'Leave the country in any way you can: go to Australia, Europe, the US or anywhere for that matter but do not waste your time here…' has become the motto of the Nepalis today. The US Diversity Visa programme truly provides an exit strategy for Nepalis wanting to do just that. If you are lucky, you can go to America with your family without the need of admittance to a college or having to pay an agent. For average Nepali, it strikes as a perfect scenario. May be that is why, "Oh he is very lucky, he got the DV this year, he is going to America with his family and has already resigned from the job…." is a common conversation in any Nepali neighborhood or gatherings.
With the Internet bringing the world closer, the glamour of western life is a very effective pulling factor for Nepal’s currently suffering from political, social and economic instability. On the surface, winning a DV lottery appeals as being the perfect opportunity for a good source of employment, stability and education. It has now been more than 15 years since the DV lottery was conceptualized and many Nepal’s have been living in the US under the programme. Has the DV programme lived up to the dreams of Nepalis who got to the US as winners or have they lost everything and their dream has now become a living nightmare? I think this is the time to reconsider.
Hundreds of Nepalis from every walk of life have come to the US along with their families through the DV programme in recent years, many of them leaving behind respectable jobs. For some, especially the young, single and healthy Nepalis, who came here with the intention of working or studying hard, it has generally proved to be a good opportunity for income and education. Some of them have even been able to save some money to send back
to their families and relatives in Nepal. But for those who have had comfortable lives in Nepal, very soon they realize that to win a lottery is not always being lucky because the life here is not as easy as they dreamed of.
Most Nepalis coming to the US through DV programme choose either big cities, with more job opportunities and good public health care services, such as New York or smaller places, such as suburbs of Baltimore and Washington D.C., where the cost of living is much lower. Most of the people initially come to live with or close to someone they know from Nepal. When they arrive, all of them have dreams of further education and a good job, at least better than what they were doing back in Nepal. Often some have misconception that a lot of benefits and help await their arrival in the US.
The reality hits pretty hard not long after they arrive here. Here rents are sky high and when they start converting currencies to Nepali rupees, they start thinking twice about buying literally anything, even food. When you realize you have to work 60 hours a week of hard, unforgiving and low-paid work, just to be able to afford your apartment, spending on education becomes a luxury. When they see many other Nepalis like them engaging in
non-stop work, they realize the harsh realities of survival here and start working in whatever job they can get their hands on. In most of the cases because of the lack of fluency in English language, and no recognition of
their work experience or education in Nepal, they are unable to find a good job. Most jobs do not provide basic employee rights or benefits and demand long and arduous working hours. On the other hand the clash in culture and
lifestyle automatically separates them as outsiders and they eventually settle themselves down within the Nepalese community, which still is not hugely prominent or influential in the USA. The dream starts to fade out.
Typically many Nepalis work in fast food chains, Indian restaurants, nail and beauty parlours, and as maids or baby sitters to wealthy families. For starters, these are not very well paying jobs, usually paying around 5 dollars an hour, so people work 6 or 7 days a week and 10 to 18 hours a day. As a result, there is very little time for them to spend with the family. It may be good for those who are happy only with converting dollars into rupees, but deep down many people feel this hurts their pride and dignity
that they had in their professions or society in Nepal.
The question here is: are the DV winners really satisfied with the life in the US? If not, why are they still here, even if there is a way out by going back to Nepal? In the beginning, the promise of the dreamland full of opportunities dragged them here. Upon arrival many compulsions for survival and adjustment grab them by the neck. Over time, they forget their original identity and reputation back in Nepal and start convincing themselves that life after all is livable with what they have. Compromise becomes a part of life and does not bother anyone anymore. Otherwise it is impossible to imagine a civil engineer to be happy as a waiter in an Indian restaurant, or a renowned political leader in Nepal to be a maid in someone's house and for some landlords to share a tiny one-bedroom apartment with two other families.
Children often end up paying the biggest price. Private schools are expensive and unaffordable. The public school system in the US is based on where you live. You can send your children to the school close to where you
live. The neighborhoods where most Nepalis live are usually where rents are relatively low; hence such locations have mainly low income and unemployed families living there. The schools usually reflect the neighborhoods they are located in and in poorer neighborhoods the schools are not very good academically and discipline-wise. Sometimes the racial discrimination and bullying they face at school, especially in the early years, affects them psychologically.
Considering the fact that most Nepalis living here under the DV programme could afford the best private schools in Nepal, the education of kids here suffers a lot. On the other hand growing up with parents who are extremely
busy and don't have much time for their children and for the community, the children often lack social, moral and Nepali language skills.
People in Nepal usually boast about some of their close family members being in the US because of the DV lottery. Often they receive money and gifts from relatives in the US but not the story behind how it was earned. Sometimes Nepalis in the US do not reveal about the difficult life they have to endure because they do not want anyone in Nepal to know the whole story. Some family members that are left behind in Nepal, especially the old parents of
the DV winners, also suffer in the absence of their loved ones. Despite what people may believe, it is almost impossible for them to follow their children to the US. In some cases, the wives of DV winner husbands have to
endure years in Nepal without their husbands because they cannot follow their husbands to the US immediately.
The most common reason for many people leaving Nepal is that there is nothing to do in Nepal: there is no future and stability. It is true to some extent, but is it a good idea to abandon the house if there is something wrong, which can eventually be fixed? Seriously, do we leave our cottage to be the servant in someone's palace? So for those of you who are preparing to apply for a DV lottery and aim to come to the US, especially for all of you with a young family, think hard before you decide to say good-bye to the
loved ones, quit your job, book the flight and pack your bags. Please consider what you are about to lose and what you expect to gain.
Keeping your eyes on a bogus prize could be the biggest mistake of life.