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Old 15-11-2005, 08:18 AM   #1
Venus
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Exclamation Global Support

One of the benefits of living in today’s modern society is that there is some kind of support structure for virtually all aspects of life, whether it is having pre-marriage counselling or a telephone help-line to quit smoking. There is also fantastic support available for one of life’s greatest challenges – immigration.

This support group does not come in the form of social workers or psychotherapists. It is made up of a cross-section of people who have all been through the experience themselves. Most of the members of Global Buzz reached a point in their native country when they had to make the heart wrenching decision to either sell or pack up their belongings, say farewell to loved ones and head for the promise of a better future in a foreign country.

Whilst most “Buzzers” have made their new home in the UK, we also have members in Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, USA and Australia. Each new country has offered it’s own benefits and challenges.

One of the most difficult challenges I have discovered is understanding how “The System” in the UK works. From obtaining my National Insurance number to registering with a NHS doctor. The second challenge was homesickness. Unfortunately, when I first arrived in the UK in late 2000, there was very little support or advice available to South African expats. I had also chosen to live in a large city in Britain’s industrial north, where other South Africans were hard to find. There were very few days when I didn’t consider packing up and going back to South Africa.

Then in April 2001, whilst browsing the Internet, I came across a very tiny online community of SAffer expats. Little did I realise then what an important role these people would play in helping me to settle in my new country. I had found my very own support group!

During the next two years, this tiny community grew to include several thousand people, all experiencing similar challenges to the ones I was facing. This group of people included South Africans, Zimbabweans or people with a genuine interest in our beautiful homeland and unique culture.

Many “Buzzers” originated from that first community and we are continually being enriched with the arrival of new members. All play an important role in building this unique support group.

Through our many social gatherings, I have had the privilege of meeting other Global Buzz members. Many have now become dear friends of mine. Without their friendship, support and advice, I could not have found my feet in my new country.
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Old 15-11-2005, 11:59 AM   #2
dudette
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It is amazing how much contact with others in the same boat as you helps in your adjustment to your new circumstances, and that is still why The Buzz is such a success.
Thank you Venus
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Old 16-11-2005, 01:32 AM   #3
emma
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Heart Comments from the Cold

I was visiting S.A. during Aug/Sept for the first time in 15 yrs and met a windowdresser at the Waterfront. She told me of her sister living in Norway and gave me her cellphone nr. Made contact with Penelope who introduced me to GlobalBuzz SAffers. It really changes ones' outlook on life immediately, because one is not "alone" anymore. (Just have to get the hang of using this site correctly 'cause I'm really making a fool of myself. Anyway...)

I have never been someone hanging onto my mothers' apron, and swopped the countryside for the city a.s.a. schooldays were over. Met my Norw. husband in Jo'burg and we moved to Norway after 5 yrs. That was 1986.

Then the cycle began: The first 7 yrs I was very low down and the only thing that saved me was my childhood faith. The first month it rained non- stop and it was pitch dark most of the day. Couldn't speak the language, the culture was strange, people only smiled and dared to laugh during summer and everybody wanted to tell me how bad the "whites" were and what we did wrong. And staring at my hair, then finally daring to ask why my hair was so straight... and not "kroesies".

The cycle continued with a more familiarity: I could understand what was said, I learned about "the system" and how it works and I could ride on that wave for a few years. It was going upwards as I was still learning though...
I was involved with the South African Society based in Oslo and became very good friends with the Vice-Consulate (excuse spelling, confusing 3 languages) who moved to Namibia later with a Norwegain wife.

By this time my children were getting to school age and they joined the local International School which changed my mental state for the better. There the mums joined a Friday Bible Study Group at M's house and for many years we experienced close relationships. M and I used to get upset, because these mothers/singles also, could be divided into 3 groups: the ones married to Norwegains (the ones that are stuck), the ones living here permanently, but both are foreigners and last, the ones that are here on contract and usually moved on after a coupla' yrs. Whenever one of the last group moved, M and I would get this insecure/unsettling mood because it reminded us of our "stuck" situ. But it usually faded quickly and life turned to normality.

Then I got myself an education here, found my own self again and stopped worrying what others think of me (E.G. in-laws) and thought: they can take it or leave it. I am who I am and I'm pretty normal, so if anyone should take stock, it's THEM.

Now I have ridden the wave of "knowing it all" for quite a few yrs. So well, I can move back to SA and get a job at the Scandinavian Embassy, he-he. My confidence is top, I feel secure about the future because of proper education. And I spell better than most Norwegians (not english,anymore). I have outgrown my hang-ups about THE OTHERS. I feel free and have many good norwegian and "foreign" friends. I know of a few S.Acans and funnily enough most of them struggle with hang-ups which is a bit embarrassing... (what's wrong with us...?) Not penelope, oh no, not penelope. Boy, is she nice. Good medicine, she is.

Now that I'm at the crest of the wave and have been for quite a while, I am becoming restless. I made it here ( and it was tough - understatement) but now I'm bored. I want to live, not just exsist. That's the difference between Norway and South Africa. No matter the chaos down there, one is awake and alive amid dangers and worries. Here nothing happens. But I do appreciate the silence in this country after my return from SA. And the safety. But, the grass is always greener....?

I will definitely feel more at home a while longer now that I have been introduced to this website. And meeting interesting people from my homeland that I will always love. Still haven't changed passport, but am going to. This last trip to SA made it easier to give up my last evidence of being South African.

Bye, Venus. It was good to read your contribution.
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Old 16-11-2005, 07:30 AM   #4
TheDuck
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reading both of these experiences is really motivating

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Old 16-11-2005, 02:36 PM   #5
nikkinaz
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Thanks Venus for that article - it is sooo true what an online community of Saffers really can do for one to help settle in and with the initial loneliness. And I can relate to some of the things you have written as well Emma - I just realise as well how easy it is to settle in a different country without the language barrier, it does make things so much easier. I actually cannot image how it would be to start all over and having to learn a new language. It is good to read other people's experiences..puts I all into perspective.
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Old 08-06-2006, 10:39 AM   #6
CarolineC
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I can not express enough what an interesting read this has been for me!

My mother is one of those South Africans that married a Norwegian and from the age of 3- I was raised in Norway. I loved my childhood and found it very difficult to understand why my mother was always so angry and depressed in Norway.

Forgive me if I sound harsh but I have 2 sick kids fighting with oneanother in the back ground so I don't exactly have 'time' to think carefully about my words.

I could never understand my mother and her constant complaining-telling me how much better SA was and how much nicer the people were. My world was perfect and as a child I never experienced the 'politics' that I now understand my mother must have experienced especially during the 80's.

As a young adult I would get the occasional questions such as :"do you live in huts, are there lions in the streets?" Duh..... but anyway. My personal favourite was when a school friend's young wife saw a photo of my ex husband and exlaimed:"but he's white! How can he be South African?!". My response was simply :"have you never heard of apartheid-how could there be apartheid if there were no white people in SA?".

My last move back 'home' was as a mother married to a South African husband. My second son was born in Norway. When I brought him home the neighbours brought me presents and wanted to see the baby. One of the girls said to me:"I must be honest, I'm dying to know..... did he come out dark?".

I burst out laughing and said;"would it matter to you if he was dark?"(this is how Norwegians refer to people of colour).

The last two years that I spent in Norway triggered of memories from my childhood and suddenly my mother's strange behaviour made so much more sense. I remembered 'Dotti' the nice lady with the dark skin that came from the same country as my mother. I remembered how they used to put their arms around oneanother and cry then laugh as they tried to overcome their tears. I remembered how the children at school used to tease Dotti's son and call him 'kunta kinte'(Movie roots). I remembered a man saying to my mother:"you don't belong here-go back to black Africa!" and how she burst into tears and ran away. Only now do I appreciate how fortunate I am that I have never had to go through that in my life.

I can never understand what it is like to be a complete stranger in a country like Norway because nobody ever thinks of me as being anything else but Norwegian - my blond hair and blue eyes with my fluent Norwegian takes care of that. But now at least I understand so much more and it has brought my mother and I so much closer. Maybe if my mother had access to a support group her experience of Norway would have been so much more different. Instead she is bitter and blames Norway for all the unhappiness in her life. It did not help that my little brother was killed whilst in the Norwegian military. In her mind Norway has 'taken' everything away from her.

I love Norway and it gives me a sense of belonging that SA never has. After all-my childhood memories are from there.But I do agree-there is a life and rythm in SA that I have never found in Europe. SA has taught me something about different cultures and global life that Norway never could. But most importantly South African people have taught me the art of 'conversation'. The confidence to just walk up to anybody and strike up a conversation about anything at anytime, anywhere.

That is what I will miss the most about South Africa.

Caroline
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