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October 26, 2004

Temporarily in Canada
Somayeh Sadat  [info|posts]

I was enjoying my life. Nothing was missing.

Then I saw my friends leaving for abroad, some to study, others to live. I wondered: "How is that? "

I left Iran for Canada. It was a lot of fun, but I couldn’t decide if what I had sacrificed was worth it. Nonetheless, I was very fortunate to come to Canada, not everyone had this opportunity. So decided to enjoy my temporary residence, and not wonder if my moving to Canada was the right course of action anymore.

I saw my friends talking about immigrating to Canada. They filled out forms, and waited. Not too late, they were permanent residents of Canada. I thought with myself: "why not me? After all, it doesn’t harm. Let’s not miss this opportunity."

I had my landed status in Canada, and my college was over. I had planned to return to Iran after graduation, back when I moved to Canada. Then I wondered: "Wait a minute, if I stay for another three years, I will have a Canadian Passport. I can then enjoy the freedom of traveling anywhere without worrying about visas. Why not do that, like a lot of my friends? "

I had my Canadian Passport. I was working in a company and almost satisfied. The prospects looked good. Then I thought: "I’ve been working hard for the past few years to get this promotion, why should I live in a country with no insured employment? Let’s strengthen my footsteps here first. I can always return."

It’s now years that I have been "temporarily" living in Canada. Not that I don’t want to return, but I don’t like to miss opportunities either. After all, I can return whenever I wish, can’t I?

Note : This article was also published in the 12th issue of Ghasedak, an online magazine by Iranian students in Toronto.

Ron at October 27, 2004 12:38 AM [permalink]:

Great article Somayeh,

I moved to Canada from the Middle East at a young age and it’s a huge personal dilemma whether or not to go back. Canada’s a great place to live; comfortable, wealthy, safe. But looking at all the sad foreign faces on the bus or subway, you get the feeling of being in some kind of global refugee camp (although a very nice one). I go back to the old country sometimes to visit, and I long for those sights and smells, the warm air, the food, the lively people. But then practical considerations set in and I’m forced to concede that going back would be irrational. Who in their right mind would leave Canada for the Middle East? What about the opportunities here? Maybe it’s best to make your fortune here and then go back…

heydarbaba at October 27, 2004 08:23 AM [permalink]:

Before my uncle moved to Germany, he told me :Even if I only have one day left in my life I am going to live it in Europe..that was 1973.....Later he told me as long as Mullahs are in power in Iran I won't even fly over that country..that was 1981...last time I talked with him, he was visiting Iran with his German wife and daughter and was telling me how much fun it is to be there...that was July 2004. But then I asked him if it would be as much fun if he lived there all the times?..his answer was he didn't know..he still visits Iran twice a year..we Iranians are not cut to be immigrants for whatever reason. No matter how long we stay in say, USA or Canada, we will never refer to these countries as my country but we still end up living here. However we design a technique to fool ourselves one year at a time or one excuse at a time...This incremental acceptance is less painful. my suggestion?..everyday repeat the following hundred times : Canada is my country.Canada is my country..Canada is...after couple of months repeat another one :I am going to live here, get old here, die here and be buried here. Dramatic? not at all. A sense of reality that will begin to sink in when you become middle aged or little older; Kids are grown up and have no intention of leaving their home, Canada and going back to a foreign land called Iran. You will hear them saying to their friends: my mom immigrated from Iran..she is the greatest mom in the world but she just misses her country so much..thanks God I was born and raised here and don't have to go through what my mom you they will have more comforting words: don't worry mom, when you get older we will take care of you, we will find the best nursing home for you, you will be just fine mom....sorry Somayeh, if these words were little bit unsettling. If they made anybody feel uncomfortable then the best course of action is to wisen up, save some money, pack up and...Hasta La Vista...

Sindbad at October 29, 2004 07:59 AM [permalink]:

Ron: Firstly do you really get a lot of "sad foreign faces on the bus or subway" out there in Canada?? Did you mean immigrants in Canada are unhappy and don't feel at home? (2) Did you try to say that when you're back in your middle eastern country, all you see in buses and subways are 'happy' native people?

fel at October 29, 2004 08:32 AM [permalink]:

After reading your text I was feeling the same about this issue and said to myself , wait a minute, that is a decision that I am going to make maybe after 2-3 years! It is about 3 years now that I am living in Holland, although after finishing my study I will have enough chances to find a job in this country or some other places, I am still not quite sure about my future and next plans. What to do next? What will be my next step in life?

The feeling that you have security and a kind of future that you can assure it and no one can dissolve this picture is nice and gives you more intention to fight. Even thinking about getting a Dutch, Canadian or an American passport keeps coming to my mind very often, the dream that you will be free to go wherever you want, whenever you want is a fascinating one. But I can not find a good reason to choose one of these two sides. Your dreamy picture of future here, or going back to Iran?

When you keep continuing your life here, after some years you have got kids around you, a family and all the dreams that you had, has come true, but still you miss your country, Irane Man(My Iran).

I am still doing my best to study and enjoy my staying here, however every year I will also not forget to participate in Diversity Lottery of American Visas(which 55,000 people will have the chance to become American residents). I am telling you because it is funny to myself too, It might be a wish but a big one, an American one. May never happens but you still try.

Maybe you are quite confused after reading this, but that’s a clear picture of my future planning which I got in my mind, as Somayeh said:” Not that I don’t want to return, but I don’t like to miss opportunities either. After all, I can return whenever I wish, can’t I?”

Ron at October 29, 2004 06:15 PM [permalink]:


It is sad to watch many of these immigrants. Many came to Canada to escape violence, oppression, or grinding poverty, and in that sense they are better off now. But at the same time, they didn't really have much choice, and I'm sure they would be happy to return to their countries if conditions there were different. It can be a very lonely and isolating experience for them. Imagine grown-up people who don't speak enough English to get by, it hurts one's dignity. Further, I'm sure they all have family left behind.

As for people who come by choice, students, like the author, this can also be difficult. What if you want to raise children here? Will they learn their parents' traditions and language? Will they even care? Will they be caught in between, neither here nor there?

Today at October 30, 2004 09:54 AM [permalink]:

all of us are the same.

Arash Jalali at October 30, 2004 05:46 PM [permalink]:
I've thought about Iranians' inability to completely detach themselves from their roots which Heydarbaba alluded to. I tried to get people whom I knew, people who have lived or are still living in the U.S., Canada or some European country, to tell me what exactly drives them to not quite see themselves as citizens of those countries and forget all about being an Iranian. Unfortunately, I discovered that people are not always wholely sincere when it comes to answering such questions. The obvious and very popular answer I often get happens to be the politically correct one; that we love Iran and as a nation with a rich cultural heritage it would be a shame to try to turn our backs to all that and lose our true identity and become a self proclaimed "Westerner". I am not saying that this explanation is totally insincere. No, on the contrary I think there a great amount of truth to it. Yet, I suspect it is not the "whole truth". Let's face it. While in Iran, we all have been, and I personally still very much am, in one way or another grumbling about how awful things are in Iran, how most things if not everything is wrong with our people, our culture, etc. Now, the question I keep asking myself is: "If things are so horrible, why is it so difficult for us(me ?) to let it go ?" I think part of the reason could be that this sense of attachment is more of a reaction to an outside stimulus than an inherent and innate love of one's motherland. In other words, I suspect that it is some sort of a natural defense mechanism subconsciously picked up to face occasional hostile encounters with the original citizens of a foreign country, however rare such encounters might be. Yes, I've been told most Canadian cities have a very multicultural, if not "xenophilic", social atmosphere. I found Netherlands to be very much like that too, as opposed to what is said or at least stereotyped about Germany. Yet, I think it only takes ONE, probably even isolated, unpleasant encounter to trigger this defense mechanism. Trying to picture myself in such a situation, where I might be insulted, or attacked, or in any way singled out, I can very well imagine myself being an ardent nationalist, though I generally advocate internationalism. Assuming that this inability to completely leave behind all that is related to Iran is partially a reaction rather than just innate love, I have developed a theory about its roots. I think it is a reaction out of a sense of insecurity, which could be due to a whole array of possible causes. Racial, cultural, historical, as well as political. Imagine an Iranian in Canada, or in Sweden, or in the Nehterlands, or the United States. Politically, he/she is a citizen of a country mostly known around the world as a country supporting terrorism. Historically, our nation's interactions with European nations and more recently with Americans, has been mixed with feelings of resentment, distrust, and awe. I am not sure if the result of this historical impact can exactly be described as inferiority complex or not, but it's as close a term as I was able to find in my vocabulary to describe it. Culturally, we do have a rich heritage, albeit mostly related to distant past. This nevertheless gives us a source of pride (real or unreal) that cannot easily be let go of or replaced. And racially, well it might sound a bit ridiculous, but I think the looks do play a part here, maybe not equally the same for everyone and maybe not in a very signi ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Ron at October 31, 2004 01:43 AM [permalink]:


Speak for yourself! I consider myself a very handsome middle-eastern man. But seriously, I think there is a lot of truth to your observations and theories, at least from my personal experience. As far as “reactionary nationalism”, I must say that I didn’t feel that strongly about my homeland until 9/11 and the “intifada” and then everything came undone. All of a sudden there was a slew of anti-semitism coming from even people I considered to be my friends, (who are “native” Canadians). In this situation, what could I do? Pretend I wasn’t who I am? Why should I be ashamed of my heritage, or feel intimidated for having different beliefs? Even in a “xenophilic” place like Canada, there is still deeply rooted racism, which becomes strong in times of crisis. And when this happens to you, all your idealism about being a “citizen of the world” can go out the window!

Anyways, I would say these negative experiences triggered a sense of patriotism that I didn’t feel before. But it’s still legitimate, I think. As a historical example, during the Holocaust there were many Jews who were just as German as any other German; modern, secular, nothing “Jewish” about them. But they were killed too. Why? Because how a person defines himself is meaningless. What really matters is how his enemies define him. If people don’t like you because you have dark skin, there’s not much you can do to blend in, and there’s nothing more ridiculous than someone obviously pretending to be someone he’s not. So come to Canada. Be a Canadian. But when someone points out your differences in an unfriendly way, you may not feel like such a Canadian anymore.

fel at October 31, 2004 08:13 AM [permalink]:

It was interesting that you said you can simply not deny your color:” If people don’t like you because you have dark skin, there’s not much you can do to blend in, and there’s nothing more ridiculous than someone obviously pretending to be someone he’s not”

The truth is that our memory as a human being just looks at a quite short period of time, history is becoming just a word not a knowledge anymore, which results nations just see us as what we are named in CNN or other news channels, thus, terrorists or axis of evil. You can give a name to something but it is not so easy to get is back.

I agree with Arash that an unconscious feeling of patriotism stops us from giving up our feelings and sense of belonging to Iran and becoming a royal citizen of the new countries. It might be wrong in a sense that you can not adapt easily with the new environment, but I am who I am, should I change myself to satisfy others? Maybe immigrants way of life should not be compared to those of usual people, they can live happily beside others but why should they give up thinking about their own country?
Is that not actually our case at this time? We are outside Iran and we are still talking and discussing about it, it might be wrong in some people's mind but we still have some feelings left.

Parisa at October 31, 2004 02:59 PM [permalink]:


You said "Yes, I mean they (as in Anglo-saxons) do typically look more beautiful than us Middle-Easterns, and that could be a source of insecurity and a hurdle in way of us blending in."

I have been in England so many times and I can tell you that you can hardly find a good looking woman! in fact, this is a common belief in Europe. So as a very good looking persian woman
;-) I invite you also to speak for yourself :)

Roobah at October 31, 2004 05:40 PM [permalink]:

Parisa, I am sure for you - as for most other Iranian women - it is dead difficult to accept the simple fact that the majority of Iranian men fancy the appearance of European women. It's a fact that pushes your heart and fires up your jelousy to the max when you see a pretty white woman with beautiful hair, skin and eyes walking past you. Next time you go to England or Germany or Sweden, open your eyes and count, and you'll find MANY women who are more beautiful, pleasant, and independent that Iranian women, 'N' times more than what you find in Iran. I'm sorry, but this is a fact.

Arash Jalali at October 31, 2004 06:29 PM [permalink]:

Dear Ron, Parisa and other beautiful Middle-Easteners,
I can see my comment is once again about to hijack the main point of the article and the discussion. I hereby apologize to all the gorgeous/handsome Middle-Eastern ladies and gentlemen. I have evidently been projecting when I was drawing a comparison between Middle-Eastern looks and that of the Anglo-Saxons, but I should say when faced with blond, blue-eyed European women or men, I too don't feel intimidated at all. Not because I find my looks as remarkable as you find yours. Quite to the contrary, it's because I have had so much practice in accepting the way I look ever since I realized that I don't need to go to Europe to find out that I am not that good looking :-)

Morteza at November 2, 2004 10:12 AM [permalink]:

How about this? Missing the opportunities ( of any kind ) in your home country if any.

I've not finished reading comments yet, and I'm gonna read the rest tomorrow; I enjoy reading them.

FToI Editorial Board at November 2, 2004 04:25 PM [permalink]:

We would like to apologize to one of our readers who had posted a comment on this article under the Pseudonym "Neo". The comment was inadvertently deleted while we were trying to remove some spam comments off our website. The text of the comment is hereby reproduced as it had been originally posted:


What's your next step, then? Changing your name to Samantha? After all, most of your friends are changing their names to Pam, Sam, Ben, Mo, Mike, Ken, Ron, Meg, etc. If you don't get it look at the cover page of one of those Persian papers in North America that's full of ads from your look-alikes.

Many people choose to move to Canada or any other place on planet earth because they have well studied in advance what that place has to offer them. "I was enjoying my life. Nothing was missing." You might have been enjoying your life back then but there were absolutely many things missing in your life - those things that you uncover in your article later on.

Obviously the number of sheeps is finite but is not zero. If you have blindly followed some other "friends" and you have absoultely no idea what you are doing in life rather than following your "friends", I strongly suggest that you change your name to Samantha and live happily (and well temporarily!) ever after in your dreamland Canada.

heydarbaba at November 2, 2004 11:04 PM [permalink]:
The mother of all the facts is that we Iranians have a collective life style as opposed to the individualistic life style of many western countries. This is not easy to give up and while we do enjoy the fruits of individualistic life style of these western countries, we never completely adjust to it and this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all we have seen two different life styles both of which have their own ups and downs, we simply try to utilize the positive sides of both systems in our personal lives. However our relatives are back in Iran and there is not much we can do about that; therefore we enjoy the individualistic aspects of life in these countries but miss the collective part and it is this missing that could break us. Then there are other issues we will encounter. First , our perception of these countries more often than not is not very real. These countries do a good job to make us believe that their sh-t doesn't stink, that everybody is so happy here, life is all smiles and rosy, that they are better looking than us, that our women are fat and theirs are thin and healthy, that their blue eyes are better than our brown eyes and that they treat their women like queens and we treat our women like possessions and the list goes on and on...Then we come to a place like America and see things that they never had in their brochures or catalogs. We see people here eat lot more and they grow tall and wide, in other words we see so many fat and over weight women and men that we had never seen them in the Hollywood movies they showed us or in their magazines, we see the same white skin people who boasted about their lighter complexion sun bathe for hours to get sun tan even though they risk getting skin cancer. It makes you wonder if their white skin was so precious why do they go to that extent to get a tan and look like us the brown skin people. Then we read that in America every 18 seconds a woman is beaten up by her boy friend or husband majority of whom have to be hospitalized. Ouch...We thought it was us who was supposedly so violent with our women and now , here in America we see our neighbor beating the living daylights out of his wife and we feel flabbergasted. We will encounter some who simply won't care much for us and we are not used to that. We thought that if you were nice to someone he/she would be nice to you and yet this person doesn't give a rat's tail about us. But none of these negative expriences stops us from enjoying the ease with which we can get a driver license, rent an apartment, open a checking account and down the road get a credit card, find a job , be it a cashier in a store or a teaching job, it doesn't matter, it gives us the purchasing power to some extent to go and buy a car and take a picture and send it to our folks back home. My first car was a rinky dinky 1969 Volkswagon but that didn't stop me from posing for a picture in front of it and sending it to my friends back home. We Iranians are smart enough to enjoy the fruits of the system but we seem also smart enough not to forget the positives of our system and that gives us a mixed feelings. None of the negatives that we see about us is strong enough to make us go back home, at least that is my experience in the last so many years. But it is only when the fun and the honeymoon is over and the rat race kicks in that we ask ourselves I really belong here?..some go back because they don't want their kids, specially their daughter ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Morteza at November 3, 2004 02:40 AM [permalink]:

I just want to add this to what heydarbaba mentioned in his/her nice comment.
You are the one who would like to use the positive points of both cultures; that's OK, and no one can tell you why you do that. This is your life, and choice is yours.

However, the stroy begins to change when you've got children ( except the ones who don't want to get married, or they don't want have children ). Sometimes ( let's say always ), it's important for parents to have a good relationship with their children. Isn't that a bit hard when your children are grown up in a western country or in a country where the culture and some other things are different from yours? There's a solution here. You let your children to use the advantages of ONLY one culture. Some people can do that, but some cannot.

In my opinion the situation gets worse when you try to grow up your children on your own culture when they face with another culture every moment of their life; let's call '2 havayi shodan'.

Neo at November 3, 2004 11:03 AM [permalink]:

Apologies accepted.

SG at November 4, 2004 02:28 PM [permalink]:

Immigration! Human beings have always immigrated, but before the invention of airplanes, it's been harder for them to go back to their homelands. And not everybody could afford living the nomadic life of a professional tourist! So they'd move on with their lives in the new place, declared it as their new *home*, developed emotional attachments to it, and basically got over it all. They would probably fantasize and dream about the old home, but they were not as confused about whether to go back or stay. They simply didn't have the choice.

Another thing, this one related to Iranians, is that they have no experience of being part of a *community*, the way this word is understood in America. They expect to be served, without having to give back to the community, or knowing how to do so. So they regard both the host country and their own original country as made beds they'd be jumping on. They think they should only compare the beds and whichever gives them more comfort, they should choose that one. The idea that they too can make a difference in how the bed is made is absent. So they never feel at home here, in democratic societies, while some other immigrants are happy to consider it their home here and, as Arash said, all their talk about how they love their old home is just to be politically correct.

Casandra Smith at March 7, 2005 11:44 PM [permalink]:

I have a culture teacher who is very nice named Mrs. Assefi. She came from Iran and said she loved it their. She still goes back there to visit her children but she gave all that up just to teach us.
thank you Mrs. Assefi I really do appreciate it and I'm shure alot of ther people in culture do too.
ur a great teacher.
ur loving student,
Casandra Smith
hoobam merci shoma?

P.S. I loved the movie about the Iranians . It is a great mvie. I was sad to see that the girl cut off her hair just to help her family that was really nice of her/him

thanks again
Casndra Smith

SG at April 12, 2005 09:32 AM [permalink]:

To see a sample of what I mean by "giving back to the community", carefully listen to the following:

P.S. Casandra: What the hell are you talking about?

saeed at October 23, 2006 02:01 AM [permalink]:

سلام شما خوبید من واسه ادامه تحصیل مشکل مدرک gre دارم می خواستم شما می تونید در زمینه کمکم کنید.