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Which country would you immigrate to, to achieve your dream?

Explanation

Today, we dive into the diverse world of immigration. Being a Canadian-born child of immigrants, having lived in the USA and now living in Greece, I view America as a land filled with opportunities, but Greece is my preferred choice because of the live-and-let-live attitude that has left the USA, but exists there. But remember, this is just one perspective. Many countries worldwide have their unique charm, an exception might be North Korea, where immigration may not be a great idea. 

In this piece, we’ve handpicked stories from five different countries, intentionally leaving out the USA, Canada, and the UK. Not that they aren’t wonderful nations to shift to, but to broaden our horizons and explore the immigrant experience from a less traditional viewpoint. We also hope to steer clear of the usual ‘Californication’ perspective of society.

Also, we’ve chosen to tell more personal stories instead of resorting to objective “studies”. We believe in sharing the tales of ordinary people that can reach across the prevailing divides of privilege.

Giannis expressing admiration for his Greek and Nigerian background

"Being in Greece, you’re not Greek enough. I know who I am, it’s other people’s opinion. When you’re young, it might bother you. You’re not Greek enough, there’s no way, your parents are Nigerian and you don’t have the same skin as us. Going to my Nigerian friends in the African neighborhood in Greece, ‘you are not Nigerian enough, do you speak the language, do you understand Yoruba, do you understand Igbo’, which I don’t but it doesn’t stand in the way of where I’m from,”

Giannis was sometimes seen as a stranger in his native Athens, experiencing this from various perspectives. In the quote above he recalls these memories when asked about his attitude towards the nickname ‘Greek Freak,’ nonchalantly negating any discomfort with it. 

Across our globe, billions have migrated to another country or another distinctive region in their own country, many holding dual nationalities like Greek-Nigerian, or in my case, American-Canadian-Greek. It’s fair to say that unscientifically speaking and picking a random number out of thin air, around 89.3% of these individuals can relate to Giannis’ journey, just as I was always deemed Canadian when I did something right and Greek when I did something wrong growing up in Canada, and my Greek friends sometimes claiming the opposite as true. Now that I’m In Greece I’m an American when I do something wrong or don’t follow local ‘rules’ and Greek when I do something good.

Regardless of the reason whether it’s values/religion, skin color, language, nationality, or politics – the experience is universal. Importantly, this mindset is essential for surviving and thriving in environments where one may feel like an outsider. As demonstrated by Giannis, such experiences can foster resilience and tolerance. That’s how things are.

In case you’re unfamiliar with him, Giannis is widely hailed as the world’s greatest active Basketball player, as he recently signed the most lucrative contract in the history of the NBA. Admittedly two people by the first name of Nikola and Joel, both American immigrants, can also claim to be the greatest basketball player alive. In a show of nationalism/national pride, this author will lean towards Giannis but tell you to place the other two aforementioned Basketball stars as equals.

Born to Nigerian parents who had immigrated to Greece, albeit illegally/undocumented for a chance at a better life, it was here that he was discovered and nurtured into the successful NBA player that he is today. As a result of his parent’s immigration status, the law dictated that only at 18 could Giannis become a citizen of Greece, which he did, affirming what he felt in his heart. One day Nigerian citizenship also seems likely. Imagine growing up having citizenship in no country, as Giannis did.

Spiros Velliniatis, a Greek-German, is the man behind Giannis’ discovery and transformation into a global Basketball superstar. Originally, Giannis was more interested in soccer, as is common with many kids around the world – or football, as it’s known everywhere else except Northern America. Spiros, who played Basketball in Germany and was an assistant coach for a local Greek team, saw Giannis’ potential and steered him toward basketball. Although Spiros’ compelling journey could have made an intriguing addition to our tales, it’s Giannis’ story that truly stands out here. Remember, this is the same Giannis who as a teenager contributed to his family’s income by selling CDs on the streets. Fast forward to today, Giannis, after just over a decade, has risen to such success that he can now buy entire music publishing companies, far more than just selling CDs.

Speaking of music, the world’s most famous musician born to Greek parents who emigrated from a Greek-speaking nation is George Michael, whose music can be enjoyed here.

Greek Freak

Nora Fatehi dreaming if India frm her Toronto apartment AI

"My family is from Morocco, and I was born and raised in Canada, but I'm an Indian at heart, for sure."

Despite the allure of Hollywood, there is a world of cinematic excellence on the otherside of the world called Bollywood – India’s much-celebrated film industry, penned using the former name of the city of Mumbai, Bombay.  Born in Montreal, Canada to Moroccan born parents, Nora Fatehi identifies as Moroccan-Canadian. However, life took a different turn when her father left the family and she temporarily halted her university education, only to later stumble upon a talent that would change her life—belly dancing, a dance she mastered by watching YouTube videos.

How often do we hear about parents endorsing belly dancing as a direct ticket to fame and success? Probably very little. Despite facing this, Nora threw caution to the wind, dropped her university education in Toronto, and traveled to a country with no direct link to her background—India. It was here she got her chance on an Indian reality TV show contest almost a decade ago, by dancing her way to victory.

Fast forward to the present day: Nora is now a household name in Bollywood with several notable credits to her name. With a net worth soaring into the millions, she stands as an epitome of success, doing what she loves and loving what she does. Her story goes to prove that limiting beliefs do not always hold. While Canada is globally praised as an immigrant’s haven and rightfully so, it was this Canadian-born talent who had to journey miles across continents to truly realize her ambitions and her joy.

You can watch Nora here.

Nora Fatehi

AI envisioning Basilica Kylian Mbappe drinking coffee simultaneously in Algeria, Paris and Cameroon

"Those who talk about the sacrifices that they make throughout a career, I do not understand too much. For me, the real sacrifice would be getting up early in the morning to work."

The global enthusiasm created by the World Cup of Football/Soccer transforms even those with minimal interest in the sport into fans. Before the last tournament, this author could only name four soccer players – Pele, Maradona, Ronaldo, and Messi. These superstars left an indelible imprint on soccer.  However, after witnessing the Gold Medal match between Argentina and France, a new name was added to this short but “illustrious” list – Kylian Mbappé. Even in a losing effort, Mbappé’s extraordinary speed and skill on the pitch have not just stuck in the author’s memory, but also fuelled a newfound enthusiasm for the game, even as an extremely casual viewer. Checking the stats page a day after showed what a goal-scoring machine the young French star is.

We mentioned earlier that boxers aren’t known for their humility, but neither are Football players no matter how much FIFA tries. But the humble quote above from Kylian feels unforced and unfiltered because you have to understand this phenomenon’s roots. Mbappe was born in the poorest district of Paris to a Cameroonian father and an Algerian mother, with both of his parents having immigrated to France. Lucky for him, sports are in his bloodline. His mother was a handball star, his adopted older brother plays professional football, and his younger brother is also a soccer player. As a 16 year old in 2015 playing Division 1 soccer for Monaco he surpassed certain team records while also being their youngest-ever player. This year he earned more than 110 million USD on the soccer field not including endorsements, the most by far of any player in Europe and the fourth highest overall globally with the others above him playing in the USA and Saudi Arabia. Not bad for a kid born in the slums of Paris, and good for the parents who realized their dreams as well. 

Since music brings the world together let’s listen to a French musician with African roots, embodying the significant contribution African immigrants have made in France.

Kylian Mbappé

AI imagining Robero Duran in his prime fighting outdoors in Panama

"Everybody says it: black, white; everybody calls me a legend. Italians, Jews. Everybody.”

Boxers aren’t known for their humility, which is part of the entertainment. You won’t get Michael Jordan for example saying anything remotely close to the above quote, or else jeopardizing his billion-dollar fortune. That’s what makes each corner, and each individual of the world unique.

Can you think of a professional boxer who has remained a powerful and feared figure in this relentless sport for five decades, from the ’60s to the ’00s?  Only two names come to mind—this man and George Foreman, who is perhaps more renowned today for promoting his fat-free grill. Roberto on the other hand was forced into retirement at the age of 50 due to a severe car accident in Argentina in October 2001.  Just like the fictitious character Rocky Balboa, if not for this incident, Roberto might have been boxing well into his 70s.  Roberto has five world titles spanning four weight classes, placing him firmly within the top ten of any enthusiast’s list of history’s best boxers. 

This story is a little unique, because Roberto’s dad, a US citizen born to Mexican parents was stationed as an army cook in Panama when he met Roberto’s mother but got called back to the USA before Roberto was born. Nevertheless, this makes Roberto born to an immigrant father with both Mexican and American roots running through his veins having first succeeded in Panama.

Here’s a fascinating tidbit about Panama- a nation of nearly 4.5 million inhabitants, it ranks among the top 15 globally in terms of the number of skyscrapers. To offer some context, were Panama a city in the USA, it would position itself as the seventh most developed, with most cities ahead of it boasting a larger population. This vibrant country, steeped in rich history, is recognized for housing arguably the world’s most critical waterway. Its breathtaking oceanside vistas attract migrants from every corner of the globe. This perfect blend of modernity, heritage, and natural beauty is what makes Panama truly unique.

In terms of music let’s enjoy the sounds of Rubén Blades, Panama’s great export to the city of New York.

Roberto Durán

Lupita Nyong'o mexican kenyan heritage as imagined by AI

"It's only when you risk failure that you discover things. When you play it safe, you're not expressing the utmost of your human experience”

Lupita Nyong’o’s name may not ring familiar to every movie enthusiast, however she had sizeable supporting roles in two of the largest movie franchises, Marvel and Star Wars and won an Academy award for her role in ’12 Years a Slave’. What makes Lupita’s story unique is the country her parents chose to immigrate to and the country that she chose to immigrate to. Both are wonderful places not associated with immigration, but should be.  Born to Kenyan parents who emigrated to Mexico, she later reconnected with her roots and chose Kenyan citizenship.

Looking at her quote above, if everyone stuck to the safe path, would there be progress or evolution? The likely answer is no. Even more significant is the question: can an individual really experience personal growth or attain fulfillment without occasionally venturing into the risky zone? The answer is probably still no, and this lady took tremendous risks trying to achieve her dreams in the often judgemental realm of Hollywood. Keeping with the family theme here, a dream may not be a job, it can be as simple as finding a great place to raise a family allowing your children to blossom.

Kenya is also rich in music as can be attested by Grammy winner Estelle, whose paternal roots are Kenyan.

Lupita Nyong’o

Eurohoops (Giannis Antentokoumpo), Vice (Giannis Antentokoumpo), Pink Villa (Nora Fatehi), Soccer Biography (Kylian Mbappé), Biography (Lupita Nyong’o), Washington Post (Roberto Duran)

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