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Emigration Meme

Maybe it's fact that I'm the child of immigrants. Maybe it's the thought of the upcoming elections. Maybe it's just winter in Seattle. But I was thinking about where I'd go if I ever left the United States. I've lived a wandering life (lived in four states, at ~20 addresses) — what if I really wandered far afield?

So, my question to you is "Where would you go if you left the US, and why?" Notice how, in my arrogance, I assume all my readers are Americans.

Update: Let's consider this two questions:
  1. "Where would you go if you left the US for a non-English-speaking nation, and why?" and
  2. "If you left your native country for a place where they don't speak your language, where would you emigrate to, and why?"

The cop-outs for English speakers with an education are places like Canada, the UK, or Ireland. All those are off my list for various reasons. Likewise I feel I already know Germany, and I'm skipping all the Pacific island nations as better vacation spots than domiciles, though Tahiti always sounds good this time of year.

So, for me, it's a tossup between France and New Zealand. Wellington sounds like a fascinating place, but ... well, it's even more geographically isolated than Seattle. Maybe if I worked in the film industry, I'd be more willing to take a chance on Wellington's boomtown right now.

I think my preference would be France. Partly just because it's an industrialized country, with all the infrastructure you'd expect, and I'm too much a coward to try someplace like Thailand or the Phillipines. Partly for the food and wine. But mostly because I respect the French effort to slow down and appreciate life, to retain their identity, and to discuss and live up to their national ideals (very American, though they might not admit it). Plus, the French understanding of elites appeals to me; yes, I'm a snob, and I could perhaps relate to French snobbiness.

Call it my season in Paris, or Marseilles.


( 19 sutras — Your wisdom )
Jan. 27th, 2004 11:36 pm (UTC)
New Zealand or Australia, but if it had to be a nonEnglish place, Denmark, which at least is within traveling distance of something other than itself.
Jan. 27th, 2004 11:43 pm (UTC)
Fascinating question. Here are my answers:

1) Israel: Yes, it's currently a pretty dangerous place to live, but my 9 days there five years ago also proved to me that it can be an incredibly safe place to live. I felt at home very shortly after getting off the plane. I really liked Jerusalem and Tel Aviv; they were cosmopolitan, culturally interesting, and seemed very familiar. I left feeling like I had to return, as if I had work to do there that I hadn't finished. Everyone there speaks English; with my ear for languages and early instruction in Hebrew, getting by wouldn't be difficult. Besides, someone needs to fight off the ultra-Orthodox push to turn a secular Jewish nation into something it was never meant to be.

2) England: Oh, right. You said this one's a cop out. Move along. Nothing to see here in that case.

3) France: Never been there, but I've got a basic grasp of the language. History, art, culture and food would all pull me there. Climate could keep me there. Centrally located to other countries for weekend trips. Ditto to many of your thoughts.

As I consider your question, I find myself actually nervous at the idea of leaving the US, mainly because I've never lived under any other kind of government and am not wholly sure what I'd be in for or how different it might feel. I take my civil liberties probably a little too much for granted (though Shrub has certainly sensitized me).

Really, you've given me serious food for thought. Thanks.
Jan. 28th, 2004 12:22 am (UTC)
Lots of people come here. We work with them. It just seems like a worthwhile thought experiment to consider how you make a decision like that. I'm glad it worked for you.

Plus, I've been reading my father's account of the Baur clan's early years as immigrants from Germany, so it's been on my mind.
Jan. 27th, 2004 11:51 pm (UTC)
The UK is soooo not a cop-out. And that'd probably be my first choice.

Paris or Canada would be a close joint second.

Also, France's property values are very very low. Insanely so. You can buy the most incredible property in France for what would get you a so-so house here in SEattle.
Jan. 28th, 2004 12:20 am (UTC)
Okay, let me clarify my "UK=cop-out" statement. While I'd happily emigrate to the UK, I posed the question partly as a brain-teaser to see what draws people when they jump out of their native ground, language, and culture to come to another country.

The problem with the UK and Canada is that the US shares a great deal with them both, historically and culturally, so many Americans think of them as logical destinations. I'm more curious about what might compel people to emigrate to, say, the Czech Republic, Japan, or Turkey.

Glad to hear that French housing is cheap, because I would spend a fortune on fashion, food, and theatre if I were to seek Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite.
Jan. 28th, 2004 12:35 am (UTC)
Nah, you didn't have to clarify. I was just being very.... British.

Anyway, as much as I'd love to try another culture I have almost zero ability with languages. I still know a little French but it's very minimal.
Jan. 28th, 2004 12:24 am (UTC)
I, too, am copping out. If I have to move somewhere, the last thing I want to do is be forced to learn a new language. Canada first, New Zealand second, Australia third, UK fourth, Ireland fifth, some random English-friendly place sixth.

I've never bought into "the X are like this" kind of argument. Humans are too diverse and I see in our own country how wildly divergent people are. For example, other countries are painting Americans with a broad brush for supporting Bush. If Bush is unilateral then that's what Americans are too. That's so far from the truth.

Therefore, I don't believe that any X country has Y temperment.

Most folk are like most folk: they want to live their lives happily without too much complication.

So, I'm thinking that anywhere is pretty much like anywhere, except with variation in climate/geography and language. I'll go Vancouver first because that's closest to Seattle in climate and language.
Jan. 28th, 2004 12:32 am (UTC)
I just realized I contradicted myself: divergent and the same.

What I mean is: Scoop up 5,000 people from any five locations on the planet and put 'em in a box. Drop yourself into any one box and aside from language you won't be able to pass the Pepsi test between them. There will be a gaggle of patriotic assholes, a flock of kind people, a murder of secretive people, a pod of go-getters, a den of slack jaws, etc. Every box is ultimately the same except for where it's physically located.

Everything else is window dressing that's not that important to me.

So as long as I have to move boxes, I might as well pick the one that's labeled "English" and "temperate."
Jan. 28th, 2004 02:57 am (UTC)
Oh Canada!
It may be a cop-out, but any American in their right mind would escape to Canada in a heartbeat. :)
Now call me biased, and I am, but this is the place to be. Its hard to beat the igloos. Seriously though, universal healthcare is the shiz, and we get all the benefits of being American (there are a few) without having to live there.
However, if you were to take me out of my beloved country, I would have to keep to the stereotype and make sure that anywhere I went had some kind of hockey culture. Can't live without my hockey. That would limit my options to Europe most likely, and if I had to choose, something Scandinavian (Norway, Finland, Sweden) would probably be okay (and similar to Canada's climate ;)). I would be curious to trace my paternal roots to Germany as well. I would like to visit places like Australia and New Zealand, and France and Italy as well someday, but I wouldn't want to live there.
Jan. 28th, 2004 05:10 am (UTC)
Re: Oh Canada!
I'm going to have to agree with Chris for all the reasons he gives above, although I have a dimmer view of socialised health care than he does. Ironically, I've been thinking of escaping the stagnant job market for young lawyers in BC by going to Washington state, even though I'll have to pass the Bar up here first. At least that way I could get half-decent hockey coverage of my beloved Vancouver Canucks.

I'd have to pick the UK (I'm a literary snob) or France (I'm fluent) because I'm a culinary snob.


Feeling more elitist than usual.
Jan. 28th, 2004 06:19 am (UTC)
Hrm...I've lived/visited in (for more than a week or two) France, England, India, Belize, and several countries in Africa. My husband works for GE, which means that he had to fill out a form recently saying where he would be willing to relocate to. Naturally, he consulted me. It only indexed the world by major country groups, so I had to rule out the Middle East (too many countries where being female is more difficult than it ought to be) and Africa (some countries are peachy, some are hell. it really depends), but aside from that, I was willing to live pretty much anywhere.

Intentionally emigrating, though, requires me to consider information that I don't currently have up-to-date knowledge on. There are a few factors that are most important for me: the ability to live a sustainable lifestyle; protection against invasion of privacy; a tolerant, live-and-let-live attitude; separation of church and state; access to the internet (yeah, I'm an addict); freedom of expression (that's damn important, given that I'm a writer); allowing conscientious objectors; acknowledgement that we live in a changing environment (on a purely physical level) and the willingness to change laws to deal with that, i.e. to strongly support sustainable resources and to try and make sure that my children won't be poisoned by their air, water, or food; and the ability to survive in the case of the collapse of civilization (ok, so I'm also a pessimist).

The U.S. isn't doing too well on a number of those counts.

I speak English and French fairly fluently, along with a rare dialect of Arabic, and I've got a smidgeon of Japanese and Hindi, but the not-English requirement doesn't really affect my choice...once I figure out what it is! Denmark and Germany are both doing good things environmentally and in terms of individual liberty. I would choose Belize in a heartbeat if I didn't know that the only reason it is currently able to maintain independence from Guatamala is the oversight of larger nations. I like France. I'm intrigued by Japan, but the sheer press of people is intimidating.

Final verdict: probably Denmark or Finland, though Canada's pretty good too.
Jan. 28th, 2004 04:41 pm (UTC)
Somewhere over the Rainbow
Well, I have some requirements about where I live. Has to be near a beach (not just water.) Has to have green growing things around (not a desert.) Has to have all kinds of urban comforts, like theatres and bookstores and libraries and restaurants. Legally, I need a place that doesn't put restrictions on women (uh oh.) I don't much like identity cards, but I've learned to live with them here in the good ole USA. I need to be able to earn a living in a technological setting.

Oh my gawd, the perfect place: Rio De Janeiro.

Though honestly, I'd never leave the US to live. We have enough differing climates and social groups to satisfy just about any urge; and then there's the protection of our laws, which are awful but better than anywhere else (say I from the depths of my USA-arrogance.)
Jan. 28th, 2004 06:30 pm (UTC)
i've though about this several times... especially when i was unemployed...

first choice would likely be japan (my current fascination)... however, i am also a big fan of eastern europe so the czech republic might be a good spot... i've also thought of going to russia, interesting place as it is... indonesia is kinda lacking in my weather preference, but the cost of living is awesome and it is easy for americans to find relationships there... also on my list is any nation that has a shortage of tech workers so i can have some nice job security...
Jan. 28th, 2004 08:02 pm (UTC)
Great minds think alike.
Ok, pessimism time. In the event that the bomb/election/revolt goes off, Canada is not too far away to be safe.

I haven't any current plans to spawn, but were I to, I would want to escape the american media far more than the american government. In my opinion, the pervasive media that affects everyone on a deep level is what causes and accounts for most of the things the world holds against Americans in the first place.

Secretive governmental foreign policies aside, I feel more sorry for unleashing Coca-Cola on the world than I do any number of Gulf Wars.

I'll pack up and move to Germany as soon as the test comes back pregnant. They have a stable games industry, are aware of the inevitable collapse of the environment and the world politic machine (and are trying to delay both, from what I understand), and I think I could probably learn the language in a matter of months.
Jan. 28th, 2004 11:19 pm (UTC)
Does the German government still require babies only receive names that have been used for their gender before (established boy names for boys, established girl names for girls?)
Jan. 29th, 2004 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: Names
According to family: "It's mostly true. There's an accepted list, but if you want to petition for another name, you can go through the courts. The aim is to keep kids from getting names that would cause undue teasing and stress. No one ever said they had freedom of speech or, er, naming. I know other countries have the same policy. A couple in (I believe) Denmark paid a fine every year because they named their kid something nuts like Gerojiakjsdlkj122343465457w4dflkjdfljdflkjg or something. Seriously, it was like 40 characters or more."

There's more information on the law itself and more on the civil servant's discretion here.
Jan. 29th, 2004 10:43 pm (UTC)
*sigh* [rant rant rant]
I agree with the French property cost arguement. What irritates me is the idea that NEW ZEALAND counts as NOT a cop-out? Bah. They speak English. Just because we make fun of Kiwis doesn't mean that they're not Ameri-friendly english speakers.

More to the point... you CANNOT know what it is like to live in a place if you haven't been there for at LEAST six months to a year. I visited New York City for 2 weeks at a stretch, but LIVING THERE for two years made me very hard. It's a completely different experience. And though England seems like a GREAT CHOICE when it comes to moving to countries that will be easy to adjust to...


Yes, they speak English here. And it is strange, but that makes it harder to adjust. It /seems/ on the surface that it would be simple to adjust to their culture. But it is SO contrary to our own, and without a language barrier to constantly remind you, you make a LOT of social gaffs, get upset over the things THEY do (starting with not looking you in the face when they talk to you)... and then you realize how isolated you are because the British are generally anti-social creatures who prefer NOT to be bothered, and think we're LYING when we tell people to have a nice day. The first time a store clerk says to you "Did you LOOK?!" when you ask for a product, it may seem strange/rude... but after you realize customer service is not something they practice here, you'll get used to it... the waiter practically drops your plate on the table, and it's not a cheap restaurant... AND GOD FORBID you ask them for something different than what the menu says! You can't go to a bar and talk to your bartender. They don't even have SEATS near the bar. You can go into town, shop at 12 stores, and not say more than "ta" to anyone.

It's taken me a a year, but most of the people at Starbuck's know me now, and say hello when I come in. This weirds out the other customers, who immediately look around to see WHO THE HELL would be talking to the staff? It's hard to meet people here, the bars on the weekend are places you go to to have your eardrums blasted out while you get completely sloshed, conversation is at a minimum, as it is just possible to yell at eachother over the din.

I miss Dante's.

Then we get onto how far your money goes. I worked it out recently, I found out what GW pays its retail employees, and what the Bus company pays its drivers. Take home is around 750 pounds a month. My rent here in my house is 500 pounds a month, not including utilities. Ok, so we get free healthcare. Most things are covered, prescriptions are 6 pounds. However, depending on where you live, your doctor might SUCK. It might take weeks to get an appointment, in London and other parts of the south, you get scheduled for 7 minutes with a doctor. If you think you need more than that, you have to make a special appointment and that could take months. Psychiatry is a bit of a joke over here, and the wait times are /huge/. I'm afraid to move out of my neighborhood because I found a really good doctor and I don't want to lose my ability to go to this clinic. (The one we had in town was SCARY.)

You can say that Seattle is expensive, and buying a house there is costly... but come to England, and find out what it really costs to live here. To find a 3 bedroom house in a reasonable neighborhood (i.e., not one with GUN CRIME) you're looking at 200k. You can't buy a house here AT ALL for less than 85k, and that's in the slums. A yard? HAHAHAHAH no. They just don't exist.

I saw on the news recently that they took a poll and most britons would move to AMERICA, followed by Australia, and the reason cited for the move to the US was QUALITY OF LIFE. Don't delude yourself, the british hate it here for a REASON.

"Every time I come back from overseas, I hate it here just a little bit more." - Multiple brits I know.
Jan. 30th, 2004 04:57 am (UTC)
Re: *sigh* [rant rant rant]
and one more thing...

EVERY pill here is white. I have yet to see ANY color of any sort, and I've filled a fair number of prescriptions already.

How come UK wellbutrin is white, and not purple?!
Jan. 30th, 2004 10:12 pm (UTC)
Well......it's interesting seeing the various responses. I came to England 10 years ago
for a 2 year post-doc and have been here ever since (with a 9 month time-out to Michigan
to remind myself about real snow, which I miss!). The reason to stay was to be close to
"Europe", which doesn't include England, in case you didn't know.

About being here vs USA: I get a more balanced view of USA politics, etc, than in the USA (unless you try hard when you're there). I feel pretty isolated news-wise in the States. Things are smaller here. Folks in the north (Leeds) are very friendly, but it takes a while to get the lingo (I just learned what "on your tod" means last week, for example). In contrast to somebody above, I can now strike up a conversation with any bartender pretty quickly. I also know all the ins and out about UK football, telly, etc. It helps, as it would everywhere. It is REALLY interesting seeing the different usage of the english language; I keep a USA and UK dictionary on my shelf, and regularly consult both to compare and contrast. Real coffee arrived here 10+ years after it arrived in the states (100 years after it arrived in Italy). Public health is simultaneously infinitely better and worse HMO's etc back home. Paris for a weekend without jet lag is a really nice feature.

I do get "have a nice day's" from locals when they make fun of my American accent, but I can give it right back with the local accent here, and we all have a laugh.

It IS expensive, as pointed out above, but I think the majority of Brits I've met would actually prefer to live here. It is very cosy (if you're into that), I actually feel much more calm when I get off the plane after a USA trip and wind through row houses and roundabouts. [but: no mountains, forests, etc here, so I miss that quite a lot]. The radio is the same everywhere, no public/college radio which is a drag.

But: other countries "here"? Italy, Spain, and France all have much better perks (relaxed approach to life, good food and wine, very strong family ties, etc) for which I could easily move to either if I spoke the language. I would really like to spend time in New Zealand!!!
( 19 sutras — Your wisdom )

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