The definition of ‘family’ is broadly described as a group or unit of people living together. However, as South Africans, we know that ‘family is so much more than that. A traditional South African family consists of the following: required set of parents, children (more than two), aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents (both sides), the neighbours, Aunt Esmee (who isn’t your aunt), Oom Karl, who lives in the next town (also not your oom) and of course all the friends your ouers know from work. That’s just the immediate family!
The point is the South African family usually has elastic sides. In truth, we are a nation of families; South Africa sticks together through the good and challenging times. So it was something of a culture shock when Covid-19 struck nearly two years ago, and our family units became smaller, restricted, and disconnected. Moreover, with travel bans set in place by many countries, those emigrating from South Africa could not return for visits with family and loved ones. Isolation took on a whole new meaning, loneliness.
Suddenly, visiting Ouma and Oupa with the kleinkinders was now off the cards! How did we cope? How are we coping? It certainly was and, for some, still is, a lonely existence. This ongoing pandemic is not going anywhere fast, and the prospect of staying connected with those we love is still just as challenging, especially with the festive season on the way.
According to Statista, South African emigration statistics show that more than 247,000 South Africans live in the UK, with a further 117,000 living in the United States. That’s a lot of lonely families on either side of the ocean needing to stay connected with their loved ones.
Why it’s essential to stay connected to family
You may think the reason is apparent, to prevent loneliness. But it’s not the only reason we need to stay connected; it’s also vital for our mental health and well-being. For example, many studies have shown that loneliness can lead to depression which can cause further health issues such as obesity, alcoholism, drug misuse, anxiety, and social phobias.
Those afternoon teas around Ouma’s kitchen table, scoffing delicious scones and cream, are good for you! Maybe not good for the waistline but undoubtedly good for your mental health.
5 Ways to stay connected
Connecting with family is not as difficult as it sounds, as long as you are prepared to be a little creative. Technology has allowed us to interact with loved ones even though continents apart, meaning that Covid and distance no longer dictate our time spent together. Take a look at some of the ideas we have compiled to help you connect to family while separated.
- Virtual Braai Time
Eating delicious traditional braai food together is the way South African families connect. Fact.
Arrange a time to Facetime or video call family members and friends while seated around the braai. Then, catch up while turning the steaks on the grid and enjoy a laugh together like old times.
- Karaoke by Video
Arrange a competition amongst family and friends where they have to video themselves singing a chosen song. Then, share the videos amongst the group and vote for the next best singing sensation. The winner gets bragging rights at the next virtual braai!
There’s nothing better than taking the kleinkinders out for the day. While this may not be possible if you live far away, many museums offer virtual tours you can enjoy from the comfort of your couch. Just link up with family members for a free virtual tour, and don’t forget to pack Ouma’s special biscuits to enjoy along the way!
- Explore another Dimension
Visit the International Space Station without leaving the earth or your house, for that matter! NASA offers the opportunity to explore space with your loved ones and even sign up to be virtual guests at launches and important events. Visit the moon together; it couldn’t be much further away than the distance that separates you already.
- Send a surprise
While technology has its uses, nothing says ‘I miss you’ or ‘I’m thinking of you,’ more than a heartfelt, handwritten letter. An envelope stuffed with little greetings and drawings done by the kleinkinders will have Ouma and Oupa reaching for the Kleenex every time. If letters aren’t possible, send a bunch of flowers or a small gift, many online stores can deliver the same day.
While the idea of not being able to share time with loved ones face to face is daunting. It doesn’t have to mean an end to our family connections across the sea. There are many ways to stay connected with our families and friends when distance separates. Get creative, and remember if all else fails, you can always pick up the phone and talk.
Expert financial advice for expats right here at FinGlobal
Emigration can be a stressful and emotional time, especially when leaving family members behind. In addition, the many financial and tax implications that it entails can add to the stress and confusion. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Leave the stress to FinGlobal. We are experts in our field, capable of answering all your emigration questions and providing expert financial advice. That simply leaves you to ensure you have Ouma’s rusk recipe and your suitcase packed.
Our dedicated team has helped thousands of South Africans, just like you, to navigate the emigration process smoothly. For professional advice, contact our friendly team today. To discuss your unique needs with our team, simply get in touch with us. Give us a call on +27 28 312 2764 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will assist you promptly.