­can but I have some taste!)

  4. Pingback: “You May Say I’m a Dreamer” – Tourist vs. Resident | Correr Es Mi Destino

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