Are Immigrants Happy?

There are different reasons why we decide to leave our home country to engage in the adventure of moving into the land of hope. Although there are as many stories as there are immigrants, we all have the pursuit of happiness in common.

We leave our family and friends, speak a different language and miss our food (ok, we… the cooking challenged ones at least).  We get homesick at some point. But if we could do it again, would we? According to last year’s Public Agenda’s poll, most of us would.

The survey included 1,138 immigrants. Fifty-three percent are somewhat happy with their lives in the United States. Seventy percent think they are most likely to make it their permanent home. It took 1 to under 2 years for 47% to feel comfortable and part of the community. Seventy-six percent think the United States is a unique country that stands for something special in the world and 63% believe it is possible to be successful if you work hard.

That last point being the key one, in my opinion. Many of my fellow Mexicans, for instance, don’t need me to even get started talking about working hard. But it’s all worth it because the driving force is hope. The thought of their lives being improved, their kids having better opportunities and the ability to provide for their families is what keeps them going. As different as our stories are, this optimism is the common ground that we all share. It is why 71% of us would do it all over again.

Maybe in a Maslovian kind of logic, where we need to satisfy our most basic needs before we can start ambitioning deeper ones, we find it easier to focus on our big picture in this country. If it is true, and our motivations are driven by our unsatisfied needs, it would explain why people who had to worry about bringing home the bacon, may have found new goals that weren’t a priority before. It also would explain the struggle to get adjusted to a new community since we need to have our social needs covered before we can aim for self-fulfillment. But once we belong, have friends and are loved, we can move on and look for attention and recognition, self-respect and achievement, which would lead to reaching our full potential. Maybe that makes sense or maybe there is just something special indeed about this place where optimism rubs off on us and makes us believe that the American dream is available to all of us if we keep up the positive spirit.