Defining “near” and “far”

Chris and I had dinner tonight at his brother’s friends’ apartment downtown. They relocated to New York last year from Hong Kong. They are originally from Melbourne, but have spent the last 7+ years living in Hong Kong. The female friend’s job brought them here, and her husband came over through an internal job transfer. Both are extremely cognizant of how terrible the immigration process is to get to the U.S. Welcome to America!

It was really amusing listening to them talk about their perception of what is “near” and “far” and where they wanted to live in the future. She seems to love New York; he seems a bit more lukewarm and annoyed by how expensive things are here. He wants to move back to Melbourne eventually; she appeared repulsed by the idea unless he had some extremely glamorous and lucrative job lined up that would entice him back (he insisted that no job in Melbourne would be that amazing for her to be “wowed” by it). She seemed especially irritated by the housing market in Melbourne and fantasized about moving back to Hong Kong. But when we asked them if they would consider moving back to Australia via Sydney, they both said absolutely not. “Why would we live in Sydney? In Melbourne, the obvious draw is that family is there… but Sydney… why?” she asked. “Sydney is an hour’s flight away from Melbourne, but if we lived in Hong Kong, I could easily get back to Melbourne on an overnight flight! So I’d choose Hong Kong over Sydney easily!”

I loved hearing this. With people who are close in age to me (so, really, “millennials” if we have to label ourselves that dreadful name), there seems to be a general lack of desire to be “far” from family. What is the reason I hear the most often? Well, the opposite one of what our friend here is saying: if an emergency happens, I want to get to them right away. Well, “right away” clearly has different definitions for different people. I’m currently a five-hour flight away from San Francisco. This feels comfortable to me… I guess. The saddest and most real case in point was when I found out Ed passed away, and I immediately booked the first flight back home the next day. Our friend here is saying, “closeness” means being an overnight flight away, so maybe 8-9 hours. This response would completely throw off anyone who has given me the above argument against moving “far away” from home (and, well, their subconscious judgment of me for living 3,000 miles away from my parents). For Chris, a flight home would mean about 24 hours including transfer and layover time. For him, it seems to be enough. But that’s the thing: “near” and “far” mean very different things to different people, and it’s hard to define it as a generalization.

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