Sitting a few feet away from a Nigerian couple discussing the challenges and ills of American life got me thinking – ” If it’s that bad here in the United States, why don’t they pack their backs and go to the place they found so ideal that they left?” This couple at the nearby table looked so American – clothing, hairstyle, cell phones and all. They had definitely settled nicely into the American consumer culture. I can almost say with certainty that they couldn’t survive anywhere else for but so long. I listened to their long-winded complaints about working too hard and not having enough time to socialize in the United States. I listened to their unbridled longing for that vibrant, pulsating Lagos life – Oh! The parties, endless free time with relatives and such good home cooking. Not once in that conversation did I hear either party speak of going to buy a ticket to get on the next plane home.
Having grown up on the Lagos mainland myself and having done some work in Nigeria in the recent past, I wondered if this couple had traveled lately to the country they so longed for. I wondered if they had recently had an opportunity to shop for candles and flashlights being fully cognizant that this is a household staple or if they had four of five other cell phones at home because they had to try each one to see if they’d be lucky enough to reach someone in another part of the city. Most likely not, I thought as I summoned all the self-restraint I could not to interrupt their lively complaining match without being invited.
On another recent outing, I ran into two Africans (I missed their country of origin) and another recent foreign-born American citizen in a heated debate. One of the African sisters insisted that her hometown was way better than any American town any day. Her reasons weren’t much different from the couple I referred to earlier. I listened with great amusement as I perused the clothing aisles. Within what seemed like an unending several minutes, the words, “I’ll buy you a one way ticket back to your hometown.” leapt out of my mouth rather loudly. I do not know if this was out of irritation or sympathy for this woman who not only looked the gift horse in the mouth, but also proceeded to kick the gift giver. Our conversation went on quite a while then I decided to end it because I didn’t want to get accused of working for some agency that scrutinizes foreigners, especially in a time when homeland security is everything.
Many immigrants move to the United States annually for various reasons. I believe I can safely assume that we all come here to have a better life. Students come to obtain a better education; workers come to obtain a better living. Whatever the reason, I know that everyone comes to improve his or her status in some way. So, why is there so much complaining? Listening to people who willingly paid for a ticket to come to the United States berate it is deeply annoying. I wonder how many complaining immigrants really think about why they are here or is it that they are like a friend of mine who complains so bitterly about life in the United States that his wife and children have now joined him in the new house he purchased in this hateful country where he is now earning more money than he ever dreamed of? If anyone has a right to complain it should be those who came over here forcefully, against their own free will. My complaining friends…Adjust your attitude or buy a one way ticket somewhere else.