Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: Why do people want to live in the US rather than other developed countries? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread. Thank you to the team at Quora for making this happen!
USA is a land of immigrants, made by immigrants. No one here can accuse you of being an outsider unless they are Native Americans. Also, the way America markets itself; the American dream is not confined to the boundaries of America and Americans have made sure the world knows it. It welcomes immigrants with open arms and embraces you as long as you stay within its laws. We know USA exists and that it wants us. They take conscious efforts to portray themselves as immigrant friendly and it has worked well, really well.
To get a higher degree in engineering, I mainly had the following options. I am going to try and list what “I” thought their pros and cons were:
1. UK (England really)
You can’t just come to our country, rule us and leave us. No my dear English people, we will follow you to your home and live with you.
i. I have family there. Now if you are an Indian, this one pro can outweigh any number of cons, especially for moms.
ii. A lot of Indians, big Indian community and a sizable Muslim community as well. So that’s good.
iii. Closer to home.
i. It’s definitely more racist there. I am speaking from experience. What I experienced at Heathrow airport (twice!) made me feel better about my decision.
ii. Not very well known for computer engineering, let alone computer hardware (although ARM comes from there)
iii. And really, who wants to live in English weather? Not me.
iv. Apart from the super high tuitions, the cost of living there is also quite high. Not your middle class study destination.
So you see, for me UK was an option, but not a good one. Apart from a few social advantages, there was nothing more for me
You are double our size in area, and 1/50th in population. Not fair. Let us help you, mate.
i. It’s the land down under! Just to say you live in Australia sounds cool back home. Everyone lives in America, who the f**k lives in Australia? That’s bonzer, mate.
ii. Relatively cheaper.
iii. Plenty of Indians (I should stop and I did stop considering this as a factor. We are pretty much everywhere, in large numbers)
i. Now at that time (circa 2010-11), there were almost daily reports of racist attacks on Indians in Australia. People were being killed there. Not your first choice to go.
ii. Again, computer hardware engineering not big. Chose the wrong field I guess
The second point in both the above countries was the driving factor for me. But the other points were equally important as well.
Not sure if you consider Singapore a developed nation, but it was an option. It is certainly more developed than India :)
i. Good universities with good programs in my field.
ii. Many chip making companies have branches there, so jobs are available.
iii. Very cheap compared to the other options.
iv. So much closer to home. I wouldn’t have had to miss so many weddings if I was in Singapore!
i. Totally different culture. We don’t know much about Singapore apart from those who’ve been there on vacation. I was paranoid.
ii. Food was a big concern. For some reason, we used to think of all Asian looking people as Chinese (which is wrong and I know it now) and thought that they eat the same stuff as the Chinese do; which was a matter of small(?) concern back then.
iii. Language. English is the first language for many Indians and we could probably catch up on French, Spanish and other Latin based languages. I didn’t expect such strong English presence in Singapore and it seemed impossible to learn Chinese (remember I thought all Asians=Chinese?). And I am not South Indian either so learning Tamil (the other major language there) was also out.
Singapore was a strong candidate, really. And I have friends who took that option. But for me, its cons outweighed the pros.
4. Germany/ France
Bonjour Deutschland. Oh did I just mix the two?
i. German engineering man! I was an electrical engineer and might have even considered changing my area of concentration from computer hardware to core electrical for Germany!
ii. “I live and work in France!” Sorry mates, but this sounds even cooler than Australia.
iii. Really high standards of living in both the countries. I have friends who studied there and now live/work in both these countries and I know it’s great there. They have better transportation than me and they can go to anywhere in the EU!
iv. France even had a scholarship program in my college which I was actually considering.
i. High standard of living also means high cost of living. In the first few years when you are dependent on your parent’s money and bank loans, this becomes a huge factor.
ii. France is infamous for its racism. Add to that my religion and suddenly the scholarship doesn’t seem so enticing. (I must add that a friend of mine did go to France and she loved it, the country and the French people, both. But as I said, I was paranoid)
iii. Not a lot of Indians, no family. We Indians tend to look for “our” people wherever we go. So this was sort of a deal breaker.
Germany and France are excellent options, but wait for the next country in line.
Why hello America? Weren’t you supposed to be India in the first place?
i. USA is a land of immigrants, made by immigrants. No one here can accuse you of being an outsider unless they are Native Americans. So that’s perfect!
ii. Best engineering schools in the world. Even the less famous ones are better than most elsewhere.
iii. Chip making was invented here damn it! Transistors and diodes were born here. No lack of opportunity in my field.
iv. No lack of opportunity in any field rather. America is leading in pretty much every industry.
v. Plenty of Indians. Oh, this stopped being a factor sometime back. But really, plenty of Indians! White people seem a minority here sometimes.
vi. Affordable cost of living and tuition. It’s not cheap, but it’s affordable. And the loans can be paid quite easily within a year or two of working here. Perfect!
vii. We know the culture even before coming here. Seriously. Thanks to TV and movies, American culture is probably the most widely known culture in the world. Friends is real enough, so is Breaking Bad and American Pie. We know all that exists, and there was absolutely no culture shock for me. It didn’t feel new.
viii. Family is here. Not just Indians, but a lot of immigrants already have some distant cousin or at least someone they already know over here. That’s a very good thing to have.
i. Too far from home. Timings need to be adjusted and if you are someone who really misses home a lot, then this isn’t the most pragmatic place to be.
ii. Dicey immigration laws. Although America is probably the friendliest nation for immigrants, its laws can sometimes be very tricky.
iii. Plenty of Indians! No I mean seriously, I was hoping to come to a different country. (I am of course, kidding here :/ )
The cons(?) of America are hardly a matter of concern at all. It was easy to apply to the universities, the tests are standard and have strong support all over the world and the visa process is not all that complicated.
Choosing USA over other nations has turned out to be a very good decision. I love it here, as do most immigrants. I may not live here for long, but if I do leave the country, it’ll only be to go back home.
Thank you America for having me.
And thanks for reading, if you still are.