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Saturday, July 21, 2018

An American dream outside US

Children of immigrants to the US are moving to their ancestral countries,homelands their parents once spurned but that are now economic powers

Written by New York Times | Published: April 17, 2012 2:39:31 am

Kirk Semple

Samir Kapadia seemed to be on the rise in Washington,moving from an internship on Capitol Hill to jobs at a major foundation and a consulting firm. Yet his days,he felt,had become routine.

Friends and relatives in India,his native country,all in their early- to mid-20s,were telling him about their lives in that newly surging nation. One was creating an e-commerce business,another a public relations company,still others a magazine,a business incubator and a gossip and events website.

“I’d sit there on Facebook and on the phone and hear about them starting all these companies and doing all these dynamic things,” recalled Kapadia,25,who was born in India but grew up in US. “And I started feeling that my 9-to-5 wasn’t good enough anymore.”

Last year,he quit his job and moved to Mumbai.

Highly educated children of immigrants to the US are uprooting themselves and moving to their ancestral countries,experts say. Some,like Kapadia,had arrived in the US as young children,becoming citizens,while others were born in the US to immigrant parents. This new wave underscores the evolving nature of global migration,which is presenting challenges to US supremacy and competitiveness. Many such Americans said they did not know how long they would live abroad. Their decisions to leave have troubled their immigrant parents. Yet most said they had been pushed by the dismal hiring climate in the US or pulled by prospects abroad.

“Markets are opening,people are coming up with ideas every day,there’s so much opportunity to mould and create,” said Kapadia,now a researcher at Gateway House,a new foreign-policy research organisation in Mumbai. “People here are running much faster than the people in Washington.”

For generations,the world’s less-developed countries have suffered brain drain. That has not stopped. But now,a reverse flow has begun,particularly to China and India,Brazil and Russia.

Officials in India said they had seen a sharp increase in the arrival of people of Indian descent in recent years—at least 100,000 in 2010 alone,said Alwyn Didar Singh,a former senior official at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

Many of these Americans have been able to leverage family networks,language skills and cultural knowledge gleaned from growing up in immigrant households.

Jonathan Assayag,29,a Brazilian-American born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in South Florida,returned to Brazil last year. A Harvard Business School graduate,he had been working at an Internet company in Silicon Valley. Last year,he relocated to Sao Paulo and became an “entrepreneur in residence” at a leading Brazilian venture capital firm. He is now starting an online eyewear business.

“I speak the language,I get the culture,I understand how people do business,” he said.

Calvin Chin was a Chinese-American entrepreneur in San Francisco,where he worked at technology startups and his wife was an interior decorator. They are now in Shanghai,where Chin has started two companies—an online loan service for students and an incubator for technology startups. His wife has worked as a columnist and TV anchor. “The energy here is phenomenal,” Chin said.

Reetu Jain,36,and her husband,Nehal Sanghavi,an Indian-American lawyer,moved to Mumbai in January 2011. She now works as a dance instructor and choreographer and has acted in television advertisements and a Bollywood film.

“We’re surrounded by people who just want to try something new,” Jain said.

For many of these emigres,the decision to relocate has confounded—and even angered—their immigrant parents.

Margareth Tran,whose family followed a path over two generations from China to the US by way of Cambodia,Thailand,Hong Kong and France,said her father was displeased by her decision in 2009 to relocate.

“It’s kind of crazy for him that I wanted to move to China,” said Tran,26,who was born in France and moved to the US when she was 11. “He wants me to have all the benefits that come from a first-world country.”

But after graduating from Cornell University in 2009 at the height of the recession,she was unable to find work on Wall Street,a long-held ambition. She moved to Shanghai and found a job at a Chinese-owned management consulting firm.

“I had never stepped foot in Asia,so part of the reason was to go back to my roots,” she said.

Tran said she did not know how long she would remain abroad. She said she was open to various possibilities,including moving to another foreign country,living a life straddling China and the US or remaining permanently in China.

Her father has reluctantly accepted her approach. “I told him,‘I’m going to try to make it in China,and if things work out for me in China,then I can have a really great career’,” she said. “He didn’t hold me back.”

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