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by Dr. Dave Robinson
 
A column about little things that are deceptively similar, yet decisively different. Read and be prepared.
 
“You’ll never really fit in there”, he told me. Now Patrick was a friend from my old high school in P.E. We were paddling out for a sunset surf at J-Bay when I told him I’m heading off to Australia. He tells me I will need a support system of friends and it will be ex -South Africans that will provide that. He knows because he tried it himself and went back. The Jeffreys Bay Boardriders Club logo on my surfboard is all that now reminds me of those prophetic words. My family and I have been here six years. We greet the neighbours and sometimes invite them over for dinner. The conversations usually get started with the same three questions: “Do you like it here?” (of course we do); “Why did you leave South Africa?” (responses become more philosophical as time goes by); and “What’s up with Mugabe?” (I still haven’t got used to the way SA is confused with Zim, but hats off to them for trying).
 
I am pleased to be able to report that in six years we have actually made a few Aussie friends. Nevertheless, it is our handful of faithful ex -South Africans that are always there to share the ups and down that come with the territory when you arrive in a new country; displaced, dispossessed, cash-strapped, net-worth-diminished, and ‘network-less’.

Now, because it’s important to get a new network, one needs to actively engage in an Australian practice called, appropriately, ‘networking’. To this end there are numerous ‘networking events’ and often ordinary events can turn into ‘networking opportunities’. These frequently take place over a meal. Common practice is for each person to introduce themselves. So you half listen to what the others say, while half preparing what you will say. As others unabashedly promote themselves with the confidence of world renowned statesmen, you realise that no amount of preparation’s going to give you the credibility of an Aussie accent. Like me, you may be torn between telling too much, thereby inviting criticism for having ‘banged-on’ or , worse, being a ‘tall poppy’ (which is a cardinal sin here) and the opposite: failing to make a good impression at all.

Once the introductions out of the way, you all tuck into the cuisine of the day, usually delivered as an ‘alternate drop’. Luckily I learnt how to eat really fast at boarding school because what follows is non-stop talking, accompanied by much exchanging of business cards. In my first few years here, I participated in many of these so-called ‘networking events’. I quickly amassed a stack of business cards, without very much direct benefit, other than just generally acclimatizing and habituating (which of course is both necessary and useful, and probably the more realistic outcome of ‘networking’ activities). I’ never quite managed to condense my thirty-three years work experience into a two minute introduction, but fortunately it doesn’t matter anymore, ‘cos I’m Aussie now. Though I’m still wondering whether Patrick was right about ever really ‘fitting in’ here.

 
 
 
Posted in migration |
Posted by Dr. Dave Robinson
29 Oct 2008



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I still can not understand why somebody who was born in S.A. will leave this country. i was born in Argentina and every moment i spend in Johannesburg makes me fall inlove a little bit more with this country. I send my regards to all of the Southafricans abroad, and my respects as well. hope one day you'll be able to conme back to your country.
Rating: 5 / 5
 
by Mariano on 21 Oct 2009

 
It is so wonderful reading these articles as i am still trying to make sense of this move and experienced some of what everyone has commented on. So glad its normal and not just me that feels 'OUT' sometimes!!!!!!
Rating: 5 / 5
 
by articles_feedback.ewf on 29 Jul 2009

 
I am with you on this one Darryll.I do talk from experience because I have moved to S.A.16 years ago and trust me that was not easy.Now,this is my home and I have family as well(SA husband).We are going to Sydney at the end of this year and I do know is not going to be a walk in the park but as Darryll said" swim with the flow and make the best of it".
Rating: 5 / 5
 
by Branka Baker on 23 Jun 2009

 
I was widowed 5 years ago, then met my Ozzie husband. We married and i moved to Australia with my two young children. At first it was very exciting to move to a country where we dont have to have burglar bars everywhere. What i have found is that it is real hard to makes friends here. You can invite people, but they dont readily invite you back like back home in SA. I miss the spontanious 'drop-ins' of my friends - here you have to make an appointment to see people. I have made some ozzie friends, but i dont feel the 'depth' and friendliness of back home - luckily i have met a few SA ladies and its great to a joke with people who understand where your coming from. Afrikaans is such an expressive language! My younger son has just fitted in as if he was born here - i suppose its true what they say about kids adapting quickly. He can hardly speak Afrikaans in a straight sentence, which saddens me for i still speak Afrikaans to him, but he answers me back in English - i think some of the oompies and anties back home will not be happy to hear this. I rate this article 3 out of 5. i love our saying back home - 'ons moet saam staan' - and i agree - its the South Africans who will dry your tears when we feel lonely or sad about the ones who had to stay behind. (Sharmaine Ardern)
Rating: 3 / 5
 
by Sharmaine Ardern on 21 Apr 2009

 
I think what people need to understand is that when you re-locate you'll always feel a bit like a "fish out of water". I recall moving only from Johannesburg to Cape Town when I was 29 years old. My wife, two small children and I had to adapt to a completely new way of thinking and that was still within the borders of our own beloved South Africa. Then, at the age of 44, I made the bold decision to move to Perth...can you imagine? But you know what? After a very short time, I realised that I didn't have to change at all. I simply had to accept other people's differences and stop trying too hard to be "fit in". In any new environment, whether it be a town, country or even a new job, just remember to go with the flow because trying to paddle upstream will only make you "moeg". Life is an adventure and how much adventure can you get out of staying in one place forever??
Rating: 3 / 5
 
by Darryll van der Westhuizen on 12 Nov 2008

 
 
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