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Immigrating to the “Other Side”

January 26, 2012

Why do human beings move from one place to the next? Ask yourself this, and you might recall that silly childhood joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course!” Why do we as human beings immigrate to new countries? To get to the other side, of course.

However, that “other side” represents different things for different people. Some people move because their job  crosses international borders. Some people move as refugees escaping famine or war; others move for economic opportunity. Still others move because they crave adventure, or want to retire on that Caribbean beach in their old age. And some move because fate brought  them together with the love of their life.

As someone with a strong interest in international diplomacy and relations (that would be my minor), I recall reading in one of my globalization textbooks that “people will not move simply to another place because the other place seems, on the whole, better than their home.” Let me explain: just because America might be a land of “freedom,” where the standard of living is generally high and, at least at one point in our history, there were plenty of jobs to be found, does not mean that everyone on Earth wants to move to America.  Thus, the whole “grass is greener on the other side” cliche doesn’t always apply to real life. Why? A simple reason: even if the place is a jungle shantytown or a polluted, dangerous metropolis or a sandy, barren desert, people aren’t going to move because it’s their home.

I must admit, to a wanderluster like myself, the idea of not wanting to migrate is absurd, especially if one hails from a less-desirable ZIP code. Don’t get me wrong: I love my hometown. There is truthfully no place on Earth (although France comes a close second) that I’d rather live than  the Hamptons, but  I’ve come to terms that, career-wise it’s impossible, and so I’ve settled on  the best choice: New York City. To me, living in the “best” place matters. I suppose it’s because I grew up in such a Paradise-like environment, but the idea of living in some nameless town in the middle of Idaho or in a less-desirable city just doesn’t appeal. I look for the greenest of the “other sides.”

Trading this:

Downtown Cairo, along the Nile River with the Cairo Tower in view

For this?

Downtown NYC; view of Empire State Building

The choice of where to live is not as simple as black-and-white.

To leave our homes for a new land takes a strong desire and passion. Simply saying “oh, the quality of life over there is better” doesn’t cut it. The people who move, in a nutshell, are either hopelessly desperate (as is the case of refugees) or  positively ambitious: the force driving them is a strong one, one that makes them put up with all the red tape and twisted, cruel bureaucratic procedures of the USCIS and National Visa Center (NVC) in order to achieve their dream. After more than a year of being married, my husband had his visa interview on 22 January here in Cairo.  I was denied entrace to the very embassy of my country (I could go on about this, but I won’t) and so he attended the interview solo, but he came out with good news: he was approved!

My husband loves his country, his friends, his family and his job. To him, it never occurred to him to think about the “greener side,” not until I came along. And although he is nervous about coming to America, I am confident that he will find New York City an amazing city of dreams. And if he doesn’t find it preferable over the muezzin-echoing alleyways of his home town, well, as I reminded him: it’s the 21st-century. Unlike the immigrants that piled into big steamer-ships from some port of Europe to settle in the “Little Italy’s” of New York; unlike the pilgrims who set off for months on a ship of masts, not even knowing what to expect, we can  go home whenever we want. Home is only a short plane,  train or bus ride away ; as long as we have the money, we can visit it whenever we want.

Why choose sides, when we can have both?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2012 5:04 AM

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. Moving to another country can be highly rewarding, but it’s definitely not easy! I went through it once when I moved to Barcelona from Milan; then after a few years I considered moving to Berlin (best city in Europe, as far as I’m concerned), but was finally put off by a few issues, not the least of which was the unwillingness to go through the integration process again. Not to mention the f***ing cold, of course 🙂 My solution: pick a comfortable base and travel as much as you can!

    • January 29, 2012 3:44 PM

      to me, it’s easy as long as the culture is similar to that of your own (i.e., me moving to France) as opposed to me moving to Egypt. I do like your solution about picking a comfortable base and traveling as much as possible–thats what I hope we can do with NYC–but I would love to live in a foreign country again!

  2. January 28, 2012 11:10 AM

    Great post… I agree. I recently left the USA to move to Egypt to my husband’s city of Aswan. I take my clients on spiritual journeys around the world, and Egypt has always been the one that opens my heart to my soul. There has always been a deep love for Egypt long before I met my husband. I have taken groups here for over 5 years now, and have always loved Aswan… funny enough, I didn’t meet him in Aswan, but on Facebook 😉

    Anyway, like tipsology says: Pick a comfortable base and travel as much as you can — well, said!

    To me, no move is ever permanent, but rather, where you need or want to be at the time… but, I do believe that letting your heart be your guidance, rather than you head will determine if your move/destination feels the best.

    • January 29, 2012 3:47 PM

      How is Aswan? I have never been. Funny enough, that’s also I how I met my husband (kind of embaressing to admit, but…oh well c’est la vie lol)

      Interesting last bit of your post; never really thought of it in that way.

      • February 3, 2012 4:41 AM

        Aswan is one of my favorite places in Egypt and it’s gotta be great if I chose to live here 😉 …

        Why is it embarrassing to have met your husband on FB?? I think it’s awesome… being able to meet people that otherwise would not be very possible… it’s all good! Obviously if you met, regardless of the avenue, it was part of your destiny…. perfect regardless of how.

        And, definitely… following your heart rather than your head will always bring you so much more into your joy!

  3. January 30, 2012 6:12 PM

    I love what you say in the post, and I can relate to all of it.

    Most importantly, I’m thrilled for you both that his interview went well and he was approved! I’m sure you must both be so happy and relieved after all this waiting and time apart! Best of luck to you both, and looking forward to reading more 🙂

    • February 4, 2012 6:26 AM

      Thank you, and yes, I’m sure you found the idea of immigrating/moving a topic you could relate to, given all the places you’ve lived! 🙂

      And yes, thank you, we are so happy and blessed that the visa was approved. It was like a huge weight just lifted off my shoulders! Even though I worry about it arriving on time what with all the violence going on here, I will be fine as long as he arrives in at mst a month 😛

  4. February 25, 2012 8:05 PM

    Greetings! Your story is fascinating, and thank you for sharing a story that resonates with me as well as you’re right, I didn’t just migrate myself to another city just because it’s better. I think I was desperate from change and away from reminders of my painful past.

    FaceBook, eh? This sounds amazing! I totally must hear about this story… made into movie perhaps?… 😀

    • February 28, 2012 10:43 PM

      You’re very welcome. And yes, Facebook…it’s not quite as romantic nor amazing as it sounds (to me, the whole situation usually seems to brand me as naive and stupid) but it is definitely movie/story material nonetheless.

      • February 28, 2012 11:14 PM

        Absolutely! Inspires us loners sitting by our laptops something to look forward to be open to one day. 😀

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