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by Katie Richard
With Dr Katie Richard
Sting's song "Englishman in New York" repeated the phrase "I'm an alien,"a song that revealed how much a foreigner can feel alienated in a country away from home. Immigration is a major stressor that can trigger depressive or anxious symptoms (including insomnia, increase in consumption of food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc.
One of the most helpful coping skills includes building a supportive social network: clinical studies have shown that social support immunizes people against stress. Stay in touch with friends and family via e-mail and webcam but also establish new social networks by joining a gym or other sports club, attending a college course, church, meeting with other immigrants (eg www.africaclub.org.au and www.saconnections.org). For example, the Africa Club in Brisbane meet on the last Friday of every month for a casual social evening meeting. SA Connections meet on the first Thursday of every month for a business breakfast in Surfer's. Even visiting the South African shop (in Melbourne or Perth) to strike up a conversation may give you a sense that you're not alone in your struggles against minor things such as getting lost on the roads, not figuring out the money, waiting for the container or animals to arrive, to major ones such as feeling financially overwhelmed, not finding a job or a home.
Another coping skill is to acknowledge that immigration is tough: you are torn from friends, family, job, a home, familiarity and a routine. You have to go beyond your comfort zone and ask others for a favour or directions, go to a gym that is "not as grand as mine back home" and feel like an idiot for not being able to pronounce Aboriginal suburb names. You have to live somewhere that is not up to your standards back home or take a job that is not ideal. This is tough.
Once the struggle is acknowledged though, remind yourself that the first few weeks or even months will be the most difficult and "this too shall pass." Nobody immigrates because it is easy. Giving up and thinking about returning to South Africa can be tempting in the height of feeling overwhelmed. In the short run, that may be easiest route. In the long run, you may be either back to square one or worse off. Returning may really work only if you've become aware of your values (e.g., family not security is most important to you).
By acknowledging that it hurts and is uncomfortable, you can then move forward by setting clear goals. Do five things daily to achieve them. Stick with the motto: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Whenever you get a "no," see it as an opportunity to seek better. Sometimes you will have to settle for second best and go beyond your comfort zones (i.e. do things you have to not because you want to.) By continually striving to achieve your goal, settling for second best temporarily means that you will not be stuck there. If you find that you're still not coping, go to a psychologist.
Posted in migration | See Dr. Katie Richards Website
Posted by Katie Richard
01 Apr 2007

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Have been here since 1982, having had 2 kids with no mother or family around I had to be very strict with myself so I would not weaken and return to Zim. Funny thing happened to me about 18 years ago standing in the queue in MacDonalds dressed for work in black suit and white blouse, I was on the receiving end of an unhappy customer when she thought I had jumped the queue "Why don't u wogs p....s off back to your own country ??!!! I had to laugh with the lass behind the counter, unhappy customer had olive skin, brown eyes and brown hair. Me, I had blue eyes,fair skin and auburn red hair (ha ha) Don't get me wrong I have many friends now from all parts of asia and even some "wogs" There are jobs in Aus, where u can work and claim all or most of tax back, I do. These types of jobs get u more integrated with aussie public, I love to leave them guessing where I am from, I don't tell them - they have to guess (ha ha) I have developed a wicked sense of humour. What do u reckon ?
Rating: 5 / 5
by karin on 23 Jul 2009

Katie, this is a great article.We have been here on the Sunshine Coast for 3 months. The only thing we haven't done is the drugs (and we won't) I've lived here before and thought it would be easy 2nd time round, but its most certainly not. The Rand's disappear on a daily basi. We are starting our own picture framing business and bought everything with us from SA. One will lose all your money buying a business here. You have to learn the system first and that takes time. We know a few South African but they are also stuggling. The secret as I see it is to have a joint ventures to start,with one thought "work, work, work". Then splinter off once you know the ropes. Australia has more rules than anywhere in the world. The don't do's in Australia: don't talk about SA, no one cares, don't talk fast people will battle to understand you, don't get road rage, don't watch the news, everything is blown out of proportion, when you arrive don't waste time treating everything like a holiday. Start working from day one. You have to change, get excited about your new country, try as hard as you can to fit in. Best help I got was from a South African here who asked me this " Did you worry about the Greek at the corner cafe in SA ?" enough said. Welcome to OZ - The greatest place in the world. Malcolm Katie 5/5. Thank you. malcolmcharlesdonaldson@gmail.com
Rating: 5 / 5
by Malcolm Donaldson on 17 Mar 2009

Thank you for your thoughts and reflections. Most of what I read brought a tear to my eye but in reading through, I also realized how far we have come in the 2 months my son and I have been here. Single-momship is daunting at its best but immigrating on your own with a little one of 7 has its ups and downs too. Anyone wanting to write and find out about moving to the western suburbs of Melbourne, hey Im right here and would love to tell of our experiences. Are there any Safas in the western suburbs of Melbourne?? Any SA doctors or dentists?? any groups that get together??? Would love to hear from you Bronwynn
Rating: 4 / 5
by BJ Nyschens on 16 Sep 2008

Having done the immigrating thing almost 20 yrs ago, I know that every point in this article is worth gold. Also worth to be aware of is that you and your partner may different stress factors and meganisms to cope with each..or not! Often times it doesn't feel like it, but things DO level out again, settle and become successful again. Never give up.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Pia Rousseau on 13 Aug 2008

Hi and thanks for the good advice. I had considered a lot of the pointers you made and they are sound . I am prepared mentally for a very tough 6 months and tough year there after . I do have some connections old friends and a church connection so I intend to do well in the long run. Waiting to immagrate. George
Rating: 4 / 5
by George BF on 04 Feb 2008

Thank you Dr Katie, thank you for your honesty, we are thinking about immigrating, we will go to Perth as my hubby got a good job offer there, I am soooo scared, going over to Perth for our LSD trip in December. My fear of arriving in that strange, unknown country drives me mad. We dont know anybody in Perth to welcome us or show us around. Will be completely on our own. It scares the h... out of me. Can anybody give advise
Rating: 5 / 5
by Adele on 06 Nov 2007

Rating: 5 / 5
by Chelsea on 29 Jun 2007

Very true!
Rating: 4 / 5
by Jacky on 29 Jun 2007

immagrating soon
Rating: 5 / 5
by amanda mckenzie on 24 Apr 2007

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