Today marks 2 years in Australia
We’ve been in Australia 2 years today. Two years.
In some ways it feels like the time has flown and its been easy. In other ways it feels like its been made up of 731 long days.
I had completely forgotten that today marks the day until my husband phoned me from work. In the back of my mind I knew that it was coming up but I hadn’t earmarked it at all.
I definitely did not expect to be writing this post. I thought that after I had completed the Immigration Series* I would be done processing the immigration. It turns out this is not the case. In the last year we visited South Africa, bought the world’s smallest flat and I’ve started thinking about going back to work. These three things have had a profound impact on our lives, greater than I thought.
Two years in and the challenges of immigration are still present.
The first year compared to 2 Years in Australia
Maybe even more so than in the first year because a bit of the excitement and nervous energy has worn off. We are now more settled which also means more change has happened and a little more of our South African-ness has worn off. This was most apparent when we returned to South Africa on holiday only to realise we’re not resident South Africans anymore but we’re also not Australian so where do we fit in.
While we work out where we are and where we fit in in this country our children are happily plodding along. They are as Australian as Vegemite.
We used to count down the days
As I said I didn’t even remember that today marks 2 Years in Australia.
This is strange because as soon as we found out that our visa had been granted, we started counting. We booked our tickets as soon as we could and started to count down the days. In that frame of mind I would read about other people celebrating having lived in Australia for a year or 2 years and thought about how far away that was for us. I thought about how long it would take us to reach that point and how excited we would be.
Yet here I am and I forgot.
The reality is that life is busy and you become blasé about how long you’ve been here. You focus on the day to day and the trying to make it in a country that you weren’t born in. Your focus shifts from leaving or arriving to being and living. How to live, how to be. How to make the best of this second start.
Because that is what this is, a second start.
And with a second start comes the good and the bad, the fun and the hard.
The fun and the good
Fun from the pull factors
The fun comes in the form of the discovery of a new place, new adventures and a whole new world of sights, people, places and experiences. These are the pull factors that drew you to this country. For us, Australia and especially Sydney had so many pull factors.
Our pull factors remain the weather, the beauty of the country, the welcoming we felt when we first visited and the lifestyle on offer. We get to live this life and enjoy it every day. There are the beautiful beaches, the parks and playgrounds and the city sights. There is an abundance of natural beauty but also the elements of a modern functioning first world City. We have great museums and galleries, smart shopping centres and public transport.
There are so many great things to discover every day. This is probably the “social media” version of immigration in that these are the great parts that get shown off.
I’m really glad that after 2 Years in Australia we still feel the pull factors are the same because if we didn’t I think we would feel the challenges more.
Good from the push factors
The good comes from not having to deal with the “push factors” that made you want to leave your home country.
These push factors translate to us feeling safe in Australia, knowing that the economy we are buying into is stable, feeling confident in our children’s futures. I suppose it can all be summed up in the phrase “safety and security”. Mentally I know that we are living in a financially sound country. Emotionally I know that my children will have a working education and health system. Physically I know that I can walk around our neighbourhood at night using my mobile without getting robbed.
These are all great things – the good and the fun but this is not the complete picture.
The bad and the hard
The bad and the hard are real and are experienced by everyone. Some people have relatively easy transitions, as we did. Others experience a world of pain and ultimately return to their home country. For some people its the cost of living that makes it hard, for others its the lack of familiarity. It is just the degree to which you experience the bad and the hard and how you deal with them that ultimately determines the course of this second start.
While immigration is great if you do it for the right reasons. The sense of peace you get from satisfying the push and pull factors is inexplicable, but there are still hardships and challenges.
For me it all the hardships and challenges boil down to two elements: 1. Nothing is normal and 2. You have to go backwards.
It’s all new
Nothing is normal. It’s a completely different game that you don’t yet know how to play.
The rules of the road are different, the speed limits are bizarre. Who drives at 80 kilometres on a highway? The names of the cheese are Tasty and Colby – are you kidding me, isn’t all cheese tasty what happened to Gouda and Cheddar. You can get free medical care from the government but that doesn’t cover dental or the cost of your actual doctor’s appointment. Shopping trolleys are locked up in some places and you need a dollar to access them. It’s cheaper to stay home and look after your own kids than go to work and send them to daycare. And daylight savings – don’t even get me started on daylight savings.
These things are all bizarre to me but completely normal to the millions of people who were born here or grew up here.
Your everyday is completely different from the minute you wake up to the minute to you get home after work. The smells and accents around you are all different. The food looks different and comes from a different shop that you may not even be able to find. Different words and phrases are used so you may not even be able to articulate what you need help with.
Two years in and I get a lot of it and in the context of strong push and pull factors I find it all manageable. I do have days though when it drives me nuts that we have to take so many steps back in the different aspects of our life here.
Starting further back
Just as you get through the hard stages you have to go back to the beginning and do it all again.
Again, this can manifest in so many different ways. For some people its having to start out renting again after having had your own home for years. For others it’s not knowing anyone and having to develop a circle of friends by meeting random strangers. Yet for others it may be building up their lives after having sold all their personal belongings. For a large majority it is having to take massive steps back in your career or your finances.
It is incredibly frustrating and disheartening at times. Before you moved here you were established, you had reached a point where you knew where you stood. You’d worked to a point, saved to a point. Lots of early mornings and late nights, lots of effort, smart choices and sacrifice. Now you have to go back and do it all over again. Sometimes it feels as though all the steps you took, all the sacrifice you made to get to where you were was worth nothing because it doesn’t translate to your new life here.
I believe it is these two things that make immigration hard. Having to find a new normal and take a some steps back while doing it.
Despite the struggle and the hardships and the frustrations the choice we made to move was worth it. 2 Years in Australia and there has not been a single day where I’ve thought about returning to South Africa, not even a single moment.
The push and the pull factors are so strong that the good and the bad can never outweigh them.
The challenges are just part of the package.
Celebrating 2 Years in Australia
What are we doing to celebrate 2 Years in Australia? Probably the same thing we do every night in winter. Pray that the kids go to bed at a reasonable hour and then watch Masterchef or the Voice. So Australian.
If this post on 2 Years in Australia resonated with you have a look at the Immigration Series. For the posts in the Immigration Series click on the relevant link below