Epigraph: There is a joke that goes as follows: Two former party members are speaking and one of them says: "You know, my friend, the saddest thing is that all we have been told about the Soviet Union was a lie." The other one responds: "No, comrade, the saddest thing is that everything we were told about America was true."
In my opinion, the difference between an immigrant from the former USSR and, say, a Spanish-speaker is that while a Latino/a immigrates to Canada, US, or any other concrete country, my compatriots usually emigrate to heaven, to paradise, to the Kingdom of God. Years of Soviet propaganda (which in the last decades of the regime nobody believed any more) created a curious set of expectations: we thought that everything that we were told had to be analyzed as if the exact opposite were true. They say America is hell, then the truth must be it's paradise.
I can't tell you how many times I have heard my compatriots complain about North America not being as close to heaven as they had been led to expect. People feel genuinely cheated when they discover that there are, indeed, problems in American society. The following conversation, for example, is a staple in the Russian-speaking immigrant community: "Can you imagine that somebody was rude to me today in a store? This is unbelievable!" "What's unbelievable about somebody being rude?" "Well, weren't we told that nobody is rude in other countries?" Some people might think that I'm exaggerating, but what I'm quoting is a real conversation I've had several times over the years.
The same reaction of being personally offended and cheated out of one's long-held beliefs accompanies the realization that you can sometimes see garbage in American streets ("Weren't we told that they wash their streets with shampoo every day?"), that not everybody can afford a new house and a new car as soon as they arrive ("Weren't we told that everybody is very rich in America?"), that microwaves and coffee-makers sometimes break ("Didn't they tell us that American goods are the best? I've had this coffee-maker for only 5 years, and it broke down on me already"), that you sometimes have to wait for hours for the electrician to arrive - as I'm doing right now ("How is this even possible in America?"), that there are thieves who can steal your wallet ("I could understand if it happened to me back in Russia, can you believe that I was robbed in America of all places!"), and so on.
I wish my compatriots had a more realistic understanding of America. If they knew what North America is like, if they could evaluate how easy or how difficult it would be for them to adapt not to a heavenly place where nobody has any problems but to real countries that have many unresolved issues and that are populated by real people who are sometimes (believe it or not) dishonest and rude, I have no doubt that many people would never decide to emigrate.