Migrating to and settling down in another country is a very significant life decision that requires a very detailed and careful plan. Based on my personal experiences and observations, which were acquired through six migrations and spread over two continents, I would like to share the most critical factors that one should take into account. Before I share those factors and provide my perspective, let me briefly share with you four different experiences I enjoyed and learned a great deal from:
My first migration was from my birth place India to East Pakistan (which is now called Bangladesh) at the age of 18 in 1950.
Second was in 1954 from East Pakistan to then West Pakistan (which is now called Pakistan)
Third was from Pakistan to the USA in 1988
And finally, to Canada in 1989.
Everywhere I faced different cultures and languages and different challenges and opportunities. Apart from the commonality of a different language and culture among all four experiences, I must admit that each one of these experiences was unique and driven by different needs and at different times within my life. One element that I found most relevant is that you can avoid failures and hardships by advanced planning and homework before you leave your old country for a new one. Let me share some of the positive surprises that influenced my thinking on this topic, from the one I consider most difficult and short lived to the one that has been most rewarding and I consider very successful.
My experience in the USA: I did not do my planning and homework well and was not ready to move to a big city centre like New York with a very challenging and commercially driven lifestyle. Additionally, I was not aware of the deteriorating law and order situation at the time (which was considerably bad in the 80s). On the very first day that I arrived, I went sightseeing in New York. While standing in line to purchase a local train ticket, I witnessed the gentleman in front of me get stabbed. This experience had a very profound impact on me and not only influenced my subsequent decisions but finally resulted in me moving back to Pakistan.
My experience in Canada: On my way back from the USA, I decided to visit Canada before heading back to Pakistan. During this visit, I found myself in a place where I felt at peace and in harmony. I extended my visit to experience more of Canada and its people. When I was leaving New York, I was very set on heading back to Pakistan for good. However, my experience during this visit drove me to reconsider my decision and explore Canada more. What inspired me the most was the people: Canadians. I greatly appreciated their polite mannerisms, humility and admiration for diversity. Additionally, the respect for the environment and natural resources was very appealing and inspirational; one could not ask for any better place than our beautiful British Columbia. I went back to Pakistan with the intention of coming back to surely, one day, call this place my new homeland. This subsequently led to a series of events which ended in all of my family members migrating to Canada by the mid 1990s. We started off like any new immigrant family with immediate needs to find a place we could call home and simultaneously become productive and contributing members of society. We established a small family business and bought a place in Richmond. The first few years were full of hard work, as my kids were helping me run the business while completing their educational requirements to commence their professional lives in their chosen areas of interest, which ranged from pharmaceuticals to finance to aviation.
Following this early settling phase and my decision to go for an early retirement, I finally had the time to fully assimilate into mainstream activities and pursue the life of a social worker, which has always been my passion and dream. The latter is also a way to give back in whatever way I can and fulfill the promise I made to myself and to the Almighty. To hold true to this promise, I joined Minoru Senior Centre and Multicultural Concern Society of Richmond. From that time onwards, I have been working in the following two fields: a) Multiculturalism and b) Seniors Support and Counseling. I am very fortunate and honored for the recognition and encouragement that I have received for my small contribution by way of various community awards. The most memorable was to be the part of the 411 Senior Centre “Voices of Wisdom” project which was funded by the BC Government. I was among the 13 who were selected to be part of this multiculturalism initiative within the province.
Finally, how can I forgot the care and love I received from each and every one of you when I lost my partner and wife last year after a long marriage of sixty plus years. Your support has been invaluable, giving me the strength to overcome the impact of this loss on my personal life and move on and become productive again. I am very thankful, appreciative and do not have the words to express my gratitude.
Now let me comeback to summarize the factors that I consider critical in settling down in a new country. If you to intend to migrate to a new country and would like to have this as a positive experience in your life, the following factors should be considered carefully before arriving at such an important decision:
First and foremost, develop a good understanding of the law and order situation of your new homeland and decide if it meets your specific security requirements or not.
Do you understand the mainstream culture? Does it fit well with your values? Does it inspire you to assimilate? It is extremely important for one to not only feel comfortable but also be ready to accept and add to the richness and diversity of the existing culture.
Do you have any significant ties within your existing country that you are not prepared or ready to sever? As later on, this becomes a source of added stress and anxiety and also does not allow you to focus on settling down in your new homeland. Successful migration requires readiness to burn your boats to avoid continuous looking back syndrome or living a split life.
Do you have a good understanding of the business and economic landscape and do you have clear objectives in mind? Do you understand the process and steps required to pursue your profession or establish a new business in the new country?
Do you have good appreciation and realistic understanding of the time it requires to achieve your goals and do you have the means and energy to survive and pursue your goals effectively?
Do not underestimate the importance of financial planning and contingency planning.
Shams jilani , Aymon jilani