Different

There’s a great scene in The Farewell where a Chinese hotel worker asks the visiting Chinese-American main character which is better: China or America? But she can’t really come up with a satisfying answer.

“Uh… they’re different.”
“What do you mean different? It must be nicer over there.”
“It’s just … I don’t know, different.”

And that’s how I feel about New Zealand compared to America.

But I don’t mean to damn with faint praise. I am so enthusiastic about New Zealand that I sometimes confuse and alarm my kiwi friends. Every few days, I tell my wife “Did you know we actually live in New Zealand?” and it delights us every time. The realisation that we moved here never gets old, even after three years. We love this country, and we are thriving as people and as a family. A+, would immigrate again.

But does that make it better than America? Eh. The question feels like it’s missing the point. No, it’s not better than America. “Oh, so it’s worse?” Absolutely not. The comparison just doesn’t work. It’s not better, and it’s not worse. Here are two tangible examples to record on your country scorecard.

As kiwis, we have nationalised healthcare. As American I feel like I’m getting away with something every time I go to the doctor and they don’t ask for my insurance or give me a big bill. So that’s “better” than America, sure.

On the other hand, wages are much lower. And goods like shoes and clothing are surprisingly expensive. (Also, there’s no Amazon!) So that means you have less spending money while many goods are more expensive. So you can easily call that “worse” than life in America.

And where does that leave you? It’s like comparing friends. Your buddy Scott is great to talk to when you’re making big life decisions, and Seth can make you laugh no matter how you’re feeling. Anna has a brilliant mind for strategy and Jessica is the best road trip buddy in the world. So which friend is better? It doesn’t seem fair to say “all of them,” but that’s my best answer.

I was born in Germany, grew up as an American on its east coast, and lived my adult life on its west coast. Now I’m planning on becoming a New Zealand citizen as soon as we’re legally allowed. I can’t pick favourites but I will say I’m grateful for every place that has been kind enough to welcome me in.

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