I woke up on this typically cold Canadian November morning with the impulse to write something about my life of a few years ago. I wanted to share something that I used to do and that, because of the changes that I have gone through, I don’t do anymore. Some of you may smile and identify with it…
It has been over 17 years now since I landed with my wife Daniela in Canada and obtained my Permanent Resident´s Card. There was one thing that we both seemed to enjoy doing from day one, and that gradually faded away after several years.
Let’s call it the “Comparison Game”, one of the most popular activities in the life of immigrants, even if sometimes it´s practiced in a very quiet way and almost always unconsciously.
It probably started with something like: “Hey, did you notice how they dress here? You would never see someone dressed that way at the airport in Italy, it´s so weird…” or “I can’t believe the way they drive here, they drive like idiots, she is only doing 80 km/hour in the passing lane… you would never see someone driving like that back home!”
Only a few hours had passed since we had arrived and these were the kind of comments we made in our conversation. But we didn´t only criticize: “Did you ever see such clean roads back home?” or “Did you notice how welcoming and polite the border security agent was; in Italy, we would have been treated badly as newcomers.”
I kept up this habit for several years, and it only faded out when I started to understand how energy-draining it was, really exhausting.
As I already mentioned, it was not a comparison in one direction alone; I was comparing and exalting things that I claimed were better in my native country, followed then by things that were better in my new country.
Many times in friendly but animated discussions after dining with friends or family members, or at break with co-workers, this activity sneaked into the conversation, always leaving a negative aftertaste! More frequently, it manifested itself loudly and persistently as a mental activity, in my inner dialogues, especially when I was under stress. I can’t remember in detail, but self-conversations would go something like this: “Canadians don’t appreciate good workmanship… it is better to do it cheap!” or “Back home they are all looking for a deal! Here it is so nice… people pay what you ask without trying to drive a bargain!”
The most insane part is that I remember catching myself playing this “Comparison Game” and making a statement about a topic that was the exact opposite of what I had claimed earlier when chatting with a different crowd! At the time, I did not even stop to self-analyze this insane behavior!
I am sure that the “Comparison Game” is something that every immigrant has played, some very lightly and quietly in their minds, and others in a compulsive way like I was doing. I have witnessed it in all of the immigrants with whom I was close. But, repeated comparison of things after immigration can make you suffer from mental turmoil.
It is obvious that any compulsive behavior is a manifestation of some kind of inadequacy in dealing with internal feelings, which I found to be a common denominator for all immigrants.
This sneaky and draining game takes energy away from us that could be used for improving our marriage, our parenthood, our relationships with our employer, our employees, co-workers and friends.
We can’t perceive and embrace opportunities if our mind is busy comparing the country we are in with the country we left on every single aspect we happen to focus on!
Is the goal, depending on whether we are putting down our native country or our new one, to feel momentarily good or bad for immigrating?
What internal feeling is the cause of this compulsive “Comparison Game” that we play and that slows down our growth as immigrants, and thus as human beings?
To be continued…