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I Want Out… But How and Why?

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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