“Hedge”, you will be interested to know, is not just a box-shaped, generally ugly leafy bush growing by the sides of gardens and streets. It is also a verb, as in “to hedge”. In academic jargon:

“Since options are affected by changing contexts, agents may also choose a flexible approach. They may keep options open, in other words, hedge… [hedging] is only possible under particular conditions and as a temporary strategy.”

I was struggling over my reading this weekend when this sentence quoted above hooked me… ahhh, so that is what I am doing, I am hedging. And I didn’t even know it.

Immigrants, in my experience, fall into two categories, the hedgers and the non-hedgers. I am a classic example of a hedger. We keep our options open in our home country, while tentatively dipping feet in the cold Canadian waters. We hang on to our old jobs, houses, businesses, networks for as long as possible while struggling to build a new life in Canada. Our return tickets are always within reach.

But there are also a large group of non-hedgers, or, as I used to think of them, the bridge-burners. These people  liquidate everything they have before they set foot in Canada, and step out of Pearson International singing “O Canada”- or they would if they knew the words. I don’t understand, how can anybody envisage so clearly that they never want to live in their home country, ever again? We are not speaking of refugees, who are forced to leave their countries. We are speaking of upper middle class people who had successful professional lives in their home country (otherwise, they wouldn’t meet the immigration criteria, obviously), and who willingly give all that up, converting it into Canadian dollars before leaping into planes crossing the Atlantic.

And yet, and yet. It is clear that the bridge-burners have greater incentives to `make a success`-however you define success and where the grinding loneliness and homesickness which is the lot of the first-generation immigrant fits in. It is clear that the hedgers, both practically, by keeping a large portion of their funds back home, and emotionally, invest less in becoming `Canadian`, and by the very fact they have kept some escape routes open to themselves, may be more likely to take advantage of those routes.

However, hedgers will do well to bear in mind, and here I am principally addressing myself, that as noted by the scholar above, hedging can only be a temporary option.  You cannot keep your finger in two pies, as it were, for a sustainable period of time.

Time is running out, newcomer. You have some time left, but not a lot. Soon you will have to decide how long you want to remain a newcomer.


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