Complexities of Immigration

Social media use is a great predictor of how well an immigrant will adapt to the new country. It’s always important to see who the target audience of an immigrant’s social media output is.

In the notoriously unadaptable Russian-speaking immigrant community, for instance, there are some very popular bloggers, YouTubers, Instagramers, etc. But they speak exclusively to people back home or people who are immigrants from their own community. Facebookers prefer to write in Russian and address a Russian-speaking group of friends even if they have perfect English.

These are people who rank high in terms of educational and financial attainment and who don’t find it hard to make six figures but who have only emigrated in body and not in soul. (For obvious reasons, people who live in misery in our countries don’t emigrate to North America. Those who come here are already successful academically and professionally. The ones who flee misery go to Portugal.)

I recently had a conversation with somebody who emigrated from Russia at least 20 years ago and is living a very successful, comfortable life in the US.

“What do you think about the elections?” I asked, and my interlocutor plunged into an enthusiastic discussion of the elections of the mayor of Moscow. It took me a while to explain I meant a different election, and when I did, he lost all interest in the discussion.

It’s like when Russia and Canada played a major hockey game a few years ago, and the newspaper of the Russian immigrant community in Canada came out with the headline of “Our team won!” on the next day. When I saw the front page, I thought Canada won and felt happy. But that’s not what the publishers meant.

Immigration is very complex and can’t be understood with simplistic approaches.


4 thoughts on “Complexities of Immigration”

  1. The short answer is simple, the Russian speakers you’re talking about are not really immigrants, they’re ex-pats, a category notorious for not taking an interest in the new host country for which they feel, at most, a kind of idle curiosity….
    I only use ‘immigrant’ to describe people who consciously want to join a new society and who want their children to belong to the new society. Using the word ‘immigrant’ about anyone who happens to live in a new country causes confusion.
    That’s why I developed (for my own purposes) a typology of migrants,
    Similarly, a large majority of Mexican migrants have historicallly been gastarbeiters (moving temporarily for higher wages but with no intention of settling down) the same is true of the great majority of Ukrainians in Poland now.

    My typology (additons/corrections/suggestions are very welcome)


  2. //my interlocutor plunged into an enthusiastic discussion of the elections of the mayor of Moscow

    I have not seen such extreme cases in Israel. Even the least integrated immigrant I know is not nearly this bad despite my mother seeing her as somebody who mentally remained there.

    I think the nature of immigration to Israel does differ from the one to America. For one, the idea of ethnic nationalism is very strong. In addition, Israeli reality tends to break almost all walls. It is hard to think only about Moscow or even Donbass, when you wonder about the possibility of another missile short at your present home. It is strange to think only about Moscow elections, when your own present elections may lead to the closure of not kosher shop near one’s house. 🙂


    1. “Even the least integrated immigrant I know”

      I don’t think you get many expats in Israel (unless they’re sent by their employer). Those who live in Israel tend to be more committed to the immigrant path. A constant level of threat can be a great method for weeding out the non-committed….
      How easy is it to function long term in Israel with no or very crappy Hebrew?


  3. “…emigrated in body and not in soul…” —very well said, describing how I am feeling right now. Though, when I came to visit Ukraine last summer, I felt weird—I didn’t feel in Kyiv as comfy as I used too, but Philadelphia is still terrain to explore for me…so I am somewhere in between the USA and Ukraine…I am not sure if my soul ever fully emigrates…


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