Diversity is a way of life. People of different races, religions, cultures or economic status exist within our rich community! We are a multicultural society and we must find ways to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. For this is truly an enriching experience. As Martin Luther King said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools”.
Progressively, we see a rise in people immigrating around the world. For countless reasons — better lifestyles and financially secured futures, better living conditions, cleanliness, education and political reasons, for soul mates and freedom or simply “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no one has gone before”.
I was born and raised in South Africa, a beautifully unique country that I had called home for almost 30 years. However, after varying circumstances and much deliberation my husband and I decided to immigrate to Australia where we have lived for the past 8 years. We are very happy here and have no regrets about the tough decision we made for our family. Actually, we are often so grateful for our life here and the many opportunities presented to us! Is it easy? Not always. I come from a very close family. I made the decision to leave them behind for the benefit of myself and my children’s futures. Yet, I miss them every day! And when the roller coaster of life plummets with challenges, I instinctively question my decision and yearn for the close, warm and comforting love and support of my family. My true happiness lies in these irreplaceable relationships and there are times when I long for what is familiar and secure.
However, along with the risks and sacrifices are many rewards. Loss and struggle plant the seeds of transformation. I have discovered more of who I am. I have learnt to embrace moments of solidarity and emancipate my inner most desires. I have grown in confidence, development and independence and I engage in more adventure, especially the exploration of unknown territory!
The influence of my culture, who I am, how I think and how I behave is profound. I endeavour to preserve my cultural identity and enjoy expressing it through typical South African slang and colloquialisms! Yet, I have noticed that my ethnology is ever-changing and as I encounter new people and engage in new experiences remarkably, so am I evolving into a new hybrid! An Aussie/South African cross breed!
At the end of the day all we want is to feel a sense of belonging. To feel secure, accepted and included in our new country. Life is a precious and wonderful continuum and we, as expats, have the challenge of enduring the ebb and flow of distance. In reality this means some friendships at home may dwindle. However, I strive to be diligent in maintaining my most important old relationships and staying connected to my native home. Social media is a wonderful aid in this purpose. Furthermore, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone. So many people are scattered around the world away from their home country and it’s natural to gravitate to these similar souls. Ultimately, when we belong and are happy, we are confident to participate fully in life abroad, to meet new people and seek out new adventures.
Moving overseas is an immense undertaking! It can be a complete culture shock so give yourself time to adjust. Immigration allows us to redefine our perceptions of people, culture and existence. We almost get a second chance, to start again. So be proactive about making new friends even though admittedly it can be difficult. Be open minded and non judgemental and focus on what you may have in common rather than your obvious differences. Remember that making friends takes time, effort and nurturing. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from each and every personal encounter. Be open to learning, related to your interests and hobbies and participate in community events. Immerse yourself in your new community. Embrace the new, actively and consciously! Keep in mind, “The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings” — Kakuzo Okakaura.
In conclusion, I urge you to:
Enjoy the unknown, do what you love, spend time with interesting people, show compassion for others, make gradual changes, try new things, reflect on the journey, appreciate and be grateful for opportunities, invest in yourself, take more photo’s of happy moments and happy memories and make this a life of meaning and purpose worth celebrating!