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10 things no one tells you about immigration

By September 19, 2016October 17th,

10 things no one tells you about immigration

September 19, 2016

Immigration (and preceding emigration), is a big deal. Before taking this step, we do a lot of soul-searching, reading, thinking, discussing – and most people tell us the obvious things; that we should make time for our family back home, schedule frequent visits, research the neighbourhoods, schools and culture of the new country. We have checklists and expectations – we’re ready to ship off! We know what’s going to happen, what we should expect and how to tackle everything. Or do we?

Indeed, there are some aspects of immigration which aren’t quite what you expect. We’ve rounded up 10 things no one tells you about immigration.

1. Your loyalties will split and can change quite quickly

You always have this idea that you’ll stay a {{enter suitable supporter label here}} – a Blue Bull, a Springbok, a Durbanite, a Valie, an African – you name it. But strangely, immigration tends to change some of your loyalties fairly quickly and unexpectedly.

Yes, of course you’ll always talk about home in a fond and nostalgic way – it will always be home – but immigration is very much a ‘survival of the swiftest’ game. You find that assimilation is necessary and in general this means the sooner the better. The faster you become enamoured with your new surroundings and engrossed in your new life, the easier the whole process is.

Unfortunately, this does give your loyalties to “home” a bit of a knock, but you shouldn’t feel bad about . You aren’t deserting your roots – adapting to and loving your new home is essential to your mental wellbeing and fosters a spirit of resilience. You’ll find that you become rather patriotic about your new home – it is a place you have chosen, not one where you just happened to be born.

You shouldn’t feel like the child of two divorced parents – loving your new home is good and is not a betrayal of your heritage.

2. You become more sentimental about your roots and it correlates to your level of homesickness

Despite your shifting loyalties, you will find yourself ‘turned on’, teary eyed and excited over the slightest trinket that reminds you of home. You’ll listen to Afrikaans, Zulu or Sotho jingles you’d never have listened to back home.

You find yourself obsessively flying your South African flag and celebrating South African holidays (while you pretty much just used those days as an excuse to drink beer and braai back home). Talking about the braai – you find every excuse to throw a steak on the grill and to teach your new friends and colleagues what it is to be South African.

You watch every South African match, attend every South African show – find every excuse to throw a bit of Safafrican into the conversation. So perhaps you venerate the idea of your home a bit much – maybe you are stretching the glory and beauty of your mother country to suit your state of mind and boast to your new countrymen – who cares though? Indeed, your home isn’t all sunshine and roses, but it’s necessary in life to let go of the negative and hold onto our positive experiences. If that means glorifying and exaggerating its attributes a bit, well that’s okay. Whatever makes you cope.

3. Your family and friendship dynamic changes

It’s hard to move to a new place without your extended family. For one – you no longer have a ‘babysitter’ on call. You no longer have a sister who can just drop in for a quick coffee when you’re having a tough day or a mum who can check the kids for a bit while you have that important meeting. You can no longer pop in at your best friend to ask her advice on something.

But however hard this is – you will find that immigration really strengthens the bonds between you and your spouse as well as your children. Your immediate family draws closer. You have to work together more, you will spend more time in each other’s space and make more of an effort to keep each other happy.  Although it’s not something the rest of the family wants to hear – relocation also relieves the strain of interfering relatives and who want to impose their notions of family and parenting on you.

You suddenly have the freedom to change your parenting style and recreate your family unit. You have freedom to breathe. Your dearest friends with the marital problems whom you love are still part of your life, but not so entangled in yours – the distance gives you room to breathe and bloom. Now – here on your own in a new country away from everyone – you make your own rules, your family functions to a more comfortable and natural rhythm and your bonds become unbreakable.

And another strange positive that develops from moving away from friends and family back home is that you appreciate each other more. When you phone your mum or brother you don’t have time to dwell on petty arguments and family grudges – instead you make time to discuss positive and uplifting messages. You help each other more, encourage each other more, and take the good from every interaction. When you visit your old friends, there’s no time to prattle on about silly gossip – you show each other more love and cut out all the nonsensical drivel.

4. You miss some things and people less than you thought you would

Okay – so here’s the thing. You miss some things and people an awful, awful lot when you immigrate – and that never really changes. But the surprising thing is that you miss other things you’d value before a whole lot less than you actually thought you would.

Whether it’s a good or bad thing – you will lose people you’d thought essential to your life. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of distance, and yet also essential to your growth. In a sense, relocation reminds you certain relationships aren’t meant to last, and that it’s okay if you’ve outgrown each other. Strangely – proximity seems to be a deciding factor to the durability of many relationships. You’ll either find that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or out of sight really becomes out of mind.

5. Fears about discrimination are real

The question of whether or not you will be treated kindly and fairly is top of mind during the process of relocation – and it’s become an even greater concern in recent months. With borders worldwide being flooded with refugees and nations like the USA and UK debating their immigration policies, xenophobia has reached unprecedented levels.

And although most of your new neighbours, friends and colleagues are in your corner, willing to defend you – there are the odd bunch of people who feel that you and your family shouldn’t be in their country. When you see the news and read the commentary online, you often worry for the safety and security of your family – and that’s something which never changes.

6. You experience transformation and possibility

The sad reality about staying in one place all your life is that certain rules about your way of life, history and future are imposed on you. You find you can only function within the margins of these rules. It’s hard to change. It’s hard to break the norm. It’s hard to change the paradigms, habits and beliefs of your nearest and dearest.

But once you emigrate, there is suddenly a world of possibility in front of you. It’s a strange sensation, although it’s in many ways a devastating experience – you also find that an enormous burden is lifted from your shoulders. You are free to become whomever you want to be. You are free of the gossip, expectations and same-old prejudices you had to walk with all your life. In a sense, immigration is perhaps the most liberating thing you can do for yourself and your family.

7. It’s not necessarily about the distance

Migration denotes a change in your life – your lifestyle and habits take a knock. You can no longer just jog to your favourite bistro around the corner for a quick beer or meet your neighbour for a quick tea and scone. Nope – your surroundings change, your routes to work, school and the store change, the angle of the sunlight falling through the window on your favourite reading chair is different. The entire way in which you intuitively navigated your life changes.

So whether you move 50 kilometres or 5 000, you will find that the disruption to your lifestyle and daily motions are much the same.

8. You seriously can’t prepare for immigration

No matter how prepared you are, how many books you’ve read, blogs you’ve followed or people you’ve spoken to – you will always be unprepared for immigration.

There are too many variables, too many differences in personality, circumstance, affluence and resilience which make each immigration story absolutely unique. This, of course, doesn’t mean you should go on your new journey completely unprepared, but simply that you should not have too many expectations. Those who want you to relocate will always paint the grass a shade greener than it actually is, while those who want you to stay will try to instil a sense of fear in you.

The best advice for immigration though? Be realistic, don’t have rigid expectations – and you may just find that this experience is a marvelous adventure.

9. You will befriend new people and try things you’ve never tried before

After relocation you will, without a doubt, be forced to venture outside your comfort zone, befriend new people and do new things. Of course, this will not have been necessary back home. But back home where your social bonds, roots and structures are fixed, it’s much harder to experience new things.

Immigration will see you meeting and befriending people you will never have even thought of befriending before. You will also have to eat, drink and try things you would not have tried in your hometown – whether out of habit or because those things weren’t available.

These new experiences and interactions teach you a lot about yourself and helps you grow emotionally.

10. Visiting home becomes a real tourist experience

The fantastic thing about time and distance is that it breaks your preconceived notions, perceptions and emotions related to your hometown. When you return to your hometown later you will find that your returning visits will becoming increasingly tourist experiences. Things will have changed – you will point towards a building and tell people about the playground that used to be there. You will get lost in new streets. You will sample the food from new restaurants and visit familiar ones for new fare.

What was the most exciting part about your relocation? What changes occurred in you and within your family unit after immigration? We’re sure your experience was just as unique and surprising as ours, but hopefully the surprises have been to your benefit.

If you need any help with your cross-border finances, remember to leave your details below and we’ll call you back.
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