As a teenager, I dreamed of moving to Hollywood. At first, I wanted to act. Who doesn’t? But then, one fateful day, I saw the work of my first idol, Steven Spielberg. More than anything, I wanted to follow in his footsteps and make films. I wrote many brilliant screenplays (they were Oscar winners one and all 😛 ) and the lands over the ocean beckoned.
Little did I know back then that I would end up immigrating, but to a totally different part of the world. Germany. And today is the two-year anniversary of that move.
Never in a million years did I imagine this would also be the day I announced the Big News – we’re moving again.
You read that right.
Sometimes, we dream of immigration. To go to faraway places and experience incredible things. After my teenage dream, I never really thought of moving away from South Africa again, until the day we had to start thinking that. Life and circumstances took us away from the land of constant sunshine and led us to Europe.
If you’ve been around for this journey, you know by now how difficult it is for me to share my emotions and angst on a public platform. For me, it’s easier to ignore and deny any negative feelings than to actually deal with them, so many times, the truth doesn’t make it as far as the blog. What does make it onto your screen every Monday is an abundance of smiles. Pictures serve as an effective tool when it comes to seeming happy – it’s the Insta-perfect culture, isn’t it?
Still, some of those closest to us picked up on the little cues that all was not well in Germany-land. So, today, the truth.
The past two years have been among the most difficult years in my life. Yes, we had some incredible experiences here and Germany is beyond beautiful, but the beauty of this place does not make up for the intolerance of its people. We’ve never been more isolated. A handful of wonderful Germans crossed our path, and we’re eternally grateful for them, but the most of their countrymen are cold and distant.
We’re from South Africa. Not only does the sun almost always shine there, but the people. South Africa is made by its people. Hearty, friendly and warm. We have yet to meet a European who’s visited SA and doesn’t feel the same way – the South African people are awesome.
Living in a country where nobody seems willing to help, to chat or even just to smile, has been tough. Tougher than I imagined. So much so that I cried when we arrived back at Düsseldorf airport from London and all the announcements were back in German.
Returning from South Africa was even more emotional.
Despite our greatest efforts to learn the language here, we’ve always been treated differently. More times than I can recall, we were openly shunned. In the beginning, we were made fun of because we didn’t understand the language in the local grocery store, with the other people in line joining in the name-calling and laughter. I’ve been yelled at in a playground by a father who called me stupid, and the more I tried to explain I don’t speak much German, the angrier he got. I could add to this list, but you get the idea.
Sure, the refugees in Europe are an annoyance to many of the natives (which says a lot) and we’re considered economic refugees, so we’re a part of the problem. Still, we’re people and we tried our best to conform here. We tried to make this our home.
For a long time, I was too afraid to ride the train without Jan (and I mean more than a year). I went into hermit-mode and basically never left the house except when he was with us. I’ve never experienced social anxiety as I have in Germany.
Living here has changed me. Looking at it now, I’m sad that the part of me who smiled at every stranger, the part of me who made small talk with anyone and the part of me that tried to help the people I met, is gone. I’ve changed and I’m not sure I like that change.
Though Kayla and I leave the house more and even ride the train by ourselves like big girls, I still avoid people and don’t even make eye contact when I can help it. This from the woman who used to advise ladies in the makeup store when the shop assistant was helping another customer, or used to chat to the family behind her in the line to the till. Some of the cashiers in my local Checkers became some of my good friends, because we had pretty deep conversations in our time together.
I stopped trying to reach anyone here a long time ago.
It’s a good thing then – after years of trying to get in – that we’re moving to a country known for its friendliness and helpful people.
I’ll share all of the details with you in coming posts, but we were invited to apply for visas in April, while the Groenewalds were still here. We’ve since been buried under a mound of paperwork, but are now in the final stage of the process. We’re leaving Germany for the last time at the end of September.
I can’t wait to share this new journey with you, but most of all, I can’t wait to find Yolandie again. Yolandie who smiles at strangers. Yolandie who is polite and loves to chat. Yolandie who is unafraid.
To new adventures.