Sunday, April 11, 2010
Dubai vs. Toronto: Part 5 - Dubai or Toronto?
Part 1: The Myths of Dubai
Part 2: The Harsh Truth Facing Immigrants to Canada
Part 3: Living in Toronto
Part 4: The Islamic and Cultural Aspect
Part 5: Dubai or Toronto?
This has been a fun series. However, just a small housekeeping note: What I said throughout has been my experiences and from my perspective (er, it's my blog after all). I accept that other people can have equally valid but completely different perspectives.
In the Love Showdown series of Archie comics, Archie - when asked to choose between Betty and Veronica - ends up choosing Cheryl Blossom. In many ways, Toronto is Betty and Dubai is Veronica, and Archie - well he just got back from New York! :-D
One of the big pluses of Dubai is that crime is generally very low. We never kept our gold in safety deposit boxes in banks, nor did our houses have alarm security systems. Risks of home invasion or robberies were very minute. While the rich Arab students had access to drugs, your average brown student whose father would get upset if the kids got 98% in Maths was relatively secluded from the seedier side of high school teenage life.
Another fact that sounds paradoxical is that since you do not have a vote, since you don't have politics, some things actually run smoother! The government of Dubai did not debate in parliament and hold public meetings for years and wrangle amongst various government departments for funding for a subway system. They needed one, they went ahead and built one. Environmental concerns be damned. So what if Dubai is broke? Your taxes ain't going up. Similarly, their waterfront is a pleasure to visit (just ignore the coral reefs destroyed through all the dredging for the man made islands). Again, you don't have to worry too much about politics - people are mostly concerned about their own lives and the average Joe (or Ahmed) in Dubai leads a fairly comfortable life. I know it sounds a tad selfish but in Dubai, none of my taxes went to pay for people who were not bothered to seek work but were content to mooch off others.
So, why do many of us immigrants refuse to leave Toronto to return to Dubai? How in ten years have we managed to put down roots here that we could never have even after 20 or 40 years in Dubai?
The freedom of speech is, even if it is unapparent, a big factor. Human beings are designed to be free, by default. Even Allah says in the Quran that humans are given free will, something that differentiates us from the angels. Even if most people (like senior brown folk) are not concerned about Canadian politics or world events, it's something they unknowingly value.
Crime may be low in Dubai, but as I walk down the street a policeman (or worse, a local) may look at me the wrong way and I could get in trouble as an expat. The law is fluid there, depending on who is in trouble, and if I am in trouble, I am screwed. Here in Canada, in the general sense and all usual cases, unless I do something wrong, the law can't touch me. There's due process. I have gone to traffic court and testified against the Crown, and the policeman prosecuting me lost the case. I could never imagine this in Dubai. The government tells you to pay a fine, you just do it. And you hope never to get into trouble. Much less with a local.
Another big plus in my opinion is the blue passport. After three years in the country, Canada adopts you as one of her own. The whole citizenship ceremony, from starting with a form to taking the oath in court to obtaining the passport is deeply cherished amongst immigrants. The Canadian citizenship remains a highly valued one in the world and it's relatively easy to get. It's a tie that holds people here. They belong and are free to put down roots.
And put down roots they do. Houses are bought (no 99-year lease nonsense) and businesses are opened (no 51% local share crap) - this even without citizenship. And then, you pay taxes - and then worry about how those taxes get used - and now you are involved into thinking about how the country is run - your right as a citizen. You are now participating in the great Canadian experiment.
For me, personally, given all the plus and minuses, I choose to remain here for my own personal reasons.
For me, all my family and friends are here in Toronto. If I uproot myself to Dubai, it will be tough to go to a place, even if it's not completely foreign, and build a social network from scratch. Plus, I find that Bengalis living in Dubai have a very different mentality and way of thinking compared to Bengalis here.
Plus, there's really nothing to do in Dubai! I am not the type of guy to visit mall after mall - all malls look alike to me. In terms of recreation, I could probably do what I do here - bowling, cricket, ski (er not really in Dubai - sorry!). But sports and recreation facilities are top notch here - not to mention cycling tracks and Ontario probably the best outdoors for fishing, hiking etc.
Moreover, as someone who likes to travel, if I were in Dubai, I would have to fly out to somewhere - here I can go to lots of interesting places by road that are nearby. And every place here is different. You have the great and historical cities of the world - such as Montreal, New York, Washington, all some driving distance away.
Weather - half the year in Dubai it's really too hot to do anything. Here - summer is pleasant for lots of activities - and we have specific winter activities like skiing, curling and skating. I really enjoy the differences in seasons we get here. Now if only we could have the winter we had this year every year ...
In short, and to conclude ...
I really like Toronto. It may not be as glamorous as Manhattan or as fashionable as Paris or as in the news as Dubai - but it's home.