Immigrating to the “Other Side”
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.”
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?