To Go or Not To Go?

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I woke up one day to find most of my friends had disappeared. I panicked and ran everywhere to find out what had happened.
"Don’t worry”, I was told. "They’re OK. They’ve just immigrated to another country."
"Another country?! Where?"
"Some went to the Gulf countries, others to Europe, the States, or Canada."
"To live at a better standard."
"But they were living Ok here!"
"That’s not up to you to decide, they have higher ambitions."
"But they had a nice flat, two cars, and their kids went to good schools!"
"Well, they want to live in a villa, they want better cars, and they want to send their kids to international schools, anything wrong with that?"
"No, but was it so easy to leave their families, friends, homes, and neighborhoods?"
"Some find it easier than others."

With that I excused myself quietly, but my mind was still buzzing loudly. Why do some people dream of leaving the country while others can’t imagine doing so? And for those who immigrate, how long do they intend to stay there? What are their plans for coming back? Do they have a goal, that when achieved, they would come back?
I decided to set out and find some answers instead of pondering on my own.

First I called Duaa, a 29 year old engineer. She told me that they had never thought about leaving the country and they hadn’t looked for it. But when a friend of her husband’s offered him a job in Dubai, which they thought at the time, was an irresistible package, they decided to give it a try. “The most tempting thing about this offer was the experience my husband would gain from working at this big company in a great city like Dubai. But when we got there, we found the actual job conditions were different from what we had been told. I couldn’t adapt quickly especially that my husband’s working hours were very long, and I didn’t know anyone there. We were supposed to come back in a year when his contract ended, but after that year he moved to another company with much better conditions and we felt things were improving. I began making friends and enjoying my time. Dubai allows you to live at European standards, but after all it is an Islamic country. I don’t feel like an outsider. The traditions and culture are very close. The problem with coming back is that we’ve got accustomed to living at a certain level there, while it’s much more expensive to live at that level in Egypt. My advice to newcomers is, make sure what the job conditions are. As for the wives, especially if they’re not working, try to make friends quickly. You can do that through joining a gym, attending seminars, or through your child’s nursery or school. Don’t limit your contacts to the wives of your husband’s colleagues.”
Then, I met Yara, a 30 year old accountant, who stated that if it was up to her, she would never leave Egypt.
“My grandparents moved to that Gulf country in the sixties. My parents got married there, worked there, and me and my siblings were born there. When I was about 10 years old, my parents decided to come back, because they wanted us to grow up in our country. When we came here, we had no friends, and very few relatives. It was a difficult time for us. Our extended family abroad kept saying they would follow closely, but most of them never did. I hope me and my husband won’t have to travel, because I don’t want to put my kids in that situation. I think no matter how long you stay out of the country, one day you’ll want to come back, and then you’ll find you’ve lost contact with your friends. It’s quite difficult to make new friends when you’re older. Moreover, in this country, you need friends and acquaintances (favorably ones with influence) to help you carry out almost any errand, like finding a good job, enrolling your children at a good school, not mentioning all the chores involved in running a business.”
Next, I went to see Rasha, a 32 year old teacher. She had just come back from another Gulf country. She worked there for a year, couldn’t adapt and came back. “I wasn’t happy with my job here. I wanted to work as a teacher, but the good schools here wouldn’t hire me because I wasn’t experienced. When I found that job, I jumped at the chance thinking that living there would be like living in heaven. The truth is there are problems there just like anywhere else. Furthermore, I couldn’t accept that just because I’m an Egyptian, and not a local or a westerner, then I’m automatically a second class employee at the school where I worked. One of the biggest annoyances I found, was the almost impossibility of getting a driver’s license. I had to use taxis all the time or ask someone to give me a lift, which I really hated. I don’t think I’d do it again. However, I gained more independence and confidence. I worked with people of different nationalities and cultures. The mention of this year in my CV worked wonders when I came back.”
Hanan, a 28 year old doctor, hopes she would move soon with her husband and kids to a country in the Gulf area. “My husband is a doctor too, and we rarely see him. His working hours are from 8 am till 5 pm, then from 7:30 pm till 1 am everyday except Friday. Our friends working abroad, work from 8 till 2 only and live at quite a better level. Even with my husband’s long hours, we still cannot afford to do the things we’d like to do easily, like replacing our car with a new one. We like to be independent, and we don’t like to ask our families for financial support. We hope to provide our children with an easier life. If we can help it, we won’t come back.”
Mohammed, a 52 year old surgeon, had strong regrets. “We were living happily abroad until it was time for our children to go to college. It was impossible to enroll them at a college there, and we were concerned that our daughter would have a dim chance of getting a suitable suitor too. Their mother went back to Cairo with them. I couldn’t go back too, because I had to bring in the money to sustain their lifestyle. Now, we don’t have a family relationship anymore. I am no longer the father in this family. I am not referred to for any decisions. I am married, yet not married. I am just the money machine. When I go back for visits, I feel I’m invisible. When I try to give my opinion on any family matter, they give me a look that says; go back, we’ve got used to living without you.”
Samira, a 60 year old retired administrator, says with cloudy eyes, “After my son finished college, he decided he wanted to live in the USA. He has very high ambitions. I didn’t want to stop him from achieving his dreams. I helped and encouraged him. Nonetheless, I had secretly hoped he would decide to stay. I am growing old and had hoped my son would be close to me at this age. I certainly cannot move to a new country at this age.”
I could see that people experienced immigration very differently, depending on their personalities and circumstances. However, there are some main guidelines to consider, of you’re thinking of immigrating.
    Weigh up your options very closely. What are your priorities? What will you sacrifice if you stay and if you go? Think about your friends and family. How close are you? Do you have elderly parents that depend on you?
    Realize that once you leave, and find a comfortable life abroad, it will be very difficult for you to come back. You will always compare between here and there.
    Do you have a plan for coming back? Are you a person who usually sticks to plans?
    If you decide to go, you should know that if you want to keep in touch with your friends here, you will have to make an extra effort. People are quite easily distracted into their own lives. You’ll probably have to be the initiator at many times.
    You should be aware of the people’s culture in the country where you’re going. After all, you’re going to make a living and not to make trouble.
    Realize that keeping your job, advancing, and getting promoted in all foreign countries is based on the quality of your work, your willingness to learn, your interpersonal skills, and not on how many years you’ve been on the job (like in Egypt).
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