My immigration journey: Trading boerewors for beaver tails
By Claire Badenhorst
My name is Claire Badenhorst and I am in the process of immigrating with my husband from Johannesburg, South Africa to Toronto, Canada.
I have always wanted to live in another city.
Don’t get me wrong; South Africa is in my blood. I’ve been visiting the Kruger National Park every year since I can remember and it’s the one place where I can really recharge and reset. There’s nothing better than sitting next to the fire at night, recalling the day’s sightings while the soundtrack of the bushveld plays in the background.
Cape Town, with its exquisite valleys and vineyards, was a strong contender for a while but nothing irks me more than having my perfectly coiffed hair absolutely obliterated by a relentless and disrespectful south-easterly wind.
I had even considered Paris or Rome – two of my favorite cities to visit – but right now these are places I want to explore as a tourist, not as an immigrant.
I’ll be honest; prior to 2018, I had never considered moving to a city in Canada. Canada is not only the second-largest country in the world, but it is also the home of maple syrup, BeaverTails, and Poutine. The first time it entered my mind was when my sister announced that she was seriously looking at immigrating to either Canada or New Zealand. Canada won, just so you know, and she has been living happily in Toronto with her family since January 2020.
It’s scary and exciting to think about moving to a country I have never seen with my own eyes. Some would call it insanity, and they are probably right. But as a woman living in South Africa, I am constantly aware of safety and dwindling career prospects.
For me, Canada represents a chance at personal freedom, greater opportunities, and a bright future for my hypothetical children. It’s also highly multicultural, with over 250,000 immigrants being accepted each year from various parts of the world. And the best part is, you only have to live in Canada for three years before you can apply for citizenship.
When you get down to researching it, Canada is a pretty amazing place. I could wax lyrical all day about its millions of lakes, picture-perfect mountains, and diverse wildlife – Jasper National Park, here I come.
Not only that, but three of Canada’s cities appeared in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s ‘Global Liveability Report’ for 2020, which ranks the top 10 best places to live in the world. It scores 140 cities in five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto all have excellent scores for each criterion. Also, Canada has polar bears. Why would you not want to live in a place with polar bears?
You know it snows there, right?
When we started telling friends and family about our decision, they generally split up into two groups. There were those who were fully supportive, with animated cries of:
“Good for you!”
“Best decision, ever!”
And then there were those who greeted us with expressions of confusion and utter bewilderment.
“But have you ever been there?”
“It’s so far away. Won’t you miss your family?”
Or my personal favorite:
“You know it snows there, right?”
These are all valid points and I’m glad we have considerate people in our lives who are prepared to stop us from making moronic decisions. I’ve realized there are South Africans who cannot fathom why any self-respecting Saffa would trade warm weather and boerewors for temperatures that dip well below zero. But emigration is a deeply personal choice. It’s also a scary journey, especially when you are dealing with the impact of a pandemic.
Immigrating during a pandemic
Immigration two years ago was a vastly different experience from what it is like now. We completed our applications for Permanent Residence as Federal Skilled Workers in November 2020 and, under normal circumstances, we would have received a passport request roughly two weeks later for those all-important Visas. It has been three months and we are still no closer to finding out our fate.
While it’s frustrating when things are not in your control, for now, we just have to sit tight, stay positive, and hope for the best. We are dealing with exceptional circumstances, but I’m seeing it as a chance to spend more time with the people I’m going to miss when I leave.
If you’re in a similar position, all I can say is that I take great comfort in talking to people who are already living in Canada. While many of them miss South Africa, I have yet to find one person who regrets their decision.
I like to think of it as waiting for my Hogwarts letter (cue eye roll from husband). With my luck, my poor owl has probably been taken out by that blasted south-easter.