Sunday, February 24, 2008

Brain Drain; It's personal

Long time readers of this blog would know that this is an issue that is very close to my heart. I have lost count of the number of arguments I had with my folks over it. (These two entries are the more memorable ones.) In recent months, I have started filtering out (what my cousin describes as) such *noise* from home.

"We are all grownups and have the rights to make our own decisions. You know what you like and want to do, and you do include your family in your plans, except it's not want they want. That's good enough. You can't please everyone. Your primary responsibility is yourself.

Even if i am labeled as unfilial in their opinion, I don't care as long as i think i am right in my own opinion. I think once you get the green card and show them that you are serious about settling here, they will have to accept the fact, and respect your decision."

This bit of a comment from one of Chiang Nee's readers sums it up beautifully:

All too often, people attribute reasons for emigration to general poverty (economic, individual financial, health care, etc).
I am a Malaysian doctor, and have lived in the UK for over 13 years now. As the only and eldest son of Malaysian Chinese parents (one of 3 siblings), I am expected to return to Malaysia for various reasons. My parents aren't poor. I have just told them that I do not intend to return to Malaysia, and would like to live in London instead.
However, they are unable to comprehend or accept my decision, particularly as they lead prosperous lives in Malaysia.
Your article is particularly apt, as it illustrates that in the current day and age, there are many other reasons for emigration, beyond economic strife.
Even PM Lee Hsien Long's eldest son (and we know the importance of this person's role in the families of our culture), is contemplating not returning to Singapore.
I think people forget, that as general quality of life improve, one seeks other forms of fulfillment. That is just part of natural human development.

.. In the current 'shrinking' world that we live in, where travel and communication is almost universally accessible and available, I certainly hope that people around us will have a more open-minded perception of emigration. That it is not simply attributed to economic opportunities.


HRH Eileen the Idle of London by the Bow said...

Folks from home will always want you to return home. And when you do, they can't be bothered about what you are doing! :D So, it's pointless having arguments about coming back or not coming back. Parents - like finicky bosses - need to be constantly updated and to have their expectations managed. I find that long conversations with family about one's daily life as well as big decisions help the family to put the problem aside and move on to other things. That said, no matter how well this is resolved, one cannot run away from the sense of guilt. :D

L'oiseau rebelle said...

In the case of (financially) successful parents - a large part of their motivation to be successful is to be able to give their children a materially comfortable life. Out of love for their children but also because it's expected of them; it increases their social status. Emigration, then, can be construed as a rejection of their way of life, what they have worked hard for (these comforts aren't just what money can buy but also the social/professional contacts that they have made, etc); emigration is venturing outside the comfort zones that they have painstakingly created over the years. Why do you reject this comfortable life? And it's hard for them to understand that some of us see beyond our own comfort, that our own comfort and security does not trump everything else in the world.

Anyway, in my small sample sizes, less financially successful parents are more likely to accept that their child "isn't coming home", and are more proud that their child "makes it".

aglassofwine said...

at the end of the day, i think parents just want you to return home because they miss you and want you near. the "economic" reasons they give could just merely be their way of trying to incentivise you to return home to them, short of pouring on more guilt about filial duty. at the very least, i think that's my experience with my parents.

and i can see their point of view. imagine having painstakingly raised your children, only to have them take flight and accessible by the occasional phone calls and even less frequent long plane rides. it's hard on them; it's always harder on those who get left behind.