Help me think through what country we should move to
April 21, 2020 10:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm an American citizen married to a Chinese citizen, we live in China, and are trying to figure out where we should move to. We are currently working on the (long!) process to move to America, but I'm having cold feet. Lots of snowflake details inside. There is brief mention of the coronavirus, but the conversation absolutely does not center on it at all.

Here is the brief coronavirus mention: I realize we are basically living through the apocalypse and that planning for the future is very weird. Worst case, I can ride things out in china for the next however many years until things stabilize (though I dearly hope it will be sooner than that!). If China chooses not to issue new residence permits to people married to citizens, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. My "working assumption" re: coronavirus is that shit will be fucked for a while, but that by say, mid next year, I will be able to move and find a job relatively easily. I bring this up because I don't think it's really worth hashing out coronavirus scenarios in this thread unless you truly think that there will be a change in law, for example, that will affect immigration to the places that I mention. Even pre-coronavirus I was not planning on moving until next year anyway.

This is going to be long, but I'm going to lay out how I see things, what our situation is, then a breakdown of the places we have considered moving to besides the US (Singapore, Japan, Australia). I am looking for any guidance on how to think about this sort of stuff...any pros or cons I'm not looking at, any thinking that you think is off track, etc.

I am a computer programmer with a pretty good resume. As such, there are generally job opportunities in various places. Right now I'm unemployed living in China...we have a very nice life in China, but I do not want to be in China long-term. I am willing to remain until the world stabilizes, but then I would like to leave.

Even before the current situation, my wife and I had already begun the green card process (me sponsoring her). We are already married, so it's not really worth discussing what we could have done...when we started the process there was a significantly faster option that needed us to be married. Shortly after we got married, USCIS got rid of that option. So pre-corona, it looks likely that if everything went smoothly, she'd get her green card around say...March of 2021. Of course now I'm sure there will be delays, but let's say...sometime near the end of 2021. My wife, however, has some issues that could throw a wrench in all of that...I have fancy lawyers working on it, and I'd say there's an 80% chance it goes like I described above, a 15% chance that it will take an extra year, and a 5% chance of outright rejection. Those are not solid numbers as there is so much opacity in the process, but is sort of how I have weighted things emotionally.

Should she get a green card, the plan has been to move to Austin, TX (I actually made a thread about this...she decided Austin had enough pros and she can give the heat a try).

Even before coming to China, I already immensely disliked much about America. American imperialism, late stage capitalism, the immense nihilism of the republican party, the ineptitude of the democrats, the war on women's rights, and so on. And all of that has only gotten worse under Trump (though I believe that he is just a symptom, not the disease itself...but of course a symptom that will exacerbate the disease a lot). I also think that Trump will get re-elected, but this decision would all ultimately be made after we know. Still, I have been pessimistic about the US for a long time, and have only seen my worst predictions come true. The US is a failed state, and I don't really see any indication that, even under Biden, it will be able to correct the course it is in.

That said, I mean...I'm an American citizen. My family is there. My friends are there. And, probably most importantly, the American job market for engineers is really great. I could likely make 80-120% more than I'd make in the other places I'm consider...that depends on a lot of factors, and it depends on what I optimize for. Cost of living, taxes, etc are all considerations. But the fact remains that American has the most robust job market for software engineers in the world, and wages on the whole are very competitive.

There are two events recently that have really left a deep impression. One is "the tweet" that trump sent out saying that he is banning immigrants because of the "invisible menace." Of course, the executive order isn't out yet, visa processing has already been halted, and guidance today says that it likely wouldn't affect us...but still. I just...I mean the anti-immigrant rhetoric has been ramping up for a while, but I just...something broke when I saw that.

The other event was the acid attack against an asian women in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago (though the story died immediately after it was reported?). While that is a particularly heinous crime, prejudice against asians seems to be on the rise...and more generally, Trump's rhetoric has only fanned the flames of white supremacy that live on in the frabric of American life.

My wife is not super politically aware, and has never lived outside of China, so largley looks to me to provide guidance. We are on the same page and have talked about all of this, but she's not as much of a big picture person as I am, she's more focused on the day to day. But I really anxious about bringing her to the US in its current state. I know a lot of Chinese immigrants (in NY) who have experienced a lot of bullying (especially on the subway), and I know that my wife would deal with that sort of thing really poorly. China is, for all of its ills, a very safe place day-to-day. She has never lived anywhere with overt homelessness, and the other sorts of issues one deals with regularly in the US.

So I dunno. I'm just sort of laying out how I see things I guess. Why do we want to leave China? Well, as much as I hate the US, the Chinese government is even more terrifying. The lack of free speech is chilling. The lack of civil culture is chilling. The genocide against the Uyghur popoulation in Xinjiang is deeply awful, as is the general silence about it abroad (except when Trump's state department uses it to try and score brownie points). I can't be here long term.

As far as my wife and I, we are super low key people. We are in our 30s and not planning to have kids. She is a math teacher, but wants to figure out how to work with flowers (current plan in the US would be that she focuses entirely on improving her english until it gets to the level she wants, then maybe work part time at a flower shop while studying and sort of decide from there). I am a programmer. I want to raise dogs and cats and just hang around and read and drink coffee and hang out with my friends. My goal with "making more money" is not really endless wealth accumulation, it's just being able to save for retirement, save for a home, take care of our parents as they age (though as of now there have been no major health issues, knock on wood), that sort of thing. So I don't need to make a billion dollars, but I need to make enough to give us a stable life that can respond as things come up. My wife would like to work eventually but I think it will be a while as she will have to improve her language skills while also figuring out what she can do to work the flower angle...there are lots of possiblities, but nothing obvious, as such I am planning on being the sole income for a number of years until she figures it out.

I am a native english speakers. I'm fluent in Spanish, and with a little focused study could work in Spanish. I'm fluent in Mandarin, and with a bit of focused study, could work in Mandarin. I'm conversational in Japanese, and would probably need to live in Japan for a bit and do a lot of focused study before I'd be able to work in Japanese (though I could probably pass the N1 exam at this point).

My wife is a native Mandarin speaker (as well as the language of her hometown). She's "getting there" in English but is not yet at a level where she could work in English. I think after a year immersed in an English speaking country, though, she would be fine.

I guess I'm going to try and break down what I see the pros and cons of other countries we have considered...each has a lot of good spots, and then some major cons.

A pro shared by all of these is that they're closer to China than America is, so my wife would be able to visit her parents more. That said, in America I already told her that she has a blank check to visit her parents as much as she wants, supported by the fact that I'd make a lot more. That said, a potential con for these is all the fact that since I'm not a citizen, my wife's ability to work is uncertain. In Japan I believe she could work part time, but I'm not sure about Singapore and Australia. While she's fine spending some time to work on her language skills and sort of continue studying flower arrangement etc, having the option to work at all without getting visa sponsorship would be a huge con.

Beyond that, we like asia, and like being in Asia. Notice how I haven't really included Europe...I've lived in Stockholm and found it really boring. I like visiting Europe occassionally, but I just find it super boring. The interesting places have no jobs. And right wing nationalism is definitely on the rise in Europe. So I dunno, there are no places in europe that have really captivated me.

I should add that while being close to my friends and family is nice, being far from them is not as much of a con as being close to hers is a pro. I've lived outside of the US for a decent amount of my adult life...the friendships I've maintained are the ones that are resilient to my not being in the US, and it's much easier for my friends to visit me than it would be for her friends and family to visit her in the US (money+visa). I have a sister in the US who lives near my parents, as well, so that helps take some pressure off. I am 100% fine with the idea of never stepping foot in America again, though the logistics of that are tricky ;)

- people find it boring, but I think it's a great base of operations
- great food
- multicultural
- I love the weather
- Decent amount of startup attention
- There's finance here, if I really want to optimize for income
- My wife's Mandarin would be useful, and she'd get to improve and use her English

- They're essentially a more benign authoritarian government. They crack down on free speech and LGBT stuff, for example, just not with the zeal that China does (yet). This is basically the killer. If it wasn't for this, we'd probably just move to Singapore. But after being in China, I really just don't want to go to another place like that, even if they're nicer about it.
- Wife does not love the weather

- I have friends there
- Tokyo is the best city on earth
- I would love to be able to continue to improve my Japanese
- Tokyo does have a fairly large Chinese population
- exceptionally safe
- amazing food
- tons of great places in japan to travel
- great base to travel to the rest of asia

- work culture isn't great (for tech it's "better," but anecdotally, depends entirely on where you end up going to work eg a japanese tech company, a western one, and so on)
- wages are low (though my friends in tokyo always remind me that Tokyo, while not cheap, is not as stratospherically expensive as NY and SF are now)
- my wife would likely have to learn Japanese...she is not a lover of studying languages and while she is willing and definitely has a leg up on reading being fluent in Mandarin, it is still a con
- No dual citizenship. I guess I should have mentioned above that I would like for me and my wife one day to have the same's tricky becasue wherever we go she would have to denounce her Chinese citizenship, and she's not sure if she would want to do that. But the odds of me denouncing my American citizenship for Japanese citizenship seems...well, heh, extremely unlikely (especially compared to Australia where the path would be very clear for both of us)
- we would always be "foreigners." I don't want to sell stereotypes about how japanese treat foreigners etc etc, it's complicated, I know people who have been there for a long time...but the fact remains that while they're trying to have more foreigners work there, it's a country that is quite ethnically homogenous and is still figuring out what immigration means. It is much clearer how me and my wife could become Australians and become a part of Australian civil culture...doing so in Japan seems largely impossible. The upside is that while my wife could "become American," whatever that means, the chance of actual violence (vs petty discrimination) is MUCh lower in Japan. We can both deal with the occassional side-eye...but I'm terrified that with the direction things are going, my wife getting a faceful of acid is not a remote possibility in the US

I should say that if I was single, I'd just go to Tokyo. I don't know that I'd plan on being there "forever," but that's where I'd go. But I'm worried that it'd be much, much easier for me (since I speak Japanese), though my wife is actually the most optimistic about Japan if we decided not to go to America. She has hit her stride in her english studies and while it isn't easy, it has made learning japanese feel doable. The pros list is short, but they're very powerful pros. The cons list is long, but only becuase I've thought so much about this destination. Honestly, this is the place we are most interested in but I mention the other two because they're very serious considerations that bring their own pros and cons for comparison.

- Clear path to both of us getting citizenship
- The most english
- As mentioned under Japan, I feel this has the clearest path to being "Australian," and being able to be a part of the civil culture
- Multicultural

- I like Syndney and Melbourne, but don't love them...and they're very expensive!
- Sort of a "boring" job market, though I'd be able to get a job
- Far from literally everywhere

I feel like Australia is sort makes a lot of sense on paper, but we just like it less than we like Japan, though Japan has a lot more big cons on paper. Australia is a place where we could immigrate to and live forever. Japan seems like a place where we could live for a long time, but would always have to have a contingency ready to leave the country.

There are of course other countries out there. I didn't cover Canada, but I think it looks a lot like Australia, with the benefit of being closer to the US, but the con of worse weather. Also the tech job market in Australia seems to be a bit better than the tech job market in Canada, but I haven't looked deeply into it. But my friends in tech in Canada all complain endlessly, and largely just end up trying to work remotely for American companies. That's not the case in Australia.

Another possibility is New Zealand...I have loved it every time I've visited, but it's hard to imagine living there. It's so small! I could imagine living in Wellington, but I dunno. Also seems academic as the job market is not super robust, from what I've seen.

I dunno. That's a lot of text. Again, I know there's no clear answer...I just want to sort of get some thought on my thought process etc. It's hard to know what to prioritize! Safety? Citizenship? Money? I can tell you that after Trump's tweet I definitely want to just say "fuck all the money we have paid the lawyers, let's go to Japan."

And while there is a lot of momentum towards going to America, it's entirely possible that my wife's green card application will get denied in which case we will have to make a decision...

Oh something I just thought about. Healthcare! Thankfully, neither of us really have huge issues, though in my case, I forsee needing more healthcare than she does. As a result of my work I am already managing RSI and back issues...both are under control, but I would love to have access to good massage therapists, physical therapists, that sort of thing. But I do also worry about what the healthcare story for us will look like in the future as both of us age. Making more money in the US, part of the reason I guess is to save money as a buttress against that. I'm entirely happy making less money and in exchange getting public services like public transit (the public transit in the US is a joke, even in the NY where it is "the best"), healthcare, etc. That said, I know people in all three of those countries and it's not like some healthcare utopia. I guess another consideration around money is making enough money fast enough that if my RSI issues for example get bad enough, I don't have to work as much. Right now things are more or less under control (though right now I'm dealing with a flare up), but that possibliity lurks...America is so double sided on that front. If you can make a lot of money, you can put money away. But if you can't, you're super fucked. But I mean, if I went to Japan we'd live a good life, but I'd be saving a lot less and if at some point I couldn't work, I would basically have no recourse... but I'm trying not to plan around that specifically because it's a fairly unlikely scenario and there is a lot that can be done to avoid it. But it's something I think about.
posted by wooh to Society & Culture (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also I just want to add that I know how privileged I am -- it would be tiresome to read a qustion that constantly added that as a caveat but I definitely know I am. Part of the reason why I find the idea of a civil culture I can be a part of so important is that I want to be able to at least vote for change that will try and level the playing field. Wherever I go I would like to get involved in local politics (the levle of politics where I think individual involvement can most move the needle), and my goal is always to try and dismantle white supremacy and try and ensure that we have systems in place that respect the human dignity of all. So being in a place where I have to be more of a passive observer would...suck. But it's also something I could deal with, as long as the country was better than China (eg Japan).
posted by wooh at 10:09 PM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

- Clear path to both of us getting citizenship
Unless one of you has an Australian passport or an Australian family member, or you have a sponsoring employer lined up already or you've engaged a local (i.e. in Australia) migration agent who's advised you, it's likely to be less easy than you think. Australian migration is notorious for being opaque, bureaucratic, and lengthy, even if 'clear' on the surface. Your wife, without skills or English, or the likelihood of getting skilled work, is not going to be looked at kindly. Be aware that Australian unemployment is about to rocket and our economy is about to restructure itself, in what direction, nobody really knows. All the industries that were the major drivers of skilled migration (higher ed, healthcare, and aged care) are going to be fundamentally different and not necessarily better. Nobody at all knows what Australian migration is going to look like next year, let alone through the next decade. I'm not saying don't, I'm just saying don't over-romanticise my country's friendliness to migration.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:39 PM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: You're absolutely right. That said, I know lots of people in tech and they're all fairly optimistic, which goes to the central assumption above, which is that the tech job market for experienced programmer will be ok in a year's time. There's of course the chance that it won't be the case, but the immigration programs in Australia, NZ, Canada, Singapore, Japan have, historically, targeted exactly me. That could of course change but I think that it will not.
posted by wooh at 10:57 PM on April 21, 2020

> I want to raise dogs and cats and just hang around and read and drink coffee and hang out with my friends.

Here's something to consider. Singapore is insanely hot (as you know) - whenever I visit my family over there, I feel so bad for all of their dogs who have to run around in the humidity or stay cooped up in air conditioned apartments. Tokyo is a very awesome city, yes, but how many dogs/cats do you think you could manage in a small Tokyo flat? (That being said, Japan has dog cafes and good dog parks which is cool).

But, ultimately, if you just wanna chill and and drink coffee and have pets and live a comfortable life (totally my vibe too!) then who cares if Melbourne isn't as cool as Tokyo? Also Melbourne's coffee scene is A+. That + an easy transition for your wife makes it seem like a pretty straightforward choice to me.

(Gotta toss in a vote for Canada here too: so cheap to fly to both China and the US, the weather isn't crappy everywhere, good healthcare, and the programmers probably complain more because, unlike Australians, hopping the border to code in the states is just... right there).
posted by thebots at 11:24 PM on April 21, 2020

Response by poster: Yeah I really should probably think more seriously about Canada. I'm just work about the tech job market, but it just has to be "good enough"! Especially if I can work remote (which is an eventual personal goal anyway) My wife definitely would prefer somewhere cold to somewhere hot...and while I don't love the cold, I can deal. Especially if I work from home and don't have to leave the house :P
posted by wooh at 11:26 PM on April 21, 2020

Another point about Australia is that right wing nationalism is pretty strong here too, and there's been a very racist response to Chinese (and other Asian) people in wake of COVID-19. I would say things aren't as bad as the USA, but it's not great. And in many ways, political protections that the USA is fighting about (e.g. free speech, net neutrality, freedoms of the press, abortion etc) were either already not guaranteed here in the first place, or are being eroded more quickly than in the USA.

NZ is better in most of these respects, and for now at least has a much more left-wing government (and tends to lie to the left of Australia most of the time). Also migration to NZ is slightly easier than to Australia. A lot of people go to NZ first, get permanent residence there, and then move to Australia on the strength of that. But as you point out the job market is smaller, and it is slightly more further away from your wife's family.
posted by lollusc at 11:32 PM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Look, I haven’t read the entirety of your question, but if I could move anywhere, it would be NZ then Australia. (I’m currently living in Australia). My last choice ever would be the US. Ever. Sorry USians. Move to Tokyo, move to Singapore, for god’s sake don’t go to the States. Choose a leader who is not a megalomaniac and go for decent healthcare. That’s about the sum of it.
posted by Jubey at 11:50 PM on April 21, 2020 [10 favorites]

And, probably most importantly, the American job market for engineers is really great.

But you don't need all the jobs, you just need one job. We have loads of jobs for experienced software engineers in Ireland and your wife would like the weather. We also have other amenities like healthcare, free elections, gay marriage, abortion, privacy, and under things like that which are not under current threat. Things we don't have: good public transportation. Or guns!

Anti-immigrant sentiment is probably as heated as its ever been and it is low -- it beats the shit out of Texas. (I realise that Austin is not Texas.)
posted by DarlingBri at 1:27 AM on April 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

I'm in New Zealand right now. Immigration has gotten a lot more difficult over the past few years, but you are probably on a skills shortage list. Everyone thinks of Wellington, but Christchurch is also a pretty cool city. If your wife doesn't like the cold, there is one challenge here: homes tend to be poorly insulated, certainly by US standards, so in the winter things get chilly quickly. This is a big topic of conversation in the online expat communities here. For reference: a German who had been here on a working holiday visa told me she was leaving because she couldn't take another winter here. Recent builds are better, but VERY recent, like past 5 years.

Australia has a big issue not mentioned above: the government is not taking climate change seriously at all. Zero plans for mitigation. This is a problem because they're getting hammered by it already. The bushfires this year were extraordinary, the Great Barrier Reef just had another bleaching event, the kelp forests around Tasmania are vanishing, and despite the recent rains drought is still an issue in many areas. If you're looking at a long term commitment this could be an issue.

The weather in Vancouver is not as cold as other areas of Canada. It's more like Seattle. Vancouver and Toronto also both have significant Chinese populations which could be good for your wife.

Instead of trying to find a job in a specific place, have you considered getting a remote software engineering job and going to a few different places to see where you want to live? Remote software engineering jobs are everywhere. (If you don't know where to look I can point you at several resources.) Spending three months in a place will give you a strong sense of the benefits and drawbacks of that place and whether you could both be happy. This would give you the opportunity to check out a few different places before you commit. You could potentially spend three months in each of the locations you've listed and make a decision at the end of the year.
posted by rednikki at 2:03 AM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: "Instead of trying to find a job in a specific place, have you considered getting a remote software engineering job and going to a few different places to see where you want to live? Remote software engineering jobs are everywhere. (If you don't know where to look I can point you at several resources.) Spending three months in a place will give you a strong sense of the benefits and drawbacks of that place and whether you could both be happy. This would give you the opportunity to check out a few different places before you commit. You could potentially spend three months in each of the locations you've listed and make a decision at the end of the year."

This is a good suggestion, it's definition something I'm interesting in. I've worked remote and really liked it. The issue I see is...taxes! That is probably outside of the scope of this thread, but I don't know how digital nomadism works? My assumption is long as you pay your "home" country (in my case, the bloodthirsty IRS in the US of A), then everyone else involved kind of turns a blind eye...because working on a tourist visa, even remote, is technically a violation of the visa as far as I know, just maybe one that nobody ares about?

I also have no clue if it is possible to immigrate to places while working remote. GitLab, for example, allows you to work remote from anywhere...BUT, they can't help with visas.

I might be overthinking it!
posted by wooh at 2:08 AM on April 22, 2020

Mod note: Note: wooh, just a reminder that Ask Metafilter isn't meant to be a back and forth conversation space to go in-depth about your thoughts in response to every suggestion, or expanding into related questions, etc. If you find your question is too big to really tackle in a single question, you might break it down into discrete future questions about various possibilities. (ie, just gather suggestions here without responding to pro/con of each one, consider and analyze, then come back with a targeted question or questions that help you narrow it down further.)
posted by taz (staff) at 2:55 AM on April 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

... homes tend to be poorly insulated, certainly by US standards, so in the winter things get chilly quickly ... SNIP ... Recent builds are better, but VERY recent, like past 5 years

Just to tweak this advice a little.

No question the insulation of the NZ housing stock can be laughably bad. Also no question that building standards around insulation have been changed and this should improve things (Germans/Scandis still laugh at them). However beware the idea that newer is better, no one should buy a house in New Zealand without being fully cognizant of the "Leaky Homes Crisis".

In addition to that there's continual indications that local councils are, for a whole range of reasons, unable to adequately assess buildings as meeting standards so whatever the standards are you need to be aware they may not be met. This is obviously much more of a problem when you have a house which is part of a development rather than one you commissioned or was commissioned by an individual as such a house is typically not being "built to standard" but rather tends to exceed them.

And lastly, due to earthquakes in the past decade, we have a changing awareness of what is an acceptably robust building for the purposes of earthquakes. This does not (as far as I'm aware) effect standalone houses but it certainly does effect apartments. There's every chance that apartment owners will find themselves facing earthquake strengthening costs in the future. Because of the absurd cost of housing in New Zealand relative to wages many feel they have no choice than to buy apartments but if you possibly can ... don't.
posted by southof40 at 3:47 AM on April 22, 2020

I vote for Japan so that you are near your wife's family. That will be key. I am part of an immigrant family (parents from the UK, we are in Canada). Even with easier travel when people age it gets much more difficult. That said I also think you should consider Canada's west coast for all the reasons the earlier commenter mentioned.
posted by biggreenplant at 4:18 AM on April 22, 2020

Canada has antiAsian racism but it's generally not as overt as in the US and certainly our Trump-like equivalents aren't in power.
posted by biggreenplant at 5:49 AM on April 22, 2020

My wife is a Beijing native, now a US citizen. I feel I should warn you, Trump has stirred up an absolute shit-storm of racist assholery. You can't get a real sense of how bad it is without constantly reading the left press, because the MSM only reports most of the events locally. We live in Bluest Massachusetts, and even here, there are occasional incidents. No way in Hell would I move my wife to Texas. If you need to move to the US, my strong recommendation is that you stay out of those Red states.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:51 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Consider Toronto. Large Asian population, so Chinese food and supplies would be available, and Doug Ford won't be premier forever. Also if you had kids I'm sure there'd be Mandarin lessons available for them.

Normally I promote Montreal, but that means adding French to the requirements, and the weather's harsher (it snowed this morning).
posted by zadcat at 6:31 AM on April 22, 2020

For all the pros and cons of Japan, Australia and Singapore, you haven't done the same for China. How about more detail there?
posted by Borborygmus at 7:18 AM on April 22, 2020

Since you're considering Canada, you might look at Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (St. John's and Halifax, respectively). That's a bit of a curve ball, but Canadian immigration laws vary pretty wildly by province, and the lesser-populated provinces have less strict rules. (At least that's how it was a few years ago.) We figured out that it would be pretty easy for us (two self-employed Americans working in tech) to immigrate to Newfoundland if we wanted to.

(And it's BEAUTIFUL. And the people are amazing.)
posted by nosila at 7:26 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you really should consider Canada more. I work in tech in the Toronto area and the market for developers is great. Maybe you should ask your friends for more specifics? I honestly don't know what they'd have to "complain endlessly" about. I'm also a visible minority and yes, racism exists, but it's not nearly at the level of the US. Especially in the larger cities.
posted by yawper at 7:55 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I may be overstating this but I think categorizing places as a great base to travel from ignores the likelihood that extensive recreational long-distance travel may not be a thing again for quite some time.
posted by less of course at 8:43 AM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

posted by aramaic at 9:07 AM on April 22, 2020

1. One factor that's not on your list is the longstanding animosity between Japan and China. In 2009, Japan was the country with the most unfavorable views toward China, more than the US, Canada, or Australia (wikipedia).

Your wife would definitely face less risk of violence or acid throwing in Japan (vs the US). But it's worth considering the quiet discrimination she may face there as a Chinese person, e.g. having trouble starting her flower shop, or finding work in her desired field.

2. Even for a healthy, equal marriage, mono blanco makes a valid point about how your wife may struggle in a new country and feel pressure to hide it. There's a widely referenced model of the 4 stages of moving to a new country (wikipedia). The first stage is romanticizing the novelty, and the second stage is anxious loneliness and homesickness. That challenging and depressing period often lasts for 6 to 12 months before things turn more positive again.

If someone is moving countries for the first time, it can be emotionally tougher to go through that stage for the first time. They don't yet have the confidence that they'll come out the other side in a year, unlike someone who's moved countries previously and knows that this is just a phase.

It may also be harder for them pre-move to fully imagine how bad the adjustment period can feel. It's like if someone has lived in the tropics their whole life and never seen snow. No matter how hard they try to imagine being freezing cold, it's not the same as actually living through a harsh winter.

After the move, people often feel a self-imposed pressure to deal with emotional struggles quietly by themselves. They don't want to be a downer by complaining constantly to their partner for months on end. They frequently turn self-critical and think that if only they were stronger somehow, they would be happy in the new country.

I encourage you to anticipate that your wife will likely go through this adjustment period and will feel inclined to hide some of it from you. If you view it as "stereotypical toxic marriage dynamics", she may feel even more pressure if it happens.

Good luck!
posted by cheesecake at 9:18 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

What about considering Taiwan?
posted by mkuhnell at 9:19 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I live in Vancouver, and I agree with rednikki that you should consider the city. Upsides:
  • The weather here is nice enough, for people who don't mind drizzle.
  • I gather that there jobs for computer programmers here - though it's not my area.
  • It's close to the US, so you'll find it easy to visit your friends and family there.
  • About a fifth of the people in greater Vancouver, I believe, are Chinese. (So, for example, you wouldn't have trouble getting ingredients for Chinese food here.)
  • The Canadian healthcare system is good.
My spouse and I moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago, and we both now have PR through work. The process wasn't too bad as these things go - but of course you should consult a lawyer before moving. I don't know how many "points" you and your spouse would have.

The biggest downside is that real estate is rather expensive here - but who knows what will happen to real estate prices in the next year or two??
posted by HoraceH at 9:37 AM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you look into Canada, consider also the dark. It gets really dark in the winter. That's hard on a lot of people.
posted by aniola at 10:27 AM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I say this with all the love of my chosen city that an Austinite could possibly have: You don't want to come here. It is slipping further and further from the sanctuary it used to be. All that romanticism of decades past is mostly nostalgia at this point. And who really knows how we're gonna fair after the pandemic? Two of my favorite restaurants, Austin staples, are gone forever as of this week.

The traffic is getting worse by the year, the air quality has tanked, gentrification is rampant, and the homeless population is visibly growing. Politics basically amounts to the city setting an ordinance, and the state saying "no, you can't do that". I'm also fairly sure the summers are getting hotter and the winters are getting colder, but that may just be aversion to extreme temperatures.

That said, we are still a little blue pond in the sea of red Texas. I doubt your wife would encounter the kind of overt racism she would in other USian areas, but we're still surrounded by right-wing rural areas, and all the assholery that can come with it.

I've lived here for the better part of 20 years now, and I still love it here. I love the green spaces, I love the generally friendly and socially-conscious people. I'm afraid for my favorite coffee shops right now, if my social spaces will still exist after the pandemic. If it weren't for the proximity to my sisters and their families, and my doubt in my ability to move to another country, I would leave Austin, Texas, and the US in a heartbeat.
posted by MuChao at 11:58 AM on April 22, 2020 [4 favorites]

Something to add on the New Zealand scales: anti-Asian discrimination has long been pervasive (Rose Lu's book All Who Live On Islands and Emma Ng's Old Asian, New Asian cover this, from the latter "A 2010 Human Rights Commission report found that Asian people reported higher levels of discrimination than any other minority in New Zealand.") The current situation has made it worse. My entire life as a Pakeha NZer I've heard the liberal line, "we're so much better than Australia" with regards to race relations, and you know what's a river in Egypt? I imagine it'll get worse. So keep that in mind. I don't know what it's like now, but Christchurch used to be notorious for white supremacy in the 80s/90s.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:16 AM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

WRT Nova Scotia, I endorse this message: (And it's BEAUTIFUL. And the people are amazing.) It is, and they are. Don't know if they harbor some hidden anti-Asian bias, but my wife and I saw nothing of the kind when we were there. The climate is similar to Cape Cod, since it's about the same latitude and surrounded by water. If I were sufficiently motivated to flee the US, I'd like to go to NS.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:58 AM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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