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. I wholeheartedly agree about the reality check issue. Sometimes, people seem to not do that, and all they do is whine, which I should say, is very easy to do.

  2. now….I am at this time of my life where everything related to Spain (my country) makes me feel embarrased. I hate Spain, maybe I will get along with It when I land in Canada. By this moment the feeling that this country is being worse ecah day blind me about the good things that still has.

  3. Firstly, I want to say that I really enjoy your blog! 🙂 Secondly, I do agree that a good portion of people who want out of their home nation tend to be mis-informed and make quick decisions without doing proper research and travelling to their desired nation. One thing people tend to forget that there is no such thing as a perfect nation, every nation has its pros and cons, and its up to the person to weigh these pros and cons and see if its truly worth making the big jump to living in another nation. I’m currently in college, and I do want to live abroad afterwards, but at the same time I am realistic and taking these slow and doing thorough research on my options. Thanks for the blog and I can’t wait for the next post 🙂

  4. Great article. I see a lot of those rehashed complaints on r/IWantOut, and have even caught myself in that unprepared line of thinking (as a curious 22 year old). That said, it really is important that exploration should be your main motivation, not anger at where you live now.

  5. @Jeruen – I understand them though, immigration matters can be confusing at first. But there is so much info available online these days, anybody can at least get a basic plan!

    @miss – I know the feeling 🙂 It usually gets a bit better once you move because you will probably realize that you are indeed Spanish and that the country has good side. I think it’s a normal phase… not a bad one if you can move on.

    @Rashad – Thank you for the praise! The grass is always greener on the other side, and the saying is so true when it comes to immigration. Some will find happiness in the U.S while Americans can’t wait to get out, some will fall in love with China while Chinese want to make their way to the West… It all boils down to weighting the pros and cons, like you said.

    @Matt – That said, it really is important that exploration should be your main motivation, not anger at where you live now.

    Great way to put it and I couldn’t agree more! This was basically my message. It’s okay to look for alternative lifestyles, it’s actually a smart thing to do IMO. Better that than being frustrated at home. But yes, exploration should be the keyword, not “I hate my life and my country”. Being negative isn’t the solution.

    And yes, I love Threadless – just bought a new one “calling home”, E.T in a phone booth. Love it 🙂 They have talented designers!

  6. I think that if people leave their county thinking life there is unbearable, life is probably going to be unbearable for them no matter where they are.

  7. I couldn’t agree more! Great post as always!

    I really can’t stand people who can’t stop bitching about their country of origin (mostly “westeners” who are complaining on a very high level about mostly pretty pointless things)… there’s no such “best country in the world” anyway…

    As for me, my upcoming move to Canada is purely out of curiosity and exploring the rest of the world while I’m still young and restless 😉

  8. But surely this isn’t all open closing the door quietly.
    Instead it’s a bit like Alice lost in the Wonderland that she couldn’t get to right key to open the right door.

  9. I met a lot of Americans who were real bashers of their own country. (the people who are the most “Anti-American” are the Americans themselves). But, after living elsewhere, they began to appreciate SOME things about their country. It’s all about finding a place that matches one’s own tastes, personality, etc. which isn’t necessarily one’s own country. But it’s difficult to find that place because working and living in a country can be a very different experience than travelling around there as a tourist. I think, these days, living just about anywhere is a pain. We might as well all pack up and immigrate into Antarctica. At least the penguins are friendly.

  10. @Cynthia – So true!

    @Anatolia – Curiosity is a great motivation, and the best IMO 🙂 I agree with you, “Westerners” are relatively spoiled and don’t realize that we still enjoy a pretty good living all things considered.

    @Nui – Ah, you live near Bank! It’s an interesting neighborhood, I worked there for a few years 😉

    @Mr.G – I would be rich too! 😆

    @London Caller – I’m Alice then 🙂

    @Shawn – I’m a little bit surprised the way some Americans bash their country though. I know it went through tough times but hey, the recession was felt pretty much everywhere! And politically-speaking, I can’t say a lot of European governments are much better.

    @Sidney – Well, curiosity is a good reason to immigrate I think. But like everything, prospective immigrants have to be prepared for the good and the bad.

  11. I did not want to “immigrate” out of France. I wanted to travel and it was easier to go to the US because of people I knew there. I only intended to stay 2 years, but then I got married because I was a “proper” type then and did not want to live with my boyfriend. I think if I had not married I would have gone back to Paris because life was easier for me there. Life is not easy or fun in the US. I know several French people who came then left, they could not take the culture. I think it is even harder now than when I came in the 60s. I read somewhere too that it is not that easy to leave the US if you are an American. Income Tax follows you and many other administrative things. My daughter has an “au-pair” guy right now from Toulouse. He said he really wanted to come here, but now that he is, he does not think life is fun and he will go back to Toulouse for sure (of course he is a Muslim and has not found the US people too friendly….)

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!)

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