This is what a friend of mine posted on facebook a few weeks ago.
Dora Videva, a Russian-Bulgarian graduate of an American university is currently working in Germany. Her job is exactly by her major, she has her first car and an apartment, plus the freedom to be out of her low-income, bad-economy country.
But she wants to go back.
As a European citizen she can travel the whole European Union with no problems, she can work and live in any European Union country she wants. Except, she doesn’t want to live in any.
“I want to go back home.” She says. And this is all the answer she gives to the people who ask.
5 years ago, when her country was not a EU member, everybody wanted to go to the EU. Partly because it was so hard to get there. Bulgarians have a tendency to chase the forbidden fruit. And not only Bulgarians.
Videva’s situation is coincidentially developing at the same time president Barak Obama is pressing the Senate and the Republicans to vote on his new immigration proposals. Surprisingly, as we go around the States, we can see more people like Videva, who, honestly, don’t give a crap about the new immigration laws.
In times when everyone is talking about immigration reforms, getting papers, living the new life, European immigrants actually are going back home.
“Everyone thinks, Oh, America, wow! But when you actually stay to live here it is very different,” said Tatyana Josan, a former J1 student who decided to stay after her 4 month work and travel visa. She changed her status into an F1, an international student, and stayed to study in Bible College in South Carolina.
“When you come here for 3 months you work, you go shopping, you have fun and then you go back home. It is another thing when you have to live here, deal with things, pay bills,” Josan said, after her first winter in Myrtle Beach, SC. She lives in an old and very safe neighborhood full of locals, pays only $50 rent a week and has constant help with food and money from friends and family.
Still, she is not happy.
“This is my fourth time in America,” she smiles, remembering the conundrum “stay-go” that she was facing the first 3 times she came to the States.
Her first time was as a sophomore in university. She came to Bolton landing, New York State, worked two jobs, travelled, had fun and, even though she wanted to stay, decided to go back home and finish her education.
The next summer she went to the same place and had the same question before her. “Again I was thinking to stay, I wanted to stay but something told me “go home finish your studies,” Josan said.
They say 3rd time is the charm, but when Josan came to Bolton Landing for her third time, her charm lasted 3 days. “Now I graduated university, now I can stay in the USA,” she told herself.
“I stayed for 3 days longer than my visa allowed, missed my flight, missed everything. 3 days after, I woke up and said “no, I have to go back home.”
Josan packs her luggage, calls a friend to drive her to JF Kennedy, miraculously finds a ticket half-price than the regular $1000 for Ukraine, and goes back home.
There, she starts her master’s degree and works at a preschool, making $160 a month.
Was she happy?
“That I came back? No,” she answers decisively. “I was happy maybe the first two weeks to see my family and friends. But then I realized in Moldova nobody takes you seriously when you are looking for work.”
Only later will she realize that, as a foreigner, nobody in the USA will take her seriously at work either.
Two months later she comes back, for the fourth time. This time it is Myrtle Beach, SC that makes her final destination. “I didn’t care what kind of job I would have, I didn’t care what kind of state I am going to. I cared that I am going to the USA. Alaska or SC, just SOMETHING so I get there,” Josan said.
Here, she goes to Cathedral Bible College where she maintains a student status and lives the life she wanted to live. “I am glad I am in bible college, I discovered a lot of truths about me, god, I learned a lot of things. Here I finally found people who can explain it all,” she said.
Moreover, she is dating an American citizen – a relationship which, judging by her boyfriend’s intentions, is very serious. The house, two kids and a dog picture can soon be a reality for her. Wasn’t that her American dream?
“The American dream is not for me, it’s not what I am after,” Josan says with a smile and shakes her head. “To have a nice family, a house and a dog is not for me. I like to travel. To walk around.”
Surprisingly, she is not the first European I interview who feels that way – the boringness of the American dream they first so passionately strived for. “The American dream is a cliché,” said Violeta Manolova, a Bulgarian currently working in Italy. “We have to be more original than that.” Well, when year after year you are original, with all the pains and troubles that come from your originality, maybe being a cliché would be a welcome rest, wouldn’t it?
“For some, maybe, for me I am different,” answers Josan. “It really is boring-staying on one place with a dog and a house.”
Staying in one place. This poses to be a problem for most Europeans who come here. Once with a job/school or family, your abilities to move around drastically diminish, which leads to the dissatisfaction Josan describes. “This city is too tight, too boring,” Josan adds about Myrtle Beach where she currently resides. “Maybe a big city like New York is better.”
Bojko Trajkovski, a former student from Serbia, has found the solution and the big city. He drives a truck throughout the states and earns enough money to live in the expensive and not-tight-at-all Chicago. He can afford a new car, multiple credit cards and a constant weekend of entertainment when he is not at work. For some, this is the American lifestyle plain and simple.
But still he doesn’t want a house, a dog or two kids… in America. Even though he has enough money, he lives with roommates in an apartment, just so he can escape the boring reality of settling down in this country.
“Why would I invest in a house if I will be leaving one day?” he asks. Because, one thing is for sure, he is not expecting Obama’s immigration reform holding his breath. He is going back home.
“There is nothing wrong with the American dream,” says Inna Dimitrova, a medical student 4th year from Bulgaria. “A house, two kids and a dog, a nice, happy and calm family. There is nothing wrong with that, it is normal to want it.”
And maybe it is. Question is, the place where you create this dream for Europeans may not be The United States of America. For some, like Josan said, but for some not. “I don’t belong to this nation,” Josan said. “I feel incomplete.”
“America is a nice country with beautiful people, it is good to come here, travel, stay a few months, but to live here I don’t know… I feel alone in a big dessert,” Josan finished.
In times where every American thinks that the whole world wants to live in their country, it is good to remember that what is a dream for one may be a nightmare for another. Cultural differences, incompatibility or the simple language barrier and distance from all things familiar make a lot of immigrants leave after they have lived here a few years. Immigrations reforms sound good, helping undocumented immigrants get papers is a smart political decision guaranteeing the Democrats the next election. But there are people who don’t give a shit about that, who have reserved their ticket home. Home, where you don’t need a permit to live or a paper to make you happy. Home, with your own dream, be it American or not.