8 Oct 2014

Is this the best place to live?

As an immigrant and particularly since launching my book, I have been asked, "Which is the best country to live in?"

This question still stalls me. However as it has been over 27 years since I moved countries, I have had time to think about the question and my possible answers.

Why are they asking? Often the person asking the question would like to hear that their country is the best country in the world. And why not? There are regular media articles listing, "The best country for happiness, education, health, wealth etc." An immigrant's opinion gives the questioner an opportunity to hear that the questioner's homeland is better than the immigrant's homeland.  The questioner gets to hear that they are living in the world's best country. If I was to answer, "Yes! This is the best place," I may make the questioner happy, but I would be doing both myself a disservice and the other people I have witnessed in other countries having a great life.

There are features that suit me. My answer is usually that there are many aspects of New Zealand I enjoy. I would list some of them: the low population density, beautiful scenery, indigenous culture, resourceful attitude. But I have seen people in other countries who are also having a great life, living among the features of the country that country suit them.

There are stages too. A country may be the best country for some people at some stage in their life. Young travellers or migrants may come to New Zealand for an appreciation of outdoor living, national parks and adventure tourism. Many return to their homeland for familiarity and the economic advantages of a larger population. Similarly many New Zealanders spend a couple of years overseas to enjoy the life a major city and larger population has to offer. They often earn higher wages than they could in New Zealand. However, when they have children, they may be inclined to return to the familiarity of their homeland to give their children the same childhood experiences they had.

Loving your own garden
Happiness in village life in Northern India 
It is what you know best. Someone who has been through emigration knows more than one place really well. They will often have two places they refer to as home. A non-immigrant is in the country they have lived in all their life, so perceives it to be the best place for them. My mother loves the rich culture of London, her friends and family, her beautiful garden. It is the place she knows best. Similarly, a family in India have happiness in their familiar surroundings, so they are likely to perceive it to be the best place for them.

What do you like best? Which is the best place to live in is like asking what is your favorite colour or season, song, sport or idea of a holiday. It depends on your preferences. It depends on what gives you happiness.
If you want to test whether you are in the best place for you below are links to some fun quizzes to try. I tried three of them and was told I should live in NZ, the Virgin Islands and Sweden. On another day and in a different frame of mind I may come up with different ones again. Have fun with them.

For a person who has a transnational perspective, answering whether they are in the best country is not straight forward. Feeling the country you are in is a great place to live will help you feel happier to be there, and that may be enough. If you have migrated, or moved to another country, even temporarily then I suggest you focus on what you can do to make the place you are living in, the best country for you at this stage. You may love some or all of the features of the country you are living in. Unfamiliar features may irritate you, especially at first. If you can acknowledge the differences and then learn ways to appreciate them, it will be a  better place to live. You can read more about this in my book, The Emotional Challenges of Immigration. An excerpt from the chapter The Settling Process, starts here:

Acknowledge the differences
If you can identify and acknowledge differences between your adopted country and your homeland, it can be easier to see these objectively – neither better nor worse, just different.