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Monday, April 20, 2015

A New American Emigrant Tells His Story

Colm Fitzgerald's article Why I left the US to Seek My American Dream in Hungary is a look into the mind of a recent US emigrant.

It's a thoughtful piece with no bitterness or anger that I could detect.  Nor was leaving the US something that he decided to do one day on a whim.  He and his spouse weighed the pros and cons and made their decision.  And he's very honest about his ambivalence now: "Every day since arriving here in Hungary I’ve questioned my decision."

Why did Fitzgerald and his wife leave the United States for Hungary?  To find the American Dream, he says.  And what does he mean by that?

Property:  He and wife dream of owning a home and land but it’s expensive in California and they are not willing to go into debt to finance that dream. “However, the idea of working for 30 years to pay thousands of dollars a month for a home sounded like a prison sentence to me. I’ve seen firsthand how a family’s whole world falls apart when someone can no longer pay that crippling mortgage.”

Independence:  Owning property outright (no debt) means taking back some control over their lives.  It is protection against larger impersonal forces moving in the world.   Having a piece of land, he says, means having “ a place we could grow our own food, raise animals and try our best to lead a more grounded lifestyle. To be independent of worldwide financial markets, politics and a system that fails us in favor of corporate profits at every turn.”

These are two dreams with a long and noble pedigree in North American history.  How were my French ancestors enticed into going to Canada in the 17th century?  Land.   They were given land they could own outright and farm.  As for self-sufficiency, that ideal runs through American literature from the books of  Laura Ingalls Wilder to the essays of  Henry David Thoreau.

Fitzgerald is not saying that he can't have these things in the United States;  he's saying that the price he is being asked to pay is too high, and the risks are too great.  Working for a corporation to reimburse the expensive mortgage on a piece of land isn't freedom, it's just another form of slavery.

Hungary, however, just might be a place where flexible work, affordable land, and independence can be had on better terms.  Fitzgerald has cast himself on that distant shore with the one thing all migrants all over the world share:  hope.


Anonymous said...

This is all about location. There are still places in the US where land and housing is cheap or very reasonable. California is insane.
Even if you pick one of these places where you can achieve the American Dream of ownership, there are other factors that may make you change your mind, that are not there in many other countries:
In the US, you are one emergency away from bankruptcy, be it a medical emergency or a lawsuit for some stupid reason.
The question becomes "do you accept to take the risk of loosing everything you worked for in a heartbeat"

I understand his point of view, but he's comparing apples and oranges. You can't compare a piece of land in California with a piece of land in Hungary. You could compare it with a piece of land on the French Riviera.

Blaze said...

I agree there are places in the US with very affordable housing prices.

My mother's four bedroom home on a large property in a small Pennsylvania sold less than two years ago for $45,000.

There are homes in Detroit that the owners have trouble giving away, I understand Chinese investors apmay be interested in those.

It seems there must be more to his reasons for moving to Hungary,

But, it really does not matter why he migrated. It was his right and decision to do so. I just hope IRS and FATCA do not make like unbearable for this couple. I wonder if they are having any difficulty banking in Hungary.

Blaze said...

I should have read the article before commenting. There is more to his story. He actually wants less--less stress, less chaos, fewer demand and more simplicity.

He could find that in rural Pennsylvania and probably many other places. However, they also want to be close to family--either hers or his. That is a great thing for young people to want.

It sounds like he is beginning to settle in Hungary despite the qualms. I just hope he has no trouble banking there.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

@Blaze and anonymous, Yes, there are places with cheaper land in the US.

But I can see why he and his wife didn't do that.

When I was in my 20's I had spemt my entire life in Seattle and the idea of moving to Pennsylvania would have never occured to me. That was clear across the country - in a sense it WAS another country and I had no friends or family there. But moving to Paris meant both those thngs. So it was easier to move to France than to other regions of the US.

I hope he doesn't have banking problems either. He was born in Ireland so he may escape some of the problems the rest of us are having.