One of the morning television programmes that I occasionally watch when faffing around in the kitchen is about families who're considering emigrating from Britain to Australia, or occasionally to New Zealand. The programme makers whisk them off to some sun-soaked, beachside city and they spend a week there investigating Antipodean life.
It's always warm and sunny. They stay in a spacious, open-plan house with a pool. They live the outdoor life most of the time but also investigate job opportunities and the price of houses and the cost of living. At the end of the week, they decide whether they would like to emigrate or not. Very often - since these are people who have been thinking of making a new life down under for some time - they decide on Australia.
But then they're shown a recording of their families and friends back home, saying (usually) how much they'd miss them and how they don't want them to go. The parents sometimes say nobly through their tears that of course the family must do what's best for them and if they feel that the opportunities are better in Australia, then they must go. But it's obvious that everyone's terribly upset at the idea. And you see the prospective emigrants, sitting on their Australian sofa in the lounge room, weeping also.
But after some wiping of tears, they go back out into the sunshine and say that they're going anyway.
I find this bewildering. While I realise that sunshine is nice, we do have good weather here too sometimes, and beautiful countryside, and interesting places to visit. I'm sure Australia and New Zealand are lovely. But why would anyone want to leave their families and friends to go so far away? This is a genuine question, not a rhetorical one.
Quite a few Australians and Americans read this blog and presumably they're mainly descended from emigrants. I wonder if you have a genetically inherited spririt of adventure? I myself am a deeply cautious person, which is doubtless a flaw, and would never leave the people and places that I know. But more than this, I could never have done it to my parents. And yet there are emigrants in my family - my grandmother's sister went to America before the First World War and my grandfather on the other side was all set to go to Australia, as I've mentioned before, only his mother begged him not to.
I tried to instill this spirit of homebodyness into my children in the attempt to make them stay by our side, though this hasn't worked terribly well, with Daughter 2 in London and Son in Perth (in Scotland). But I really don't think they would go to live at the other side of the world. It would break my heart if they did and they know this. And so I watch these people - very pleasant-seeming people - deciding that their loved ones' feelings don't matter*; and I am astonished.
(*Yes, RR, this was badly put and I apologise. I suppose I mean that their loved ones' feelings do seem to matter (hence the tears) but not so much as the benefit that they feel they'll derive from this new life. And I'm talking about whole families going - taking the offspring and grandchildren of two extended families - for no obvious reason (or, not obvious in the programmes): not love, not really employment, not poverty: just a yen to go somewhere with more sunshine. I can quite see that some people do have genuine reasons for going abroad, like falling in love. But these people don't seem to have. In fact, they usually find that house prices are higher, the cost of living is also higher and pay isn't any better. But they still seem determined to go. Of course, it's a tv programme and there may be lots of reasons behind the scenes that we don't see.)
I know, I know: it wouldn't do if everyone was like me. We'd all be living in the same cave and it would be getting very crowded.
But - could you do it? Did you do it? What did it feel like?