Trying to make plans for my future: what country should we live in?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I am a 26-year-old Indian woman, on my way to an advanced degree (a PhD) from a very good American university. I am a liberal, feminist atheist. I am in a serious relationship with a man of the same age who is also on his way to getting a PhD, from an Eastern European country. He's everything I've ever wanted in a partner -- kind, attractive, intelligent, shares my values -- and we have similar plans for what we want from life -- a comfortable existence, one or two kids and enough free time to go on vacations for a month or so each year. We are both committed to sharing housework and childcare equally and would like both of us to have satisfying careers. Neither of us wants to stay in academia.
His family is scattered -- his parents are divorced -- his mom is in Italy, his dad and paternal grandparents in the US, his grandmother back home in the city he grew up in. He is most attached to his mom but she is willing to relocate to where he ends up. I don't think his attachments to his paternal family are as strong.
My family is all in the same city in India, where I grew up, and lived until age 21. I have my mom and dad, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncle etc. all there. They are a wonderful family -- really I have been blessed to have them in my life and I grew up with extremely strong roots. During my early childhood I'd say we were middle class, but now we're probably closer to upper-middle class after some of my parents' and grandparents' investments turned out well. I have always had a very strong safety net -- in the sense that no matter what I knew my family had my back and would bail me out. I haven't made much use of that so far, but it's always been a factor. My parents have an extremely strong relationship and both my parents have successful careers in India. My mom is one of those elusive women who "had it all" -- but she certainly couldn't have done it without the whole year of paid maternity leave she got from her job, grandparents living nearby and, frankly, maids and nannies who looked after me when I was small.
Considering my options for what to do after we both get our degrees is really confusing to me. Moving back to Eastern Europe is not appealing to either of us, but there are many other possibilities.
The first would be stay in the US, settle down here and establish roots here. This to me seems the option least likely to give us both what we want -- we would have neither familial nor social support. I don't know how anyone manages to have dual-career families in this country -- well maybe I do, but it is a very unappealing option to me. It is also sort of the default option though, we met here, went to school here, are looking for jobs here. It does seem that it is very difficult to establish permanent residency here though.
The second option would be to move to Canada. It has the advantages of not being a completely alien culture. I would speak at least English, and my boyfriend speaks both English and French fluently. It has better maternity leave policies and social support structures and I think we would have a better chance of getting what we want. Looking at the requirements for a skilled worker permanent residency we would have enough points if we just worked for a year after getting our degrees in the US, which should be doable. It would be great to never have to worry about healthcare again. It is however, cold, and after five winters I wouldn't mind moving somewhere warmer. My parents really hate the cold. I don't know anything about how difficult it is to get jobs there.
Yet another option would be to go back to India. This is the one my mother has been most strongly rooting for. She wants to know why I want to start all over again leading an uncomfortable existence in a different country when they can easily give me a leg up in India, and I would have our entire social network to rely on. This is true. If I went back to India, I would lead a very comfortable existence, in the sense that I wouldn't really have to worry about material things and would have the freedom to explore work options. The thing is after 5 years out of the country, the things that bothered me about Indian culture when I lived there only bother me even more. I felt that I lived in this loving, close-knit bubble but that the minute I stepped out of this bubble the harsh realities of Indian society would stare me in the face. So much of our attention was directed inward -- to the other families we knew, our social circles, and it was all great fun -- but it wasn't exactly the greatest city to grow up in in terms of what the city itself had to offer. I feel that I had a great life there in spite of the surrounding city, rather than because of it. Right now I live in a great liberal collegetown and I love feeling so connected to the community and this sense that other people around me have similar values. I never got this sense in India. I also feel that this option would put a lot of strain on my relationship -- I don't think my boyfriend would feel comfortable there and he would have to rely on me for so much, which he might really grow to resent. At the same time, I really really love my family. I am an only child and it kills me sometimes that everyone is over there growing older while I'm over here. It's not out of any feeling of guilt or duty really -- these are all just really cool people -- very warm, generous, funny, liberal -- I miss them :( Also India is a growing economy, so there would be more options to start a company, or do something different. There are many new niches in the economy that are already oversaturated in the West. So there's that.
Finally we could move to somewhere else entirely -- perhaps in Europe? This would be a bit of a culture shock for me -- unlike my boyfriend who has lived in several parts of Europe and speaks several European languages, the only European language I speak is English. Finally, we are obviously an interracial couple and would have to go somewhere where people are cool with that and are not terribly xenophobic. Plus of course the difficulties of attaining permanent residency.
So what would be your advice? Obviously my boyfriend and I are committed to each other and are both willing to compromise. No one's going to be making any unilateral decisions.