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Uk & Travels again - some rambling

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I have a bit of time before I need to go to my next appointment..... so I will ramble for any feeling like a long story:


5 years on and I get sent away to the UK again to take care of company stuff.  I have a UK passport, so the company uses me as I can work freely in the UK, and also because I am part of the design team :)  Yip, I have a great Canadian Job now.

It's back into a right hand drive manual, it's like I never drove on the right.  The left hand finds the gear stick and does all the right things, except I wipe the front windscreen when I indicate, and flash the people infront when I try to squirt the window.  (Darn controls are opposite.)

It takes some getting used to driving on the narrow windy roads and mega roundabouts.  Luckily I know the rules so I do not die, but It's intimidating with all those lanes and the speed and taking the correct exit - especially as google seems to have a delay announcing the exit point a bit late.  Or simply just getting confused and saying something completely different - GPS gets lost in tall buildings.  

I can still zip up and down the gears much to my surprise.  Funny, I'm the slowest driver away from the robots in Canada, but the fastest in the UK?!  So how darn fast do Canadians pull away you have to ask ???!!!


Pommies are as different to  Canadians as day is to night - even looks wise.  Drivers are probably a little less forgiving and polite here - I managed to get a good five minute bollocking from a hooter from a 3 ton truck because I dared ask to move to his lane in bumper to bumper traffic - if not, it meant I was going to get funneled off to goodness knows where and I was late for a meeting, so I just kinda worked my way into his lane and he refused to give way, so I worked some more - hey, it's a rental with full walk away cover - you want to run in to me... then do it.  He did not despite a terminal rage - phew - you can't take me anywhere.  The hooting was great, ha,ha , and then I was gone and it was all over - what a waste of rage.  As much as Canadians are also aggressive, they will often make a gap - except in Markham.  But that's not a rule for UK as further away from London in non rush hour traffic, they can be very accommodating.  I never got stuck in a big roundabout going round and round, but sometimes it came close !

The next thing you need to do is unlearn all you techno-Canada words, as everything in the UK is SA techno-speak. So that's a pain, aluminum... aluminium,....set screw...grub screw.....wrench....spanner.... gas..petrol... ; that's ok, my next port of call was SA, so relearning all the lingo was good.

After Uk success and surviving the M4, M25 and roundabouts (though the M4,3,25 are not as terrible as the 401) and there are millions of speed cameras and speed averaging areas so apart from the ubiquitous Speed-Beemers , most other people are more sedate.  I'm not sure how well the camera systems work - but imagine getting a 100 fines a month. I think they must work as people seem to be more careful of speeds.

So, off to SA... ah no longer home sweet home.  Not horrible, but not home.  JHB is just as nutty as ever. - taxis's and pause streers, or simply ignore streets.  But what I did notice is a new generation of people of all races that seem to be kinder and more tolerant of each other - criminals excluded. That was nice.  

Then to PE where I lived much of my adult life.  I studied there, met my awesome wife and had my girls - it was a time of treasures and terrors.  Living near the sea with endless beaches was a privileged that never grew old for me.  I never wasted a sea/beach day in 25 years.  But all things good have to change or come to an end.   The bad moved in and we eventually moved out.  

It was awesome to see old friends, and it was as if I'd never left.  (Amazing).  The first morning I was there, I took a walk on the beach at about 7am - the sun was in my eyes and I was looking down - a runner approached and called my name, I was completely caught off guard.  After 5 years of being away, a few hours into my first morning and I am noticed - what are the chances? Later I went to my favorite biltong spot (the stadium butchery) it's gone from a tiny shop to quite big - good for them success !  And then the girl behind the counter gives me that knowing smile - no fat she says, it's been a long time !  Wow, that's 2 people - i'm infamous !

Driving in Pe is not terrible - taxi's suck and do as they please, the town is busier and the people that live there are concerned about crime and money.  There are new street camera's and gizmos to curb crime - all innovative stuff.  Some area's are worse than others.  Water is dire -PE's under the radar, but day 0 looms for them too. There are tanks and bottles for sale everywhere and companies with trucks watering.  And grey water schemes by the zillion.  Ever the entrepreneur the South African !

Walking where you had your children, met and loved your wife and enjoyed happiness and heart break is a powerful aphrodisiac - The sensation of acute loss was powerful, not loss for the town and the place so much, but loss of times gone by - younger fitter bodies and little girls with giggles and tricks.  Old pets who were the best mates ever.  We brought our pets to Canada, but one has since passed. 

PE is a pretty town and can be an idyllic place to raise children if you can evade crime.  Many of my friends are successful with good jobs and good income, some have cottages and other houses.  It's the South African way, as it is the Canadian way, everyone has a cottage !

For me, I did not want to be back, but I did feel the pang of loss.  Many of my friends expressed regret at not leaving, but that was to be expected.  The thought of leaving is easier to digest than actually leaving.  If you're going to do it, do it sooner than later.  Emigration is hard, and harder still for the older of us. One big worry I noticed was parent now realising that their kids would probably leave, leaving them behind and that would be very hard. I left my parents too.  If they leave early enough the could import their folks.

Chat's and reminiscing are great, but it's then that you realise just how much a Canadian Kid has over a similar aged SA kid.  Canada simply has a million times more opportunities for kids than SA does.  Competition for courses in Canada is stiff, discrimination in SA is a problem.   For me, I think competition is something I can deal with more easily - at least it's fairer. 

In SA you pay 2 arms and 3 legs and a spleen kidney and liver for a "private" school - in Canada you can too - but public school generally compare extremely well with private SA school.  Stop frothing at the mouth I say.  My kids had more course choice in school than I could shake 10 sticks at, as well as advanced calculus and functions and killer science etc.   There was photography, food, business,  mechanics, electrics, cooking, catering, and and - each forms a credit towards your high school diploma.  The big issue I have with SA is everyone I know that has a half motivated kid gets 6 A's.  Statistics tell me there is something wrong with that distribution....  But then I'm not a boffin. 

So then it was back to JHB, and London and soon back to Canada.  And now I am a citizen, I feel warm and fuzzy looking at my boarding pass for Canada.  I love the snow and the life there now - it took a bit of time to get used to.  Here in the UK I have been constantly cold - never warm like in Canada.  It's a cross between SA no insulation and Canada's crazy insulation - the place I am working here is not heated, so you are cold and you breath steams - other places (except shops) are like that too.  No place I have been to in Canada is not heated in winter.

My family seem to be happily settled.  The girls are doing amazingly well at school and university - Canada rates 2nd in the world school rankings - behind Switzerland - when I last checked.  So I am confident my children have a good education.  They are both in "STEM" science,technology engineering and maths.  If you can steer your kids this way, the world could be their oyster.  There is lots of money to be had for university aid.  Government aid too.  Although, it seems that SA is not about to go over to free university for people earning under R350 0000. That's pretty high salary isn't it?  How the heck are they going to manage with all those new applicants vs spots?  And as I understand it the university are already financially crippled.  Perhaps Cyril can fix it - hope so.  Also I believe there are no longer trade tests?  That's odd - how do you know the "appies" are competent?

But I digress....

Both girls can drive now - insurance is no fun, but that's just the way it is.  Getting a licence here is painless and fair - and no bribes needed.   Emergency service & cops are brilliant (just don't be a di*k to the cops!) The roads are pretty safe and even girls can move freely without much fear of crime.  (There is always an increased risk with girls - better here than SA!)

If you come to Canada, you need to lose that SA mindset that private is the only way to go.  I have a public school child getting 80-90% in second year BioMedical.  That a simple public school education.  She works hard, very hard.  But the school provided the tools.  I used to help with her work from GR9, and I was amazed by the exponential increase in (both their) abilities from when they left SA to now.  I'm sure it's a growing up thing, so It would have probably been the same in SA.  The teachers here are not perfect, but generally they are great and helpful and supportive - if you can read between the teen bluster and puffing.  I'm not sure what the younger one will do - she's taking stem too - but ultimately she'll have to find something that interests her - forensic science is currently on her radar.  So I am a lucky parent.  I moved from SA for a better future, I struggled as did my family.  The first years were difficult and hard on the family and marriage.   

5 Years on, I am literally on the edge of my seat in London, looking forward to that first embrace of my lovely wife and 2 grown up girls.  And the new pesky Canadian stoep-kakker - ha, ha.

I'm going home !  Yay !  

What more could a person want than the success of his kids and partner.... I hope it grows and grows.  I guess I'm bragging again - but I am also trying to say, that if you chose this life, it can work out no matter what the people in SA say.  You might not have a house on the river, or a place in plet, but you'll have your family and a new life with different wants and needs.  And it's amazing how those alter too.

People trash the Canadian health system, it's not as easy as in SA where you just go where you want.  It's harder here and the rules of engagement are different.  The Canadian doctors (UOfT) are an odd bunch, times have changed and training methods seem to have mutated in ways I don't recognize.  Restraint in prescriptions are the order of the day.  Very frustrating if you are in extreme pain.  Fear of addiction can make doctors leave you wondering what the hell your going to do.... then if you see another, you go on the substance abuse watch list - because you double doctoring.... ie got prescribed pain killers from 2 different doctors.... I was't looking for a high, I was looking for the pain to go away.  But then they did a Cat scan without a wait - and it's all for free and now I know my insides are normal and no cancer and lumps.  You win on the swings and lose on the roundabouts.    The trick is to learn to work the system as the SA rules just don't apply here as they don't apply for anything else...  We're learning - fast.  

I'm growing to appreciate my new home more and more,  In see SA a place of potential and now excitement - post zuma - I'm just glad that I have Canadian issues to deal with and not SA ones.  This will be my first election - and boy am I looking forward to "anything but Wynne "

And that is where you might be in 5 years if you managed to settle and become part of the system..  Some days I still feel like a stranger - but year that improves and hopefully one day it will be gone.  





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I loved reading this !  A lot of it resonated with me...


I thought I would mention that has a great Forensic Science course.  It is not-for-credit but amazing as a interest study and FREE!  Our 17 year old did it last year and loved it.  

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This was a great read.

It's really awesome to hear (and see and know) that you all come out okay on the other side, after THE big leap of faith.

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Gary van der Westhuizen

@OutOfSa Thank you so much for sharing! We have been in Etobicoke for almost 6 months and we have had our good day and bad days. I think it is what you make of it. Step one, choose to be happy, and that is sometimes easier said than done. I can't wait to travel on a Canadian passport! 

Thank you again for sharing this, I think it is a very well balanced report. 

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Thanks for the positive comments - Ta @AnelleR2008 for the  course info.

MJ's a colleague of the same immigration "group" - and I know she's fine !

@Gary van der Westhuizen

I suspect you may be here:   (If not great !  Perhaps someone else can relate - I have more tales to tell !:D)

It's great to hear you are in town and trying to make the best of things.  I remember the 6th month mark - that would have put us in our first winter and Christmas  By now the reality of settling in will be firmly taking hold.  Simply, it's is (was) hard for many of us.  You are a stranger in a strange land to steal a line from Robert  Heinlein

I'm not sure what support you have, but if it's anything like me, they can be as much a curse as a blessing.  I found my brother after 15 years to be firmly Canadian in views and ways.  He had forgotten what it was like to be a newbie - and he'd been transferred by his company all those years back container and may perks - we had arrived with 4 suitcases, and a 2 crates (to follow) of precious stuff - which later turned out to be a precious nuisance.  The thing is we change, and it's dramatic when you arrive here - you have to or else you will not survive.  

In the first years - probably 2 or 3, things can be really tough.  Money is short - jobs might be far from ideal and Canadians are polite but generally reserved in my experience.  I have taken a lot of flack for this statement over the years, but I stand by it.  In the UK, I meet people young and old in the course of my job - and I make a connection in an instant.  I can't put my finger on why that is - but in Canada, there's just no spark.  (I figure if I was a real d*K, then I would have just as much difficulty in the uk as in Canada - connecting with people. So by extrapolation - not a total nob )

I think it's something to do with facial expressions and subliminal communication - British people get me - my father was British - so perhaps it's the Genes...  But by contrast, Canadian people are polite, but disconnected, it takes them time to get me.  At work I am known as the guy with the "wicked" sense of humour.....  I had more acquaintances transitioning into basic friends in the uk in a few weeks than I think I have in Canada in the 5 years I have been here.  Today was different for some reason, I was waiting  at a till for a price correction which was taking forever - this oldish guy is patiently waiting - so I say, "hey, I'm sorry this could take a while"...  he says "I don't mind, I'm retired and I have nothing but time...." and then we began to chat like old friends - it was nice - perhaps he was ex-British !

Perhaps you are younger and more adept at making new friends.  I'm 50 now - wow, that is old, so I'm another old guy - though nature has blessed me with good age genes, so people think I am 40 :D

I hope you are (more adept) , because everyone needs friends to progress.  

If you have not yet found a satisfying job, hang in there, it takes time - for me it was about 8 months.  My first job (from being a process engineer) ha, ha, was mowing lawns.  Oh my ! Imagine what the SA "you'll regret it " people would have had to say if they'd known.  For me, mowing lawns in the summer was strangely therapeutic.  The people I worked with were the roughest of rough - not bad people, but interesting.  Then I started to work for a Russian company - I dubbed them "The Russians" - Talking was not allowed, however, brilliant idea's were expected to improve designs and enhance production.  I'm not sure how the heck that is supposed to work - how can a team of 'engineers' be creative if they are not allow to talk.  It was weird.  They were hard people, when my increase was due, they told me I was cr**p.  I was devastated as I'd never been told that ever.  When I resigned, they made 4 counter offers - I guess I was really cr*P - You see, if you are rubbish and they "are thinking of letting you go", then you don't get an increase...  very nasty tactics.  Their loss, I moved on and I took my 25 years of design experience with me.  

My next (and current job) was different.  They quickly realised my value - now I travel for them, have a company credit card and nobody asks me questions.  I do my job and I do it well.  We keep producing great innovations and the profits keep increasing.  Yes, sometimes I do feel smug as last year the "Russian" tried to entice me back - yeah, no.  

Generally SA immigrants are highly qualified and experience - which I have no doubt you are - so it's a matter of time before someone recognises you and you start to fly.  I expect the same for your spouse.  

As a father and a partner, I found I was riddled with guilt for having taken my kids from the life & friends they knew and my wife from her idyllic life at the sea.  While it was a joint decision ( I was the driving force), I was OK - as a newbie could be - , but the rest of the family struggled to fit in.  My eldest who's soft, cried many nights.  I used to lie on her bed in the lounge of the cottage where we lived - trying to cheer her up.  I would go several times a night as I heard the sobs.  It's a terrible thing to be a dad and to watch you kids suffer.  A lot of it was probably teen angst and issues - it just fell at a time that was now more difficult than ever.  Of course, my wife who's Afrikaans was having her own version of hell, made worse by the kids' suffering.  These are the times when the anchor you need to be is shaken to the core.  You lie wake at night knowing the reasons why you moved, but crying inside because of the pain it's causing.  Surely something meant to help everyone should not cause such pain. 

Change - it's hard.

"Why did you bring us here - I'm going back as soon as I turn 18" - these are terrible words to hear among sobs and tears.  The nights were long and sad.  Afterwards they told me that they kept most of it under wraps because they could see I was suffering !  Wow, those were hard times.  Now 2 of them  are lying in front of the TV enjoying a show - tomorrow they are off to Buffalo for their first shopping / USA experience - the wings are stretching and being tested. 

Slowly the hard times change, and the better times start to replace them - and the "i'm going back as soon as I'm 18" becomes - I'm going to buy a house and a car and settle here - daddy what do you think of that - I'll earn xxx will that be enough?  I will buy you that place next to the mellie field just like in ET that you always talk about.  Daddy, my friend did this and that, I got 80 in my midterm Chemistry.  I won't be home this weekend because me and xxxx are going to yyyy and then xzzz.  (You mean xxx and I are going - DAD !) 

The change has set in and the pain begins to lessen - for me, the guilt just does not seem to relent.  I hear them laugh and chat and tell about their experiences - then there's a war and then they are in bed together with the darn Mulshi puppy watching a show together, and then there is another screaming match, slamming doors and storming.  Healthy teens in my house, when they are both home.

Gary, I don't know anything about you, but I definitely can feel your pain and I know what you must be feeling now.  I promise that the payback, which is handsome will come in time - your spouse will regain her spring, and the kids (if you have ! :D) will find their mojo.  It takes a hell of a lot of time, in my opinion.  People say - 2 years or 3 or 5 or more.  I suppose it will be different for all of us.  The bad days are BAD, and the good days are mediocre.  I'm not sure the amazing days are back - though, I'm not sure I remember many amazing days even before we arrived.  Being married is hard, being married when your whole life collapse about you is 10 times harder.  You do seek strength from your partner, but you also have to deal with new friction and problems.  

I still remember my debit card bouncing for the first time in a Canadian store, horrible.  Eventually you start to get stronger and the banks start throwing tons of offers for loans at you - credit card increase letters all the time and 'special customer' offers.  You have arrived - ha, ha, not so much.  

If this rings true for you, I encourage you to bury your face in your partners neck and hold on tight - if you have kids, pull them in - because right now it's you and your family against the odds, and the odds are harsh - but I believe you will and can beat them if you try.  I know this to be real and not BS, because know that you already had the strength to get this far.  That makes you and your partner tough smart people - take that energy, share it and let it propel you to the next level.  Believe in each other.

Soon you will be sitting in my lofty chair giving unwanted advice to newbies - you will have earned the right, because you have run the gauntlet and survived, and succeeded.  


Don't let the bad days do too much damage to your unit, scrum down and wait it out.  Don't give up, the rewards are slow, but large - if you have or intend to have kids, you are giving them a very precious gift. (Even with little rocket man and trump nearby !)  If you don't have kids or don't intend to, then you and your partner have given each other a special gift. 

And there ends my advice, wanted or not - VASBYT it does improve.  

If you need to chat, you can PM me, perhaps I can bore your bad days away :D


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I absolutely love this post @OutOfSa.

Thank you so much for sharing. Inspiration.  


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