Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2004

People on the move: Your stories

Somali refugees
Some of your migration stories were featured in the World Service documentary "Global Village Voices"


A record number of people are crossing borders and making often long and difficult journeys in pursuit of a better life.

International migration affects every country and is now at the centre of a growing debate, as many governments come under domestic pressure to curb the influx of foreigners and others are urged to address the causes of migration.

It is estimated that some 175 million people (about 3% of the world population) live outside their country of birth - most of them in the developed world. That number is expected to rise to 230 million by 2050.

In response to this global issue, we would like to hear your stories. Are you a migrant? How far have you travelled from your country of birth? What is your current situation like?

Perhaps you work with people who have moved from one country to another in search of asylum, or simply a better life. If so you can use the form on the right to tell us of their stories.


Your comments:

The forty years long war in Sudan has displaced many people from their places of origin. There are many who moved to North to get an escape. A guy working in one of the NGOs narrated his story to me. From the South he moved to North to study in University of Khartoum. During the vacation time he started to see his family in South. When he reached the borders the war broke out. For security reasons he was not allowed to enter his place. It has been twenty years now - he got married, had children but he doesn't know anything about his parents or siblings. They may be in one of the displaced camps or killed in the war and they have no information about him. Almost all the Southerners in Sudan have the same story. If peace comes they may go to their places of origin to find the whereabouts of their relatives and friends. But it is heartening to hear their stories of movement.
Jyotsna, Khartoum, Sudan

I was proudly born and bred in Mexico City in a well-off family but decided to study my BEng. degree in Espoo, Finland (next to the capital Helsinki). I've finished and am now working. Even though it really seems like a radical change it is not so big. Yes, the standard of living is higher, prices are higher, Finns are quieter and the weather can get much worse (snow in spring!) but they are also very kind and loyal once you get to know them, and very honest and straightforward. Even though I really love this country (I speak a passable Finnish), I'm still not sure whether I'll stay here. Even then, I might be back.
Luis, Espoo, Finland

My wife and I emigrated from the UK 2 years ago to live in my wife's native city of Brisbane in Australia. It's a decision I do not regret. At the grass roots, Australia's standard of living and way of life is very similar to the UK, but I feel truly at home in Brisbane. It goes beyond the great climate, attractive suburbs, and beaches. I mentally feel at peace and settled for the first time since I moved out of my parents house in Durham City 6 years ago.
PG, Brisbane, Australia

I was forced to leave my homeland at a tender age. I did not know what my destiny was going to be
lumey, Toronto, Canada
I was born in Iran. I was only a child when the incompetent and corrupt monarch (the Shah) was overthrown by a group of even more incompetent and corrupt people (the Ayatollahs). I was forced to leave my homeland at a tender age. I did not know what my destiny was going to be. I had to travel through eight countries and take temporary sojourns in three different ones until finally I found a real country accepting new citizens when I was 18 years old. That country is Canada. My message is this: Thank you Canada! And shame on the Shah and the Ayatollahs for 'throwing out' their children and the future of their country and nation.
lumey, Toronto, Canada

I've seen my fair share of globe trotting. I am an Egyptian national, born and raised in Kuwait, with a few years residence in Canada, and a few more in Egypt. I am now settled in the UK with my wife, an Irish-born Egyptian, who has lived in Qatar, UK and Egypt. I am Egyptian by descent, but I feel I am also Egyptian by creed, bound by blood. I will never be anything but Egyptian, both to myself and to the world. Most of my co-workers are South Africans, Germans, Dutch, French and Indians, and we all work for an American company based here in the UK. My settlement in the UK is mutually beneficial to both the economy of the UK, and to myself and my family. I can safely say that this applies to most immigrants I have met.
A. Helmy, Northants, UK

I am an American who has also spent many years in the UK. The real reason both countries are strong, rich and vibrant places to live are due to many of the people listed here and those others who have overcome obstacles to reach the US or the UK to create a better life. THESE are the kinds of people you want building your country - not being turned away.
Jill, USA/UK

I wanted my children to see past the American dream and understand different cultures
Holly Morrison, Riga, Latvia
I am an American woman, who after being widowed in 1993, decided to live my lifelong dream of spending time in Europe. In 1995 I moved with my two young daughters (ages seven and 11) to Estonia for what I believed would be a few years. I currently live in Riga, Latvia where I am writing a book about my life. I wanted my children to see past the American dream and understand as well as feel comfortable in different cultures - to expand their, and my, worldview. It's been an amazing journey and I have no plans to ever return to America full time.

I'm often asked how I could have left a rich country for a poor one. Interestingly I don't perceive myself as having done that at all. Rich and poor are subjective terms that are in the eyes of the beholder and I feel rich and fulfilled in my choices and lifestyle. Watching the Baltic region grow from a former Soviet country into an EU candidate country, throwing off her old identity and healing has mirrored my own growth and healing and I feel absolutely at peace and fulfilled with my life here.
Holly Morrison, Riga, Latvia

I belong to the small city of Quetta in Pakistan. I moved for higher education to Karachi when I was 18 years old. After that, in search of a good life, I came to the Middle East. Though financially satisfied, I never forget the memories of that small and peaceful town, where all people lived in harmony with love.
M Younas, Saudi Arabia

I came from England to work in California three years ago. I actually got my work visa through on 9/11. One minute I was celebrating getting it, next friends were asking why I wanted to go. I have never regretted it. Of course leaving everything you know and everyone you love is hard. I was fortunate. I did not have to leave - I chose to. It is truly hard and lonely sometimes for me, yes, but I can go back if I want to. How much harder it is for those I work with who can never go home. For all its faults, America is a still a nation of decent, kind people, who welcome strangers with a hospitality the unhappy and vulnerable are very, very grateful for.
Sue Howard, San Jose, California, USA

Eventually the world will be a place we all share and can freely move about
Stephanie, Memphis, USA
I am a Canadian woman who went south for the winter about six years ago and never went home. I am married now to an American and living in Tennessee. When I left Canada, it was just to escape that winter. I had a very hard time every winter with the darkness of the weather and depression. I lingered here because it was so nice to feel normal and eventually met my husband. I am so lucky to have him and so glad I found him, but I hate to think that these kind of 'life or death' lifestyle choices are not so easy to make. I would not have been able to immigrate without an American husband or a lot of money. I think eventually the world will be a place we all share and can freely move about.
Stephanie, Memphis, USA

Originally from Belgium, my family started travelling around in the early 80s, when I was five, taking us to Spain, the UK, Germany, and Luxembourg. After my university degrees in the UK I lived in the Netherlands. Now my parents live in the US, and I am back in my country of origin, Belgium. What strikes me is how the vast majority of people here would never even dream of leaving their beloved country. They all think it's nirvana.
Thierry, Brussels, Belgium

I was born in communist Poland, but was taught the love of freedom from our Catholic priest (the one place the government had no control). I spent three and a half years in a refugee camp in Latina, Italy before being accepted in the US. I am so proud to be an American. I went back to Poland last year and was so happy to see my once beautiful country begin to flourish again. Nothing in the world beats freedom.
Jack, California, USA

My family and I immigrated to America from Iraq just before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. In an age where most Iraqis were disillusioned while living in a state of manufactured consent for Saddam's grim dictatorship, we decided to leave the country knowing that Iraq had an equally grim future on the horizon. Since our departure, my father attained a PhD and is a currently a university professor, my sister and I recently graduated college, and my mother earned her master's degree. Thanks to my father's intuition, we are able to live comfortably - far away from the horrors of war. I wish to someday return to my beautiful native country of Iraq and help their efforts, but my one true home is America.
Ahmed, USA

I cross every day to work in the States as an attorney and my wife lives illegally in Canada
Daniel, Ontario, Canada
I am an American, but I cannot get my wife, a young Mexican, into the US. So we moved to Canada near the US border. I cross every day to work in the States as an attorney and she lives illegally in Canada. Maybe I am illegal too. We live very well and have been happy for the last four years in Canada. Living in the US is not such a big deal anyway. We are building a home now in Mexico and I can drive there through the US but my wife must fly over the US.
Daniel, Ontario, Canada

We moved from beautiful Cape Town to London six years ago as we were approaching 50, white, and could not make adequate provisions for our retirement in South Africa. As British descendants, we fortunately had full British citizenship. The UK has been good to us and we have a growing, profitable business and a number of properties that we rent out. All this grew out of £10,000 and hard work. We still yearn for Cape Town and visit annually. We'll spend six months in the UK and six months in Cape Town when we retire. We could never have achieved this in South Africa and we are very grateful for the opportunities presented to us in Britain. It would be truly perfect if Britons would adopt the cheerfulness, optimism and goodwill to all that is inherent to South Africa's rainbow nation.
Mobass, London, UK

I've been working with refugees for two years now and for most of them it wasn't a success
Leen, Ghent, Belgium
I 'm glad to read all these success stories. I've been working with refugees for two years now and for most of them it wasn't a success. Some of them have become friends and I'm really sad they don't get the opportunity to build a life here. Some have waited for two years before knowing they had to leave the country. Another one had to leave two children behind. Another was a child soldier. A refugee centre is not a happy place. I hope everyone visits one some time before taking a stand on the whole refugee debate!
Leen, Ghent, Belgium

I am lucky. Though I am not living in my country of birth, Egypt, I had the luxury of choosing to live in another country for a few years, and again I have the luxury of living a good life back home. I spent most of my life abroad and got to know people who have left their country for the better life. In Saudi Arabia I had a Filipino housekeeper. She had an economics degree and yet opted to work in homes abroad, and leave her kids back home to be able to support them. I got to know Lebanese and Egyptian plumbers who were college graduates, again in search of a better life for themselves and their families. Here I am talking about third world nationalities migrating to developing countries, not even developed countries. There is a huge discrepancy between developed and underdeveloped nations. This discrepancy is on the increase.
Aisha Rashad, Cairo, Egypt

My children have grandmothers in India and Poland and aunts in New Jersey, Toronto and Blackpool
Ranganathan, Tours, France
Our family should figure in the Guinness Book of Records. We are five children (born in India to the same parents) and we all have different nationalities - Indian, Canadian, French, American and British. I left India in 1976 during the emergency crisis and I quit a very cushy governmental position. I don't regret being in France where people respect highly educated people (I have two doctorates) and I am a respected university professor. It took some time to learn French though. By the way, my wife is a Polish expatriate who quit the communist regime in the 70s. For our children, totally used to this multicultural situation, travelling is very simple. It's so natural for them to have grandmothers in India and Poland and aunts in New Jersey, Toronto and Blackpool, while they are French!
Ranganathan, Tours, France

I migrated to London from India on a work permit and have never felt alone because there are many who speak my mother tongue here. This city has a huge migrant population who live equally among the native people.
Ganesh, London, UK

We moved from Germany to the US because we have three children, and in Germany that meant living with constant aggression against our family. We have been here three years now, have loved every minute, nobody has ever made any disparaging remarks about us, and our only hope is that we can stay in this beautiful, friendly country and have our children grow up as Americans.
Claudia, Tempe, AZ, USA

The UK has her negative sides too, but people tend to disregard the good sides she has to offer
Pat Sankey, Co Fermanagh, N Ireland
Sixteen years ago my wife and I left Germany for a better life in the UK. We settled in nicely and were extremely proud to be able to afford our first house. Life is demanding, yes, but it will be everywhere. Here, in the UK, I did have a realistic chance to improve and to further educate myself. I am now in a well-paid position and was able to fulfil my dream of becoming a respectable person. I did leave my country because of her restrictions. Germany was always over regulated and restrictive. Of course, the UK has her negative sides too, but people tend to disregard the good sides she has to offer. I am most grateful to be allowed to live here, to have been able to learn the most powerful language in the world and to have learned the most two important words in my life: personal freedom. Thank you Britain.
Pat Sankey, Co Fermanagh, N Ireland

I migrated from El Salvador during the war. I wanted to stay alive and live in peace. I graduated college and I am currently raising a family of three. All worked out for the better. I am planning on becoming a volunteer advocate for the elderly once I am retired.
Edmundo Zaldivar, Fairfield, CA, USA

I moved to Canada in 1976, when I was just 18, from Pakistan. At 22, I got married to a Pakistani and started a family here. I have two daughters and have settled very well here. Will I consider going back to Pakistan? Let's put it this way, I went back home in 2001 for two weeks, after 21 years, and I came back after a week. I love Canada and am glad I was given this opportunity to move here.
Ali Shallwani, Oakville, Canada

I am a Turkish Cypriot. Like other Turkish Cypriots, I have been a citizen of a couple of different countries. At the age of 17, I "fled" Cyprus for the USA for a better education. Everything they say about the US is true - you can be successful if you work hard, buy three cars, and have two kids and a dog. On the other hand, you can't have a soul. You are "integrated" into the system and you lose your individuality. So I fled again. This time to the UK. I quite like the kindness, tolerance and cheerfulness of the people of this land. Nevertheless, we always want more! And now, I am "fleeing" to Spain/Portugal to find some passion, and escape the formality of the modernised people of Northern Europe..
Ada, Oxford, UK

Who knows what I would be doing if I was in Iran now
Kamran, Milwaukee, WI, USA
Ten years ago I left my country, Iran, illegally due to my military record. I walked over the border and entered Turkey. It took days to reach Ankara with no food. The US embassy in Ankara was nothing but helpful to make my case successful. Ten years later here I am, next week I will be a citizen of the US and on May 1 will graduate from university. I am very thankful and appreciative of the situation that I am in right now, who knows what I would be doing if I was in Iran now. I love Iran and I always will, but unfortunately the country is in the hands of oppressive leaders.
Kamran, Milwaukee, WI, USA

My grandparents left Poland and settled in France to work in the pits. Since then, two generations were born in France. Most of us have returned to Poland to visit but no one so far has moved back.
Coquel Thomas, Lens, France

Born and bred in the UK, I currently live in the Netherlands and enjoy a much better quality of life than I did in my increasingly backward and repressive homeland. Though, sadly, things are deteriorating here as well. I tried living in the US - my father's country - for six years but left unable to stand its political stance, obscene gap between rich and poor, and general insanity. UK and Dutch housing is expensive, so shortly, I am retiring to France where for the price of a two bedroom apartment in central Manchester I can get a 40-acre estate.
James Calhoun, Rotterdam, Netherlands

I was born in England and after university lived in Japan for three years. I then studied in Australia for one year. I have now been back in the UK living and working for two years. After having experienced life abroad in two very different cultures for four years I find life in the UK draining, exhausting and miserable. The high cost of living, the long winters, the materialistic attitudes, the total and utter lack of morals, the transport nightmare, the NHS, the cost of a dentist, the rising council taxes, the expected overtime and the inability to be able to afford a one bedroom run down 'cupboard' property has left me disillusioned and sad. The thought of having children and bringing them up in the UK fills me with utter dread.
Rachel, Manchester, UK

Having started as an immigrant day labourer, my success is testament to our system, imperfect as it is
Jan, Florida, USA
My father was born in Indonesia and moved to the Netherlands, Curacao, Canada, and finally to the USA which is where we live now. There are many problems with our country which I as a first generation American can see clearly, but I am very aware of the fact that my father found open arms here, was able to work hard and educate himself, marry into a family that had been here for 300 years without feeling inferior, and eventually rise to be upper middle class with two college educated children, three cars, a nice house, and good neighbours. Having started as an immigrant day labourer, this is quite a testament to our system, imperfect as it is.
Jan, Florida, USA

I am an Indian living in the UK. At first when I came to the UK at the age of 17, I hated it. It was then that I realised how nice it is to live in India. However, living and working (hard) in the UK has made me a prosperous person, which I might not have been in India. There are opportunities here, unlike there.
G M, UK

Last Thursday my boyfriend left the UK for Zimbabwe. He has spent the last two years earning a living and paying his own way for everything, unlike so many youths of today who have no motivation to work and so scrounge from the government (my own brother is a typical example). Despite all our efforts for my boyfriend to stay in this country the Home Office wouldn't allow it, even our local MP couldn't make any difference, let alone help from a solicitor. It seems ridiculous that even though his own mother lives in the UK and he would be going back to a country where he is a likely target for persecution being white, the government still refuses to allow him leave to remain. I hope last night's programme on Panorama has opened people's eyes to what the situation is like in Zimbabwe and even though I don't know what the future has in store for my boyfriend, if it wakes up the government's eyes enough for them to allow more people from Zimbabwe into the UK, then it is a starting point which has long been overdue.
Hannah, UK

Would I ever move back to Britain? Not a chance!
Fiona, St Louis, France
I moved from Scotland to Strasbourg, France in 1994. A year later I moved back to Scotland and lasted nine months before coming back to Strasbourg. A few years later I moved to Switzerland and absolutely love it here - due largely to the huge ex-pat community. Will be moving to Munich, Germany for a few months and then to Paris. However, after several trips to South Africa I know that's where I want to live and one day I'm sure I'll get there! Would I ever move back to Britain? Not a chance! The transport system is a joke, the standard of living is low, the streets are dirty, the NHS is a joke. Need I go on?
Fiona, St Louis, France

My great great grandparents moved to Russia from Britain to fill a job placement. My great grandparents fled during the Russian Revolution to Yugoslavia. My grandparents left Communist Yugoslavia for Canada. I am the grandchild, a truly grateful Canadian with no intention of leaving anytime soon.
B L, Ottawa, Canada

Having been born and raised in Zimbabwe, I left in 1984 after deciding that I could not live with a dictator - Mugabe. I'm grateful to South Africa, my adopted country, and pleased to live through all the changes that have happened here in the last 10 years. I could not imagine being anywhere else - although it took several years to feel that we belonged here.
Gail, South Africa

I was born in Tanzania and lived all over Africa for eight years, ending up in Nigeria
Sumaira Franicevic, Auckland, NZ
I was born in Tanzania and lived with my family all over Africa for eight years, ending up in Nigeria. Then we went back home to Karachi, Pakistan, luckily just before the economic crash in Nigeria. After four years there, we then moved to Brunei, where I stayed for six years until I'd finished my A levels - and was then sent to LSE, UK to do my degree - and now somehow I've ended up in Auckland, NZ for the last four years in a top job, happily married to a Kiwi and very settled, until the travel bugs start biting again! Then who knows where else my destiny will take me!!
Sumaira Franicevic, Auckland, NZ

I moved from the Netherlands to live in the USA for a number of years. I'm so pleased to be back here, though. I'm really appreciating the openness, liberal values and sanity of my fellow Dutchmen.
Joost Boersma, Gouda, The Netherlands

Back in October 1953, I was smuggled out of Communist Hungary and eventually reached the USA 3 years later. It not only saved my life but enabled me to make a pretty good one for myself and, later, my family. As long as one is ready to work and not go on welfare, there should be no obstacles to cross borders.
Tibor R. Machan, Silverado, CA, USA

The world is so small that everyone is connected to everyone in one way or another
Wils Cheng, Gothenburg, Sweden
I am Taiwanese and I've moved from Taiwan to the Philippines, then to the US, and am currently living in Sweden now. Along the way I picked up a Filipino immigrant card, a US driver's license and social security card, and now a Swedish residence permit. The world is so small, I ran into people who know my friend's friends in France, an American who lives on the same street with my friend in San Mateo, California, a Swede here who I went to college with in Texas, and an old high school friend who now works in Kenya. My landlord is a Canadian citizen but Cantonese by origin; one of my professors is from Sunderland. The world is so small that everyone is connected to everyone in one way or another.
Wils Cheng, Gothenburg, Sweden

The USA is my third home during my lifetime, hopefully the last one. I was born in India (Simla) then moved to Pakistan after the partition of India when India obtained its freedom from the British. I migrated again from Pakistan to the USA in 1993 for political asylum with my family.
Agha Ata, Houston, USA

We came to the US seventeen years ago from India for higher education. My initial plan was to go back after finishing my studies and getting a few years of job experience. But I fell into an excellent trap! After I started working at NASA I felt I wouldn't find a more exciting job anywhere else. However, I love India and visit the country almost every year.
Ratna Sengupta, Greenbelt, MD, USA

Sometimes it's better to keep dreams of our motherland AS dreams
Amanda, Paris, France
I left England for France ten years ago, and was relatively content with La Vie Parisienne. However, 2002 found me VERY homesick for the land of red telephone boxes, cheerful, positive people, friendly, local pubs and quality TV. I moved back to England - it lasted a year - and now I'm back in Paris. My point being that sometimes it's better to keep dreams of our motherland AS dreams.
Amanda, Paris, France

My grandfather came to New York in the late 60's. Originally from Co. Mayo he first went to Leicester to work coal mines, and then travelled to the States and joined the fire department where he worked for 20 years and retired. He came with nothing and now owns two houses in NY and Florida, and put 10 kids through college.
Sean, USA

Last year we applied to emigrate to Canada. If we are successful, it will be the second time in my life I will be an immigrant. My husband and I want a better life for ourselves and especially for our two children. If we stay here, I cannot see our children being able to afford to buy a house and they will look forward to a lifetime of debt in the UK due to the high cost of everything. We pay £££ for our taxes, but we see no improvements in services such as schools, police, hospitals, public transport. Sound familiar?
Michelle, UK

I'm torn between two cultures
Yolanthe Smit, The Hague, Holland
I am a Dutch citizen and moved to the USA in 1976. I lived there for 24 years and returned to Holland in 2000. I still don't feel "at home" and at times aspects of Dutch culture and government disgust me. I find the environment small minded, bureaucratic, rude, unfriendly to strangers, obsessed with petty things, xenophobic, afraid to take responsibility for their own happiness. I very much miss New York and the friendliness an openness of the people there. And yet, I love smelling the scents of my childhood, being near the sea, going everywhere on bicycle. I love the countryside on a sunny summer day. I guess I'm torn between two cultures.
Yolanthe Smit, The Hague, Holland

I moved to New Zealand from India in 2002. It is 17,000 km away from India. The only reason for me was and is to have an international higher education and quality experience at an international level. I must admit that the decision to leave India gave me tremendous exposure and is playing a vital part in developing my personality as I am only 22 years of age.
Ravi Bhensdadia, Christchurch, New Zealand

I'm a Brit married to an American for the past 15 years. As a marital compromise, every five years or so, we move across the Atlantic living in either the UK or US. America does offer a higher economic standard of living, but I feel the quality of life is higher in the UK. Everything I love is in the UK (family and friends, culture, beautiful countryside, access to Europe, a vast transportation network, decent education system and a decent and free-for-all medical service). Due to move back to the UK this year. Really can't wait.
Tracy, Colorado, USA

I have moved from China to France to California, to where I am now: Canada. In my mind, there's no question about it - I've now found a country to call my own.
Eveline, Vancouver, Canada

I am writing from Bolivia. Originally from London I have lived in other places, principally in Denmark when I was much younger. Why Bolivia? Almost by accident and because I cannot afford to live in England.
Ian Hill, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Eight years ago I moved to the UK (legally) with my two young children and started a new life. Although everyone around us was very kind and supportive, I also had a big cultural shock - the UK was so different from the country my grandmother told me about! After 8 years I am back in Hungary with my family, and I am hoping I will stay put here now. Although people in the UK fear that there will be a big influx of people from Eastern Europe, once we join the EU, I would not worry. In a few years time there will be a huge reflux as well, when people realise that there are better old-fashioned, solid values still in Eastern Europe. For us, close family ties and emotions are a lot more important than for people in the UK. I now have an appreciation for Hungary I would have never have had without leaving it for a few years, and I am particularly pleased I have a lot more to offer here to my teenage daughters in "real" values.
Eva Csere, Budapest, Hungary

My wife and I moved from India to the US on a work permit in 1999. We had a total of $3000 when we came here. This is truly a land of opportunities. We are comfortable today. We bought a house and have two cars. Something I could have never have dreamed of in India. However, the process of obtaining a green card is a nightmare. I only wish I had come here 10 years earlier.
Harihar, Atlanta, GA, USA

We started from nothing with $600 in our pockets. Now we lead a happy and comfortable life
Yury Shmuylovich, NY, USA
I came to the US from the USSR in 1988. My family were refuseniks, so when we were finally able to leave the USSR it was a great feeling. I still get a goose bumps when I return home from travel and see the American flag. Thank you USA for welcoming my family and me and for opening opportunities for us that others can only dream about. In our case we are proof that in the US you can be anything you want if you work hard. We started from nothing with $600 in our pockets for five people. Now we lead a very happy and comfortable life. Our entire extended family is here. The most amazing thing is that from day one people here made us feel welcome. We were never second rate citizens. People went out of their way to help us. Thank you again. Now it is my turn to repay my country and people for the their kindness.
Yury Shmuylovich, NY, USA

Through my moves from Stockholm to Barcelona, London and now Tokyo I've collected a Swedish passport, a Spanish driver's license, a UK university degree, and a Japanese residency permit. Despite all my papers I remain a proud Swede at heart but going back there for vacation is a bureaucratic nightmare that really obstructs everyday activities. I am 25 but I can't buy alcohol as I lack the official ID card and the old type passport is not valid at the notorious Systembolaget (state-run liquor stores). For the same reason I am not allowed to rent videos, use my cash card in a shop, or even sometimes enter nightclubs. If I, a Swede, have these problems in my home country, I wonder how all the foreigners visiting and living there are coping with the Swedish red tape galore.
Vanessa Åsell, Tokyo, Japan

There's a good sense of society and community here
Richard Loe, Stockholm, Sweden
Vanessa Åsell wonders how foreigners cope with Swedish red tape. Speaking as one of those, it's fairly easy. Having moved here with my family for work reasons, the first thing to sort out was resident permits and personal numbers (without which nothing happens). But once this is done, sorting out things like doctors, dentists, schools, insurance and bank accounts is easy. Life here is relaxed, the people friendly, the cities clean and public transport cheap and reliable. You get used to things like Systembolaget and its odd opening hours, and then wonder why anyone would want a deregulated system for selling alcohol. You also get used to recycling and the emphasis on the environment. There's also a good sense of society and community here (even in Stockholm), and you start to wonder why other countries are so different. And no, we don't want to go back to the UK.
Richard Loe, Stockholm, Sweden

I have lived in Milan, Monza, London, Sydney, Los Angeles, and now in Barcelona. I still haven't found my place.
Giko, Barcelona, Spain

I am in the process of selling up and moving to Thailand. I am retired and can afford to live there without working, something I can't do here. I am also sick and tired of being marginalised in my own country.
Peter, UK

I was born in the UK but moved to the USA in 1994 when I was 22. I love it here - truly the land of opportunity. I miss the UK, but it's so depressed and the cost of living is astronomical. Life here in the US is very different. Less stress, a much higher standard of living and the people are friendlier. Pity about the president though.
Paul Kennington, Oregon, USA

Finally I have got my residential permit
Chernor Jalloh, Almeria, Spain
I was born and brought up in Sierra Leone by a Guinean family, in a town called Makeni in the Northern Province. I left Sierra Leone for Guinea just before the rebels could enter Makeni in 1990. When I left Makeni for Conakry, Guinea, there was a huge influx of people coming from Kono, where the RUF first struck. It was a Friday when the RUF entered Koido killing everyone that came their way. While in Guinea, life was not as bad as before. After a while, I decided to travel to the Gambia, and later on return to Guinea Conakry. In 1999, I left Guinea for Spain. When I arrived in Spain, I applied for asylum, but I was refused and repatriated to Senegal. Then I came back again, and I was promised a residential permit for almost four good years which was in vain, but finally, I have got my residential permit.
Chernor Jalloh, Almeria, Spain

I moved out of Pakistan in 1997 for employment in Dubai. I regretted every single minute as the apathy of the world is most visible in the Middle East where people from poorer countries are fuelled by riches from the West. I am a third class citizen with no rights and will never have any. Professionally they consider us slaves even when my colleagues and I have outclassed the gentry of this land and the West. Do I have a life? No! Am I happy? No! What else is there to say. I am living in a city revered by the West as modern, but where repression and exploitation is rife.
Siraj Ahsan, Dubai, UAE

I moved to Dubai in 1979, and have loved every single minute of living in this wonderful, clean, modern and crime free country. The UAE rulers are modern thinkers, extremely tolerant, and provide so many people of differing nationalities, who after all choose to come and live here, of their own free will, with every possible amenity for a good and prosperous life. I will never return to the crime ridden streets of UK. Siraj, may I suggest purchasing a one way ticket back to Pakistan, if you are so unhappy living here!
Susannah, Dubai, UAE

Thanks to the Canadian people for letting me experience their culture
Mihai, Toronto, Canada
I left Romania four years ago and moved to Canada. Although Canada offers me a much better life, I think I will return to Transylvania (province of Romania). I find that the people in my country, although they have a very hard life they enjoy the good moments in life a lot more. What can I say but thanks to the Canadian people for letting me experience their culture. But unfortunately for me I believe in the phrase: "There's no place like home."
Mihai, Toronto, Canada

I left my native Germany seven years ago and haven't been homesick at all. For the last five years I've been living in London. EU citizens can work in any EU country, which means much less bureaucracy than in the US. I consider myself human in the first place, female in the second, and German by a long way off. Nationality shouldn't count so much - there is more that unites us than what separates us!
Paulina Smid, London, UK

My family and I emigrated to Canada two years ago and it was the best move we could have made. The standard of living is better than Wales, my wages are double even though I have taken a more junior position and the threat of redundancy is remote unlike the UK. The schools are better run with none of the bullying problems that my daughter experienced in Wales. The streets (apart from Toronto) are clean, and the people polite. The only downside are the neighbours down South!!
George, Canada

Some emigrants feel like fish out of water in their home country and fit in better as foreigners than as natives
Colm Ryan, Milan, Italy
I left Ireland for Italy three years ago. Instead of the green hills of Wicklow, I now live in Milan, a dirty, smoggy, fast and unfeeling city in the middle of an industrial heartland. The cost of living is very high here and you have to be careful when doing business that people pay you on time. And yet I wouldn't go back home for a million euro. Here I feel somehow secure and 'at home', even though I'm clearly not. I think that some emigrants simply feel like fish out of water in their home country, and these people fit in better as foreigners than as natives.
Colm Ryan, Milan, Italy

I am a Mexican living in Germany for the last four years. I hold a good job and have a pretty high living standard, which in Mexico, with the same job level, I could never expect to have. Whilst I miss my country very much, I love Germany because it offers a more stable, safe and open environment than Mexico. And Germans in general are really nice people.
Eugenia Kothe, Idstein, Germany

I was born in the US but moved to Denmark when I got married to my Danish husband. Learning the language has been difficult, and sometimes still I get "culture shock", but I wouldn't go back to the US if someone paid me. It is so much cleaner and safer (the crime rate for the entire country is lower than for the city which neighboured mine in the US). I get a rate of pay and benefits (health, unemployment, pension) that I would only have dreamed of getting in the US. I never was patriotic before moving here, now I can actually say that I love my country and I am proud of it!
Nille, Køge, Denmark

Adapting to a new culture forces people to grow
Arturas, Vilnius, Lithuania
I was born in the US but returned to the land of my grandparents. I fully support migration because skills that are nearly worthless in one's native country can become invaluable in another. Thus people who would be a burden on society in one place can become productive members of society elsewhere. Furthermore, adapting to a new culture forces people to grow. I agree with the British study last year which revealed that ethnic problems arise when ethnic groups fail to interact/integrate with the other ethnic groups around them. Consequently, programming that helps people understand the cultures of the ethnic groups around them is vital.
Arturas, Vilnius, Lithuania

I have legally come to the US from Mexico. It took a lot of patience, but I am able to hold my head up high, unlike the millions whose first act in America was to break its laws. I'm very disappointed at the new "don't call it amnesty" amnesty plan. Perhaps I should have just sneaked over the border and waited for this after all.
Salvador Vargas, Dallas, Texas, USA

I'm an immigrant living in an immigrant country
Sebastian, Tel-Aviv, Israel
I'm an immigrant living in an immigrant country. Israel has been built and shaped by waves of immigrants from its very beginning. I come originally from the former USSR - the source of the latest wave that has changed dramatically the society of Israel. My personal experience has not been as traumatic as one could imagine. Being relatively young, I undertook the whole process a lot easier. Moreover, the path has been trodden by my relatives, who had previously settled in the Holy Land. According to their account, the conditions they suffered were gruesome and unkind. The strangers in the strange land. In the early nineties Russian immigrants were generally despised and disrespected, due to the general knowledge of the government subsidies and money grants, which were widely considered to be unearned. There are lots of problems that still arise and remain largely shared by immigrants to a new country. Sometimes it's hard to imagine all the possible variety of difficulties one faces when moving his home several thousand miles away.
Sebastian, Tel-Aviv, Israel

I have moved from the UK looking for a better life in Dubai - a true paradise, and I will likely stay here for good. Apart from constant sun and clean air I enjoy a much higher standard of living than I had in the UK. Salaries are 30-50% more than in the UK. The journey was not easy, but UAE authorities do their best to accommodate new migrants. People migrate from all over the world to UAE in search of a better life, it is worth the trouble.
Greg Reed, Dubai, UAE

I was welcomed with open arms in Japan
Paul Waller, Japan
I am English and a retired policeman. I now live in Japan and have done so for some eight years. When I retired, I was unemployable (although being highly trained and qualified with university degrees.) No one in England wanted to know. I was welcomed with open arms in Japan. My standard of living is possibly double that of England. I work one quarter of the hours that I had to in England with double the remuneration. I wouldn't want to return now to England. Xenophobic, impolite people, filthy streets, a transport system which is a joke, lack of respect for others. Why would I want to return?
Paul Waller, Japan

I agree with Paul Waller. I have had a similar experience since I returned to the UK in 2000 after moving to South Africa in 1975. The UK has nothing to offer, third world medical service, yobs on every street corner, and all Brits do is moan about everything. I am going back to South Africa where people enjoy more of life than two weeks a year eating fish and chips in Spain.
Arthur, UK

I confess I am one of those fiercely patriotic but sadly realistic Nigerians. I loved my country and would have preferred to stay there for the rest of my life. But I realised that I could not achieve my full academic potential if I stayed in Nigeria with its present vulnerable academic conditions. So when I had the opportunity to emigrate and study at Oxford, I took due advantage of it. I suppose that living in a foreign country has made me realise just how similar we human beings are and has destroyed any possible stereotypes I may have possessed about the British. Having said that, I am always saddened by the anti-immigrant/asylum seeker rants one seems to hear everyday. We are accused of trying to 'take over' the country! Strange to say the least.
TJ, UK

Not everyone moves for purely economic reasons. I moved to Russia from the UK, because the social norms here are more humane. Is it a "better life"? Well, yes - it is a real life, and not an ersatz version made up of game shows, store cards, celebrity obsession, acquisition-mania, PR lies and political spin doctors. Neither financial betterment nor romance motivated my move. Thatcher said "let them go to live in Russia if they don't like it!" Thanks for the advice, Mrs T - at least there's no chance of meeting your type here.
Neil McGowan, Moscow, Russia



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