A common explanation for the incidence and development of cross-border labor are cross-border economic disparities and uneven economic developments: in border regions with high levels of cross-border labor, important growth poles with high wages and employment opportunities at a short distance at one side of the border, attract workers from a less developed side. Recently, however, geographers henk van houtum and martin van der velde have argued that this can only be part of the story. Because of “unfamiliarity” with life in bordering nation states there are invisible mental “thresholds of indifference,” that prevent an orientation towards the other side and an optimal allocation of labor across borders. In this collection of articles my co-editor, martin klatt, and i want to assess how these two approaches can be balanced in research on cross-border labor markets in europe. Is it possible to overcome the inherent tension between them? we will address the historical impact of state borders on cross-border labor mobility in borderlands. When could mental barriers of “unfamiliarity” be overcome by localized “push-and-pull”? in what circumstances could the full effect of “push-and-pull” be hampered by “unfamiliarity”?.