Hello again my lovely!
I’m sure on occasion you have asked yourself the question “what would life be like if I just upped and left?”. Do you conjure up images of sun, sea and sand? Back in Northampton I used to spend most of time daydreaming about packing my bags and running off to SA, living in the sunshine, I’d make a ton of money and life will be glamorous and so exciting! (does that sound familiar?). You get so blind sighted by how perfect another country is that all you see are the negatives of your homeland – Crime, Corruption, Poverty – spoiler alert* all countries have these problems to varying degrees, they are the inescapable realities of life. I get asked the question “why on earth did you come here?” all the time and my answer is always the same “look around you”. Most British people will agree that my picture of East London in South Africa is vastly different from East London UK. I’m not dissing London it is an incredible city that I think everyone should see at least once in their life. My point is, that if you choose to leave, leave because your heart belongs in that country. I came here as a child and it left an indelible mark on my heart and crept into my blood. I knew this was where I belonged, not because Northampton has a high unemployment rate and high crime statistics, so I followed a trend to leave the country and go where everyone else goes. Im not saying you won’t be happy in your new country if this is the reason you leave but I just think it might make it harder to settle.
Here are a few of the pro’s and con’s to leaving, they are subjective though. I’m going to start with the negatives and end with the positives because thats how I prefer it! Don’t be put off by the negatives, if you know about them then you can be prepared and ready to deal with them.
Not knowing how life works.. This will make sense when you try to open a bank account, take out a phone contract or buy a house. I know how England works, I know how to get things done! here on the other hand I still struggle. Wherever you go in the world the worst thing will be dealing with the immigration office and getting visa’s and paperwork sorted. Some countries are obviously easier than others. My experience of this was an extreme case, it took 9 years to get residency and another 4 years to get an ID book. If you’re wondering why I didn’t give up and just go home, it’s because 1) I’m a stubborn persistent cow and 2) I want to be here and nothing is going to get in my way. So yeah good luck with all that paperwork! take my advise and if you can afford it, pay someone to do it for you. I took 6 years fighting to get my son’s paperwork out of South African Home Affairs for his British passport and in the end I have paid someone to take over and it took them two months.
I’ve mentioned this before but depending on where you move to and your financial status it is going to effect how often you can go home. If you live in England and move to Spain you can probably go home often for long weekends, but if you move far away like me and it costs a month’s salary and takes 24hrs+ to get home then be prepared that you will have to save up all your leave from work (if you have a job) and will be saving up money all year just to do a 3 week trip home. This also means that it is not easy, or in some cases completely impossible for people to come visit you. Also you have to accept that some people just have absolutely no interest in coming to visit. I have been lucky and have had a few family and friends come to stay and to all of you, thank you because I know it wasn’t easy to get here!
Somethings won’t change! One of the hardest things I had to deal with when I arrived was the fact that I was still me. My surroundings had changed but I was still antisocial, I still struggle with depression, anxiety and insomnia. I’m still not glamorous and good in social situations. It seems wherever you put me I will make some kind of social faux pas and say something inappropriate that makes everyone around me wince. Life is still mundane, you still have to get the bin bags out, set your alarm for work, kowtow to shitty bosses because you can’t afford to lose your job. In fact being an immigrant you tend to toe the line more because you don’t want to get in any trouble that might mean you get kicked out the country. I have to say doing all of these boring things with the sun on your shoulders does make it a bit easier!
Right if you’re still with me after all that, then thank you for sticking with it! lets get to all the good stuff now!
The reason Expats do so well (in my opinion) is that you can reinvent yourself to a certain extent. I’ll give you an example – being British most people think I grew up living in a castle, with a pony and went to Hogwarts school with Harry Potter, not to mention having the odd cup of tea with Liz at Buckingham Palace because that’s what British people do! I got a job with an international company that would never have employed me in my own country. My accent was just an English accent not a Northampton accent with all the stereo types that go with it. If you are from a working class background sometimes it can be hard to break out of those confines of being a “factory girl”, “council estate kid” etc. When you go abroad people have no concept of this and you are just British, South African, American…. You are free to break from past labels that you let hold you back.
It opens your eyes to different cultures and different ways of living. I have met some incredible people along the way and learned so many invaluable life lessons. SA has 11 official languages, lucky for me English is the main one. It is a huge melting pot of different cultures all bubbling against one another sometimes in peace and sometimes not. You don’t need to emigrate to experience this either which is the good news. When you travel get out of the resort and eat at the local restaurants, meet local people. Take your blinkers off and experience life outside, it really does open your mind and soul. I teach English as a foreign Language and I have loved meeting people from all over the world and learning about their cultures (especially the food, I highly recommend Brigadairos from Brazil). I have not let go of my Britishness, you can take me out of Northampton but you can’t take the Northampton out of me! I have however learned to become more tolerant and openminded about other people’s ways of living and learned not to be such a judgmental a-hole, and let’s be honest the world could do with a lot less of them!
You have two homes! this is a good thing trust me. I have England where I go home and everything is normal. My heart breathes a sigh of relief to be back around my surroundings where I grew up, I know how everything works, I know the people and they know me. It’s a lovely feeling being back at your nan’s house being spoilt rotten and reading the newspaper (be warned you may not recognise local celebs any more and this can make you feel out of place, so read the paper with caution) Then I come back to my other home with a renewed sense of how familiar SA has become, it is not so foreign any more. I walk back into my house with a feeling of home, my family and friends are just as important here as they are in England. I am as much apart of the fabric of this country as it is apart of me and I am blessed to have had this experience in my life. No one will understand it really until they have experienced it themselves.
Life is full of contradictions and grey area’s on the one hand emigrating gave me the chance to start a fresh and wipe the slate clean but it couldn’t change who I essentially am. If you are stuck in a humdrum life and you always wanted to be an artist but feel too constricted in your home country then move to Paris and become an artist, just know that if onions made you bloated and farty in England they are still going to make you bloated and farty in Paris. If you want to change your life then emigrating will definitely do that, but if you want to change who you physiologically are then that’s up to you and has nothing to do with where you live.
Thank you for joining me again, I really do appreciate your continued support.
Bye for now!