A South African in Canada: Things That Helped Me Adjust to My New Country

Mar 26, 2018

I cannot believe that we’re coming up on our two and half year anniversary of living in Canada, after all the admin it took to get us here! We all know it’s been a bumpy ride! I wrote all about it here in a blog post that was never really supposed to see the light of day. Fast forward a few months since I posted it and I am so glad that I did. It received 2000 views over night and stills ranks as one of the most popular blog posts everyday. The post is all about what to expect when moving, but another important thing to consider is how to manage and cope with all these inevitable feelings.

After a year and a half, I really felt like I had settled in to my new country. I have a job, a creative outlet (the blog), and a happy home. So in the end, I’m glad that we moved even though it was tough — and still can be on some days. The benefits have far outweighed the struggles. BUT there are a few things I wish I had done sooner to speed up the adjustment process. Read them all below!

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South African in Canada

Read: Things I Learned From Moving Abroad

#1: Be Prepared

I WISH someone had showed me or told me the things I wrote in my letter. Being prepared and armed with what to expect helps the process because you can rationally understand what you’re going through. And then, maybe, so can your spouse, who in turn can support you. Knowing that these emotions are normal and part and parcel of the process gives you some relief that it will end, it’s just necessary to go through.

#2: Stay Away From Negative People

As you will already know if you read my previous article, living abroad is not all butterflies and roses, even if it’s to a so-called ‘better’ country than your home one. You will have to deal with bad days on and off for years after moving. Stay away from people who cannot be positive. They will only bring you down and make you focus on the wrong things. It will be tough no matter what but whining over things beyond your control isn’t going to make them better. Keep a positive attitude, and your adjustment will be easier.

#3: Find Something That Fulfils You 

Initially, I spent my days cleaning the house, cooking, and eating while waiting for Craig to get home from work. These household chores might fill your day but they won’t help you feel the sense of satisfaction and productivity we all need. I kept comparing my life to the one I might have had back home. I, for one, struggled with the fact that my career was no longer on track and that my new title was “Stay-at-Home-Housewife”. The minute I started putting my energy into everything but being that: photography, blogging, travel and then eventually a part-time job, I felt a million times better. My life had purpose again and that made me happier.

Read all about our travels here! Banff, Mexico, New York, and Santorini (to name a few!)

#4: Don’t Isolate Yourself

So, this is counterintuitive when you’re going through the struggle because you pretty much do not want to see anyone. But you should. Isolating yourself to your house will not help matters. Nor will suffering in silence. Yes, not everybody will understand but then find someone who is a good listener. You’ll need them often! Relying solely on your partner is a problem waiting to happen. The moment I put myself out there and made friends that I could truly rely on, I started feeling better. I had a better support system and I didn’t feel like I was carrying the world on my shoulders to hide my feelings from my partner.

#5: Find YOUR Reason 

To be honest, I often forgot that there were several reasons why I was excited to move abroad in the first place. And for anyone else in my position: It is unlikely that your spouse’s career was the only reason you moved abroad. What excited you about the opportunity to become an expat? Was it the sense of adventure? For us, yes. So I asked myself, how can I be more adventurous? Start out small. Explore your own city or nearby. We do that all the time now! And then I began the blog! But there was a time where we were going through the motions and spending every weekend in crowded shopping malls getting things for our new house. Not fun!

#6: Embrace Your New Home

Settle into your new home and make it your own. Embrace your new life and your new city. Yes, it will be a huge shock initially, but it will become more familiar in a few months. Once I started embracing life here in Canada, it didn’t feel so strange here anymore. Everything seemed normal and now I find things back home in South Africa quite strange. So just embrace it instead of resisting it. Life truly is what you make of it.


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  1. Charlotte

    May 2nd, 2018 at 11:54 PM

    As a fellow expat, I can totally relate to the 6 points you mention in your article. It is easy to get so excited about moving abroad, that you tend to forget what a struggle it will be. I, for one, definitely went through dissapointment after I arrived in China. It is important to share your personal experience, so other people can learn from it. Or at least get a reality check before they leave everything behind. I love your story and it is so relatable. For many people expat life doens’t come easy and it takes a while to settle in, but in the end we wouldn’t want things any other way.
    Good luck on your future adventures!

    XXX
    Lotje

  2. lcdorkin

    May 4th, 2018 at 7:46 AM

    I totally agree! I love to meet other bloggers who have an expat story too — if you’d like to share it in a guest post or some helpful tips, I think a lot of my readers would love to here! Let me know! Thanks for stopping by Lotje! xxx

  3. Yolandé

    July 8th, 2018 at 4:34 AM

    Hi. Kindly send me a link when you have posted new articles on you blog. We are considering leaving South Africa for Canada….very concerned about our kids’future here.

  4. lcdorkin

    July 8th, 2018 at 7:47 AM

    Hi Yolande! The best thing would be to sign up to our newsletter on our blog and you will get email updates about new posts. Or follow us on Facebook or Instagram, as I post new blog posts on there!

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