Beyond borders: Expatriates’ testimonies on Dhaka
We all have family and friends who leave the country to seek better job opportunities, education, or a better quality of life. Their lives might sound like a dream, but that very dream comes with multiple ups and downs. Be it for many years or just for a short while, these individuals yearn (and don't yearn) for some things about Dhaka.
Farah, living abroad for five years and now working full time, is very pleased with how friendly people are in Canada but the amiability does not compensate for its lack of flavour. Farah struggles to find a taste of the city in a foreign land. Dhaka's street food and traditional food are truly something that Bangalee students and expats search for everywhere.
Rafid, currently in his mid-fifties living in Melbourne and working in corporate, expresses the extent of how much he misses traditional Bangalee food, "When I came to Dhaka a few months ago, I was very disappointed at being served deshi Chinese."
What he craved was homemade food, the delicacies of Nazira Bazaar, and the variety and flavour of Bangalee food that you cannot find in Melbourne.
Rumman, an undergraduate student also in Canada who is currently in her first co-op programme, talks about no longer having the privilege and luxury of coming home to a family with a warm, home-cooked meal on the table. She misses the simple, everyday things like rickshaw rides, tehari, visiting friends, going on walks with her father at Dhanmondi Lake and such.
Many of us have preconceived notions of what America or Canada look like thanks to pop culture but no one ever tells you how deafeningly silent (literally) it can get sometimes in these regions.
Anika, who also lives in Canada and is in her early forties, misses the vibe and the chaos of the capital. Dhaka's chaos, the loud honking of cars and the incessant yelling competition between bus and truck drivers are truly things you begin to miss when you can hear yourself breathing 24/7, she says.
So, you might ask, why not just move back? Although the feelings of loneliness and homesickness can be overwhelming, moving back to Bangladesh is not the best option especially when you are trying to build a career.
Muhtasim, who immigrated to America in 2018 and currently works full-time as a marketing analyst for a media advertising agency, sheds light on this, "It wouldn't make sense for my career. Even if I could work remotely, there are several advantages of living in America that I do not want to trade."
That is not to say he does not think fondly about his life in Dhaka, especially his undergraduate days. Despite his sentiments, he is satisfied with the time he lived in Dhaka and is well aware that he will not get it back.
Sue, who has been in America for 13 years and working in medical management, shares a similar perspective with Muhtasim about how American society is less judgemental. In Dhaka, Sue says she had a debilitating self-awareness because she felt like she was constantly judged.
She elaborates, "I don't miss being judged and constantly being held to pointless societal standards. There is a strong culture in Bangladesh for basing someone's self-worth on what others think of them. I definitely do not miss that."
These testimonies all give light to aspects we hold close to our hearts and things we do not appreciate about living in Dhaka. It all boils down to what we are looking for and where we fit in, and it's okay. So, acknowledge that while many of us miss Dhaka, it's not always the best place for us to grow.