Ingrid Brunkhorst Hurrell

So you just landed...and you hate it here. What now?

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Ingrid Brunkhorst Hurrell

So you just landed...and you hate it here. What now?

Most new landed immigrants arrive with very grateful hearts. Regardless of where they came from, Canada as their new home, allows for opportunities they may not have had "back home." I remember meeting Dutch immigrants in Northern BC who left Europe when Hitler started invading. One family recalled how they were put on a train in Vancouver, given $26 and a sack-lunch by the immigration authorities and sent up north to start farming on land the government gave them. Now, two generations later, this particular family's descendants are examples of hard work, perseverance and prosperity.

But not everyone has that type of motivation to make it work. For this particular family, there was no going back to Europe, so they literally had to stick it out. However, truth be told, some of us arrive with rose-tinted eyeglasses and when those come down as the reality of living in Canada strikes, may be a shock. It is very easy then to throw in the towel and head back home to S.Africa, thinking that is the only solution. The good news is: it's not. The tough news is: you, and only you can make the decision to make it work.

Close the back doors

‚ÄčOne thing that will help you adjust and settle faster is to close all the back doors you have left open. Those "doors" are simply mindsets we all have that allow us to entertain thoughts such as, "If I don't like it, I can go back." Or "If I can't find work, I'm sure I will find work in SA again."

Remind yourself why you emigrated from S.Africa in the first place. Give yourself a set time period - at least two years - of really working very hard at making it here, before deciding to go back. It seriously takes time to settle, find your place, feel your roots go down again. That does not happen in a few months.

Don't be double-minded

A trap we all fall into is one of double-mindedness. We get into the "Back in SA...I had this and that," or "I didn't have to do all my own housework/gardening," or "The pay was better than in Canada."

It only leads to an emotional see-saw to allow this kind of thinking, and it will be detrimental to your health.

You cannot be in two places at once, so if you are here, be here.

Culture shock

We have friends that would most likely never immigrate because of their comfortable lifestyles in SA. Driver to take kids to school. Huge property. Wonderful circle of friends. They are happy to be where they are and they are making it work with all the bells and whistles of security systems, armed response, alarms and so on. Some folks manage, others choose a different road. So you made that choice and here you are.

Even though Canadians speak English, it might be different to the English you grew up with. Try talking to a Newfie and you will soon feel as if you are from outer space. It is true though. Terms that are different, pronunciations that vary from province to province, traffic rules that are not the same, items available or not available in stores can be stressful, and tons of other reasons can contribute to a place of disillusionment very fast.

Culture shock at its worst.

If you are prone to being melancholic or negative, culture shock may be amplified. My advice is to allow yourself a time of gleaning: keep what is good out of the new culture, keep what is good of your own culture and learn to live in the midst of so many other ethnic groups and nationalities who call Canada Home. You like boerewors, I like bratwurst. Some like Viennas. Others don't eat meat. Together we make up a beautiful country of amazing people.

Connect

Don't become an island when you are going through a tough time of adjusting. Reach out to others. If people don't know you are having a cultural hangover, they won't know how to help. Depression, anxiety, fear, loss of self-confidence, insomnia, negativity....these could all be signs of your soul taking a knock with all the changes you are experiencing. Talk to someone. Join a support group, find a church or club or organisation where you can volunteer. Get to know others and become known. Connect with your own. There are very few cities or communities where S.Africans haven't gone. Look for them. Talk your language. Have your braais. Be kind to yourself as you resettle in Canada as a new immigrant.

Cultivate an attitude of "I can" and let go of "I can't!"

When you're down in the dumps because you now have to take a bus or train to work, and you don't have your own wheels yet; or the kids don't like their new school, or you think Canadian poutine tastes terrible or you just simply don't understand the social values of Canadians at work; it can become a big negative in your life. Very easy then to start seeing yourself as never achieving what you'd hoped to achieve. Can't find a job after two months yet? Don't give up. You can find a job. Sometimes we have to find out why we aren't getting work - maybe it is just the resume or cover letter that needs tweaking or maybe you need to network with Canadians, starting with your neighbours and people at church or wherever, and you may discover the wonder of wonders: the so-called hidden market in Canada, where jobs often happen because someone knew someone who knew someone....

Baby steps

Reality check: I think doctors are fortunate in that they come over and they are: doctors. Unlike many other professions where you were one thing in SA. only to find that in Canada you are X, Y or Z. Get used to the idea that a different job title does not mean you have suddenly become inferior or lower-ranked. (And even if you are suddenly a junior again, so what? You worked yourself up before, so why not again?) The reality is this is our host country. It is a privilege - not a right - to be here. So, take baby steps if you have to. the only requirement for growth in this regard is motion. You have to keep going. And going...

Change is a constant factor

Get used to this as well. Things change in a day. You could get that job tomorrow. You could find a place to stay next week You could be laid off a month from now. When changes come, embrace them. Keep moving. Keep learning. Don't second-guess yourself when these changes suddenly happen in your life. I see it often, that people start grieving their losses and before you know it they are camped out in this valley of change, in stead of looking for new opportunities. The horizon is never stagnant. Look at it, re-evaluate your position and take the necessary steps to get from A to B. Change is beautiful, as it always equals growth - if we allow it. It is like the proverbial larvae that has to struggle through the cocoon by itself to break through so it can fly as a butterfly. If you break that cocoon for the larvae, it never develops wing strength to fly. Develop and test your wing-strength! You can do it!

Learn to laugh

A merry heart does wonders for the bones and a happy face is one that finds work! Life is beautiful so enjoy it and show others that you are really happy to be alive! Laughter also has scientific proof on how it strengthens our very bones and mental capacity. My husband has an awesome sense of humour and it has helped him so many times in the past. I tend to be the nostalgic introvert but he has a gift when it comes to breaking the ice with "difficult" colleagues. Have fun. Go to the movies. Go ice-skating. Laugh with your kids. Have joy, joy, joy...you are so privileged to be here!

~Ingrid Brunkhorst Hurrell, Aug 2015

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GrantM

You certainly have a way with words, thanks for the read!

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Sideline

Advice that any newly landed, recently landed (under 6 months) and in the process of settling (2 years or less) can take a lot of truth from.

The established few of more than 2 years know this road and understand the 'hidden' treasures all to well. These are the people that help the former and learn from those that made it past 5 years, passing on the knowledge and using more recent experience to bridge the gap between the two immigrant mind sets.

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MaryJane

As always, Ingrid. Thank you for your wisdom and truth.

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Lanieb

Thank you Ingrid. I think it's important not to sugarcoat anything that's waiting for people planning to move to Canada.

There will be difficult days but with a sense of humor anyone can survive.

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Tracey22

Culture shock

We have friends that would most likely never immigrate because of their comfortable lifestyles in SA. Driver to take kids to school. Huge property. Wonderful circle of friends. They are happy to be where they are and they are making it work with all the bells and whistles of security systems, armed response, alarms and so on. Some folks manage, others choose a different road. So you made that choice and here you are.

Even though Canadians speak English, it might be different to the English you grew up with. Try talking to a Newfie and you will soon feel as if you are from outer space. It is true though. Terms that are different, pronunciations that vary from province to province, traffic rules that are not the same, items available or not available in stores can be stressful, and tons of other reasons can contribute to a place of disillusionment very fast.

Love the title of this!

This was us before we came - fulltime domestic (she was 67 when we emigrated), part time char to help my elderly domestic, gardener, driver for the kids. Half acre property in excellent area of JHB.

Even though I have given all that up, I feel happier without those burdens.

I love reading the magazine "Canadian immigration". It has so many wonderful success stories, including those stories of hardship. this month's feature is about a Filipino immigrant who has just qualified as Canada's first filipino sommelier. She knew nothing about wines when she arrived in Canada.

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shawman

As always Ingrid, excellent. I had to laugh about speaking to a Newfie. I remember when we moved here, we were waiting in line to board the ferry. Hubby and I went over to the little shop for food and we were listening to the people around us chatting. My heart stopped when I realized I could not understand most of them. It is supposed to be English BUT we can't make it out. After being here a while we have learnt that most people who live in St Johns don't speak like that. It is the small outer village people who speak Newfie. In fact a lot of the people here don't understand it either.

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Guest

As always Ingrid, wise words for that period when the honeymoon phase ends and reality of settling-in begins. Settling in period differs for everybody, can take anywhere between six months and two years, for a few even longer. As most of us will attest to; the rewards of life in Canada is well worth the difficult times we experience settling in!

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eminembattlez

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!!!

May I ask one (potentially controversial) question: how is racism in Canada? I mean, if a person of colour was to reach out to a person who is not of colour, should they, generally speaking, expect assistance? AskingForAFriend *wink*wink*

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Tracey22

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!!!

May I ask one (potentially controversial) question: how is racism in Canada? I mean, if a person of colour was to reach out to a person who is not of colour, should they, generally speaking, expect assistance? AskingForAFriend *wink*wink*

What kind of question is that? I do not think it warrants a response.

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eminembattlez

My apologies Tracey, but it is an honest and genuine question. Maybe it wasn't worded properly. What Ingrid posted is brilliant. honestly. It is very good advice. However, whether we like to discuss this or not, we all know that all societies have racism one way or the other. Some more racist than others. What I meant to ask is the level of racism in Canada. It's easy to talk about "connecting', but exactly how easy is it? I don't have any pre-conceived ideas and would just like to know from those that are living in the country.

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Sideline

This is a multi cultural society. Some of your best friends will easily be of color or different ethnicity. Racism is more an obsession to those in SA than those of us that moved. If there is racism it is not openly obvious and certainly not accepted by mainstream society. Here it's about the greater good for everyone, so everyone respects cultural differences and more often they embrace learning about the persons background and what makes their culture so unique. Often food and Sharing recipes and taste testing is a great ice breaker. Not a question that is easily asked, because it's not accepted as relevant.

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shawman

When we lived in SA everything was about race. It was one of the reasons we left. It drove me nuts that everything had to be attributed to race. Agree with Sideline that it's a South African obsession. Here I don't think about race. I don't want to think about race and best of all I don't need to!

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Guest

Brilliant article Ingrid. Am glad you didn't hold back from the truth!

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Wolverine

Hat down Mam.

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canuck nick

Most national companies celebrate a multi-cultural week here. I think its in May. It is acknowledeged that many residents and staff come from different countries, with different backgrounds, so diversity is openly accepted.

This is a what a rainbow nation looks like.

There is racism here and there will always be racism, just not on the level you grew up with in SA.

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Guest

Here here @canuck nick!

Most national companies celebrate a multi-cultural week here. I think its in May. It is acknowledeged that many residents and staff come from different countries, with different backgrounds, so diversity is openly accepted.
This is a what a rainbow nation looks like.
There is racism here and there will always be racism, just not on the level you grew up with in SA.

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ChrisG

My apologies Tracey, but it is an honest and genuine question. Maybe it wasn't worded properly. What Ingrid posted is brilliant. honestly. It is very good advice. However, whether we like to discuss this or not, we all know that all societies have racism one way or the other. Some more racist than others. What I meant to ask is the level of racism in Canada. It's easy to talk about "connecting', but exactly how easy is it? I don't have any pre-conceived ideas and would just like to know from those that are living in the country.

Just to jump in here at random. I like a page on Facebook called I Love Toronto. (https://www.facebook.com/ilovetoronto?ref=br_rs)

I found this article on their page a while ago which does address your question to an extent: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2015/07/31/the-suffocating-experience-of-being-black-in-canada.html

I'm not sure if this might be an isolated case but it seems that there are issues there that might be better hidden than we are aware of. And the guy seems to be quite straightforward in saying that Canadians don't think it is an issue as that is not part of their culture but this guy thinks it is a big issue.

Oh well. Just found the article to be an interesting read.

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AnelleR2008

One things I think South Africans have to get used to here is exactly how multi-cultural the population is.... and then followed by the realization just how race-crazy SA is.

As a mom of a black son we have never experienced any racism here, not when we lived in the city where it is very diverse or out here in the bundus where there aren't nearly as much diversity.

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Dixie

Thank you Ingrid! :ilikeit:

I printed this for safe keeping. Such great advice and insight.

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Guest

*Sigh* why does everything have to come down to race? Change your mindset - Do it NOW! Or you will not make it anywhere outside SA.......

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AnelleR2008

I think it is HARD to change when you are still in SA. I find that whenever I speak to South Africans they always mention the race of someone:
"YEsterday at Checkers this black/zulu/african woman....."
"When we were at the beach this indian guy..."
"This colour lady......"
They don't even notice it.

I actually want to invent a drinking game where ever time they mention someone's race and it is completely irrelevant (99.9% of the time), I get to down a shot.... :D :D :D

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Guest

Although I am not an alcohol consumer...I would join you!

I think it is HARD to change when you are still in SA. I find that whenever I speak to South Africans they always mention the race of someone:
"YEsterday at Checkers this black/zulu/african woman....."
"When we were at the beach this indian guy..."
"This colour lady......"
They don't even notice it.

I actually want to invent a drinking game where ever time they mention someone's race and it is completely irrelevant (99.9% of the time), I get to down a shot.... :D :D :D

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eminembattlez

Thank you very much Sideline, Shawman, Canuck Nick, Chris G, Anelle, amongst others. I wasn't trying to distill everything down to race. It was truly a genuine question for which I needed answers, and I got the answers. It's near-impossible to do anything here is SA without seeing (or hearing) things in race-tinted glasses - and I'm sick of it. In SA you cannot imagine a certain things being done in a different way, and the perspective of those in Canada has been most useful and welcome in assisting me get the right frame of reference. I thank you again and wish to assure the skeptics that I wasn't trying to be controversial or "funny".

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ENGinCT

OK, I'll be the non-starry-eyed realist:

Anyone who thinks 'race' - or racial and/or ethnic identity and solidarity - "doesn't matter", is living in some adolescent, student-union bubble. So there! :-)

I agree that SA is obsessed by race, but it's quite understandable - the present political domination by a large (but poor) majority keeps butting up against the former economic hegemony of a small (but well-resourced and better-educated) minority. This will only end eventually if everyone slowly becomes better off - and that's just not happening.

Yes, Canada is 'diverse' and welcomes people from all over the planet. But it's still 75-80% European and thus the 'dominant', established culture does not (yet) feel threatened or that it is being changed by immigration. That's why everybody smiles and has the Diversity Days at work - the 'minorities' are only interesting and novel and, well, unusual.

But as the numbers change (minorities increase, white share of the population falls) the minority demands for and expectations of power and influence increase and will more often come into conflict with those that presently have it. The society will become more fractious and splintered, not friendlier, no matter how much the 'progressive' voices control the schools and the media. The minority groups will then try to out-'victim' each other as they squabble among themselves for a better position.

Exactly the same is happening in the US and almost all the European countries - just look around. The growing racial animosity in the US has very little to do with slavery or old flags and everything to do with the economic, demographic and political effects of relentless immigration from the south.

Edited by ENGinCT
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