Emigrating to Canada from South Africa: Know your WHY
By Claire Badenhorst
It’s fair to say that packing up your life after 30-odd years in one place and moving to another, completely foreign country is a major life decision. It’s a choice that brings excitement and plenty of anxiety. There are moments of “Yes, I’m so glad we’re doing this”, and just as many moments of, “This is insane; what the heck are we doing?”
If life had worked out perfectly, we would have been residents of Oakville, Toronto since February 2021. We would be living with my sister and her family while we find work and a place to live. I would have been able to hold and play with my niece and nephew, who I haven’t seen in more than a year. But life often does not work out perfectly. Often, it’s messy and unpredictable.
When plans are put on hold, you may experience feelings of doubt. Have we made the right decision? Will it work out? Is this a sign that it’s NOT the right move? Should we wait? Will we be miserable? Will the cold be too much? What if maple syrup isn’t all that?
And listening to people can make these thoughts worse or better. I know that there are people who don’t understand why we are leaving South Africa. I also understand that it’s our choice and not theirs. We make decisions for different reasons and they might not ever understand why we’re doing it. Luckily, that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that WE know why.
If you’re new here, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Claire Badenhorst and I am in the process of emigrating to Canada from South Africa with my husband. (You can find out more about where we are in our process here.)
I’ve lived in Johannesburg, South Africa since I was born. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to other countries, but this has always been home. I love the hot summers with afternoon rain showers, and I adore the dry winters with their distinctive veld fire smell wafting through the air. Don’t even get me started on the people, the landscape, and the wildlife.
But (for many reasons) we’ve decided to change gears and move in a new direction.
Emigrating has not been an easy decision for me. If I didn’t have family living in Canada already, I honestly don’t know if I would even be considering it.
Emigrating means leaving people behind. It means swapping physical hugs and impromptu wine dates for scheduled Zoom calls. Differences in weather patterns aside, it means missing out on family gatherings, friends’ birthdays, weddings, births, memorials, and so much more.
It’s blêrrie hard.
But it’s also kind of amazing and exciting and rewarding. It also means moving towards something great, not just away from what is ‘safe’. I’m not living in Canada yet but so many of the people I have spoken to say that they have no regrets. Why – because they knew exactly WHY they were doing it.
So, if I can give you one piece of advice, it’s this: know your why and let it give you the comfort and peace of mind to continue along this incredible journey.
It’s an adventure. A scary one. But we’ve committed so much to this decision already that it would be silly to turn back now. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
My why is more of a… why the heck not?
The worst that can happen is we move back after three years with Canadian passports and a helluva great story to tell around the next braai. The best-case scenario is we settle in a beautiful new place and give our South African friends and family a place to stay when they venture up north. We’ll take them back country camping and snowtubing, introduce them to BeaverTails and poutine, and show them magnificent sights like Lake Louise and the Rockies. We’ll go skiing in Whistler, have white Christmases, raise children with weird accents, and sport slipped discs from falling on hard ice.
Am I nervous? Yes.
But nothing worth doing was ever easy.