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Migration through generations

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

I am a Portuguese living in Amsterdam, daughter of Portuguese parents, born in Switzerland.

Clearly, migration runs in my veins. The desire to leave, to discover, to work and to engage with new cultures is rooted in the way I relate to myself and others.

There are many different reasons why someone migrates. And this is my question: were the reasons that led me to emigrate the same reasons that led my parents to leave their homeland?

First of all, you have to understand that migratory movements are one of the most prominent features of contemporary societies. Globalisation has contributed to intensify these movements. And, obviously, these movements have gone through different stages throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

What does this mean? It means that the reason why my parents' generation decided to emigrate is a political, social, cultural and psychological reflection of what they were experiencing at the time. And clearly, we are not living the same socio-politico-economic reality.

Just to put it into context:

The Baby Boomer generation, which represents people born between 1946 and 1964, in the post-World War II era, had hard work as their main value. So when they decided to emigrate, it was often to seek improvement in their economic status, their lifestyle and therefore to head for a new world full of opportunities. This generation, on the ohter hand, seeks the creation of stability and security.

For those born between 1965 and 1980, the Generation X, the values and ideals were based on discovery, exploration of the world, of others and of our own mind. This generation was highly influenced by remarkable idealogical phases that led them to challenge the world. The migration processes of Generation X, were based on entrepreneurship, freedom of expression and being, breaking away from the conservative ideas of the past.

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are the generation of the "arrival of the future" and the dominance of technology. This generation is seen as more creative, more concerned with social causes and more willing to break patterns. And the reason why they emigrate is clearly different from previous generations: they give more importance to education, they learn very fast, they have a great capacity to adapt and they desire professional and financial growth.

What does this tell us? Yes, our generations are different and this leads us to see migration processes in a different way too.

For my parents, and for their generation in general, the reason they left their country of origin was that they felt they needed higher financial income, more opportunities to achieve the stability they wanted so much: to get married, to have children, to have a house and perhaps even to return to their country of birth. All this before the age of thirty. They leave with the idea and the dream of returning.

For us Millennials, we leave because we feel that we live in a highly globalised world, because we have high aspirations and dreams, because we feel that we are not getting access to so many opportunities and we want more. More, more, more. We want to experience, we want to know and at the same time, we want power and recognition. We are not so focused on the ideas of marriage and building a family. We are still trying to figure out what we want in our life. We have grown up in a highly unstable world with profound changes in the way we live and, as such, openness and adaptation are important skills to develop. I have to mention that new technologies have opened many doors for us: we could see that our skills and knowledge could be more appreciated and valued in another country. So why not? The race for opportunities is tempting.

So, if on the one hand what motivates us to leave is very different, on the other hand we all end up with the same goal - to pursuit of the dream, whatever it may be.

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