Moving to Another Country
Boxes and suitcases everywhere. This is my current reality. Those boxes we’re not shipping to Canada are full of stuff for charity. It’s a minefield.
The clutter makes me anxious. It’s a combination of excitement and being totally overwhelmed, so every now and then I find myself disengaging to regain some semblance of focus. I do this sometimes. Browse the internet, read a book (and I’m beta reading a FANTASTIC ONE at the moment), or do a watercolour. Or, in today’s reality, write a blog post.
Fair warning – this is a long post.
After Friday’s big news, we’ve had a lot of good wishes, emails and questions. I thought I’d address some of those today.
Most people were surprised that we’re so unhappy in Germany, especially considering how happy all of our photo diary posts look. I talked about this briefly on Friday, but one of the main things I’ve learned while living abroad is that you can’t judge people’s lives on an hour Skype session every now and then, or on the photos or blog entries they post online.
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.
It’s difficult to believe, while it feels much longer at the same time. We’ve finally passed the year mark.
I’ve been turning this post around in my head for weeks now, but I still don’t really know what to say. I’m late in posting as it is. 🙂 Tomorrow we’re already at a year and two weeks.
This immigration-thing has been a strange and wonderful journey.
Year one was the perfect example of a proverbial emotional roller coaster. And the truth of it is, the ride isn’t over yet. I think the emotional part is something that will differ from person to person, because it’s certainly hit me a lot harder than the hubs. People deal in different ways.
Most of the advice we got from other immigrants was that the first *insert time here* is the most difficult. Many of them used the year mark as that point of reference. I’ve learned that this is another thing that will differ according to personal perspective.
Yesterday, we chatted about things you could do to make the immigration process easier before you actually get on the plane. Today, we’re going to chat about things you can do to adapt more seamlessly once you get there. This is obviously going to be different for every person, but these are the things that worked for us, or things I now wish we had done.
If you’re planning to move to another country, you’re pretty stressed and anxious especially in the weeks before you leave. Personally, this was amplified by the fact that my husband had to leave before my kid and I could, so that made me freak out more than a little. I had a horrible flight experience, which gave me super saiyan mode anxiety on its own. You kind of expect to have just as much stress in the first few days after you arrive, right?
For me, this wasn’t the case. Upon arriving, I felt amazing (when the airsickness let up and I’d eaten/slept). For the first few weeks, everything was rosy. The weather was fabulous, sightseeing was great and it all felt like an amazing vacation in a new country. Along with that, domestic life just went on. Okay, so it felt like the kind of holiday where you hubs still works and you still have to cook and clean. Haha. But I mean, we were just soaking up new experiences and relaxing as much as we could after the drama and tons of things that needed to be done before we left.
Then reality sunk in. We had left everything we’d ever known. This is how we survived and are still surviving.
Can you fathom this: Jan’s officially been in Germany for 6 months, and Kayla and I will have made the 6-month mark on the 25th of Feb. Mind. Blown. I bet I’ll say this with every milestone, but I can’t comprehend that it’s been ONLY six months. It feels like we’ve been here forever.
Obviously, the people in South Africa (and some who read the blog) want to know how we found this first chunk of time. How did we survive? Do we have tips? Would we do anything differently? So, after thinking about it for a bit, I came up with some things that made our life easier and some things that could have.
I also bet that this post contains some helpful tips for tourists, so, if you’re planning a vacay in some other country, there may be something in here for you. Because I have so much to say on the subject, I’m splitting the post into two parts. Today we’ll talk about what to consider before you leave and next time will focus on what to do once you get there.
Let’s get started.
It’s probably about time I give you an update on how things have been here in Germany. It’s been almost three months now (we’ll reach the official 3 mark month on the 25th of November) and a lot has happened in that time.
First of all, we’re going to stay in the furnished short-term rental for a while longer. I’ve mentioned that finding a permanent place has been a struggle and this is still the case. But at this point in time, I don’t mind. We’ve settled in here and we like it. The neighbours are amazing people, we’re close to shops and the train station, and there are some pretty great parks in the area too. With the idea that we’re staying here, the knot in my stomach has loosened. It’s less stressful when you’re not constantly worrying about where you’re going to move to next.
Overall, we’re adapting.
This wasn’t some overnight, half-baked scheme. Oh no. Years went into this endeavour of ours. Years.
You see, my brother in law left South Africa in the year Jan and I got married (2008). He quit his job and set out to London a month later, just following his gut. I’ve always admired him for just doing it and not looking back. It isn’t an easy thing, just packing up and leaving, but he did it and made it work.
About a year after we got married, Jan and I decided that we wanted to go too. There are various reasons for this decision now, but at the time, it was a general kind of thing. There was some political turbulence around that time and it scared us. (Africa is always in a state of political turbulence, no matter which side of the Equator you look, known fact. :P) Make no mistake, we love South Africa. We grew up there, we speak two of the 11 languages, we knew how things worked. The people are our people. The food and traditions are our food and traditions. This was our entire circle of reference.
The question I get asked most at the moment is “How different is living in Germany from living in South Africa?”
The answer is, it’s different. But seeing as so many people don’t like the vagueness of that statement, I thought I’d quickly highlight the basics. Or at least the things that stand out to me.
1.) The Obvious Things.
This includes the language (see #2), the weather, the building style, culture. The weather, for example, is like a toddler here, fluctuating between an array of possible moods (if I can call weather moody). It can be sunny one moment and rain the next, just before the wind rolls in and blows away all of the clouds in minutes. In half an hour, it might rain again.
Un. Pre. Dict. Able.
Wow. Here we are, aren’t we? Last week this time, I was getting ready to get on a plane. I was a bundle of nerves mixed with insane excitement. Since then, a lot of people have asked how we are and if we’re adapting.
The answer is good and yes. But I’ll get there.
The flight was interesting. First of all, Kayla apparently likes flying about as much as I do. This means not a bit. It also means she was crying and moaning basically constantly, didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and was soaked with sweat for the entire flight. Also, a lot of things went wrong.
For example, I had to handle Kayla and two hand luggage bags, as well as Barney (where could any parent of a toddler possibly dare to go without a Barney toy?) on my own at all of the airports where we landed. Both of us were airsick, so I skipped breakfast. Not a smart move, as I’d later discover. At Frankfurt airport, I had to be patted down at passport control, because Kayla refused to let go of me for an instant to be scanned. This meant stripping down and having my shoes and things scanned too. It also made me late for my flight.
Now, at this point, both Kay and I were exhausted. Neither of us had slept on the flight and I was still nauseous. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Jan had taken a train to meet us at Frankfurt and fly the last part with us to Dusseldorf. I clung to this, knowing everything would be OK once we were together again. I promised Kayla over and over again that she’d see her daddy there.
This was the post I typed for you yesterday :… Read More »Update Version 2.0 (The German Chronicles)
I’ve been without a computer for a while now and I’ve barely switched on my laptop. It’s been so hectic here that I’ve only visited social media sites maybe three times in the last week and a half. I would say I’m sorry, but I haven’t had time to be sorry since we moved into my in-law’s place on the 2nd.
I wanted to update you on the German-move, which is why I’m popping in today.
Last night, my husband got on a plane without me and Kayla. While his visa is obviously ready and currently in use, mine and Kay’s isn’t. We have no indication of how long it will be, because the allotted time-span they initially gave us has now been lengthened greatly.
People want to know how I feel and what I think at the moment. As in “Is it difficult to pack up and leave?” or “What’s going through your mind?” or “Aren’t you sentimental about the stuff you’re leaving behind?” One I get a lot is “I’m too attached to my family to leave them behind.”
Because what you’re basically saying is that I’m not attached to the people we’re leaving in South Africa. You’re wrong.
But let’s start at the beginning. My mind is an explosion at the moment. It’s a stormy and weird place, with things moving around like a whirlpool. On the whole (AKA non-moving, normal Yolandie), I’m borderline mad. Add the stress, the goodbyes, packing up what we own and still having to be a mom to an almost-two-year-old, plus day-to-day life, and it gets… well… chaotic. I feel like a lunatic at the moment.
If you didn’t pick up on it in the title, I’m going to call the posts relating to our move to Germany ‘The German Chronicles’. Hope you like it. 🙂
Obviously, one of the first things you do when you go to a new country is to get a visa. Or not, depending on what country you’re coming from. In South Africa specifically, the visa thing is required. It’s also one of the most difficult countries to get a visa. Believe me.
We were forewarned that the German Embassy is very effective, but very strict. “If you have only one page missing, they turn you away,” we were told. Before this, we had been to the English and French Embassies, so we had a little something to compare it to.