…only because you have to experience them first hand.
- The first day. Week. WEEKS or even MONTHS at your new job will be horrible. They’ll be tough, trying and stressful. But you WILL come out of that haze of confusion after a couple of months (I think I finally felt “okay” after three-ish months) and look back on how far you’ve come and be so incredibly proud of yourself. But while you’re in the thick of it, it will feel insurmountable. Impossible. Hopeless. But you have to go through it to come out at the other end.
- If you’re leaving a place like South Africa and landing in a place like Sydney, you’ll quickly learn what it is to live side-by-side with all walks of life. This morning, as I walked through a busy train station tunnel on my way to work, I passed women in crisp suits, men in nurses scrubs, man-bun bearing, bearded hipsters in skinny jeans, a tiny Asian woman, shuffling along at the pace of a snail, surfer-types in baggies and “singlets” and heaps of tradies in their yellow reflective vests and steel toe capped boots. We all walk past an American guy who plays blues guitar, a violinist busker belting out the Game of Thrones theme tune, the homeless man sitting against a wall with a sign that reads, “I’ve got issues. Any help is welcome”.
- On that note, you’ll realize how reliant you were on your car. We have one car in Sydney (we had two SUVs in Joburg) and we use it minimally during the week and only for longer drives over the weekend. We walk. A lot. Every day sees us walk anything from 6-10km. Every day. They’re short bursts: home to the station, bus depot to school, station to work, etc. But it all adds up. I remember the aching ‘shin splint’ pain I felt after the first week of aclimitising to all the walking, not in takkies…um, runners.
- You’ll initially try to avoid other immigrants from your home country. “We’re going to immerse ourselves in Aussie culture”, we said. We didn’t think about the fact that people have had their own lives and their own historical culture (The Wiggles, for god’s sake?!) and upbringings, that saying “Yebo!” when they ask you if you’re from South Africa, they’ll look at you as if you’ve actually just landed from Mars, and that they just cannot comprehend the kind of life we’ve lived for so long.* Connecting with fellow immigrants, especially from your own home country is so very…easy. There’s no effort. We’ve all been through the same struggles, felt the same losses, missed the same creature comforts. You’ll chat about when you’re having your next BBQ and the have a giggle at hoe quickly you seem to have moved on from saying braai. You’ll connect and it’s natural and there is nothing wrong with it. That’s the way of the world and its why groups of culturally similar people tend to live close to one another. Little Italy. China Town. Saffaville. Totally just made that one up, but it’s what St Ives should be called, as far as its cultural residency stats are concerned 🙂 I’ve been lucky enough, though, to work with some amazing Aussies, on some very Australian brands, and they’ve explained nuances, cultures and more. They’ve empathized with my emotions and helped me up when I’ve felt down. They’ve also looked at me like a lunatic when I’ve asked them to explain, again, the difference between NRL, AFL and Rugby Union.
- You’ll panic about your kids. But they should be the least of your worries. In fact, you should take ongoing lessons from how your kids settle. They just DO. They have no preconceived perceptions about what the locals might tuhink about them. They just get on with it. Tonight, after walking up a steep hill from Mika’s school to where our car was parked, a mom (mum) and her son (a good couple of years older than Luca) walked towards us, down the hill. The boy called out “Hey mate!” and high-fived Luca as we walked past. The other mom and I looked at eachother and smiled, a little confused. Mika asked his brother, “Is that your best friend, Luca?”, to which Luca replied, very nonchalantly, “Nope, he’s just a friend of mine in Year 3. He’s pretty cool”. Confidence goals, right there.
- You’ll miss some things. And you won’t. You’ll probably be surprised by both. I miss…my friends. And honestly, that’s about it. But I’m 8 months into a job and over the hardest first three months, which were a killer. I’d cry EVERY day on the way home from (and sometimes even on the way to) work. I couldn’t go onto Facebook because seeing friends’ happy faces and their beautiful children would send me into a deep, dark place, where I’d spend hours pouring over pictures, silently sobbing in bed. Or on the train. Which is awkward. I once missed my stop on the way to work because I was crying so much. I was standing, as the train was packed, and I was sobbing. I had no tissues, so I was basically catching all my tears in my hands and wiping them all over my clothes. A woman watched me for a while and eventually handed me a pack of Kleenex before she hopped off (at my stop), and the train pulled back off before I realized it. I got to work over an hour late, with mascara-streaked cheeks and puffy eyes. Some days are tougher than others. That one was shit. Plain and simple.
- You’ll discover inner strength and an incredible ability to be grateful for EVERYTHING. I’ve always guffawed at the idea of a “Gratitude Journal”. Hell, I do still guffaw at it, because I can’t seem to keep a journal or any other form of notebook for any considerable period of time be fore losing it. Into thin air or to one of my children, to fill will drawings of R2-D2 or imaginary Minecraft strategies. But I am grateful. For something. Every day. Which is pretty much a Gratitude Journal in my mind. I’m grateful for how far we’ve come as a family, how much I’ve learned, grown and developed from a professional point of view. I’m grateful for our jobs, for the roof over our heads, for the Woolies that’s open until midnight EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK, so that I can do my groceries at 10pm and imagine I’m the only one there, in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, my wonky trolley filled with our weekly supplies and no one around to bump into with it. I’m grateful for my friends here. My friends back in SA. My husband. My children. My health. Our dishwasher. Umbrellas. Air-conditioning. Tim Tams.
There is so much that is unsaid when it comes to emigration. People will say, “It’s so hard, but is so worth it!” and you’ll smile and nod and think, “Sure, oke. You don’t know what hard is, I lived in Joburg!” But then you’ll land in a strange place and you’ll live an outer-body life for a couple of weeks. Then you’ll start a job and be so f%#king overwhelmed that your body will go into Flight-of-Fokken-Fight mode and you’ll say things like, “This was a HUGE mistake and we need to go back” before drinking an entire bottle of cheap $3 wine from Aldi and wake up with a monster headache that a “Panadol” (why isn’t it just called Panado???) just won’t cure, but you’ll KNOW that every day you learn something new, you become more familiar with how people talk and you’ll KNOW that you’ve made one of the biggest, most challenging, but also the most exciting and amazing decisions.
And it will all be okay.
Until you lose your Opal card or forget your umbrella on the train. Again.