–by Myan Subrayan

So you’ve had enough of South Africa – the rand taking a dive, crime and corruption on the increase, and load shedding has caused you to head to that emigration seminar in search of the utopia of greener pastures that they promise is overseas. Before you make that all-important decision to emigrate, take a few moments to read on.

I have lived in New Zealand for 12 years. My wife and I emigrated in 2000 with our then 8-month-old daughter and relocated back to South Africa in 2012 with our four children (yes, there are TV sets in New Zealand). Make no mistake; we did enjoy living in New Zealand, even receiving its citizenship. However, as our kids grew, we realised that we wanted to also give them the opportunity to experience the land of our birth, with our extended family, and to share in our values and culture.

I admit that we have problems in South Africa, but is there a country that doesn’t? Even First World countries have their fair share. The first time my house got broken into was in New Zealand in 2004, and the same year I had my wallet and cellphone stolen from my office. My teenage female cousins were assaulted and mugged at a mall parking lot in Auckland. Almost every year there are tragic incidences of violent crime. Recently, some Dutch tourists were raped as they travelled around the New Zealand countryside. Violent crime is on the increase; so don’t believe that crime is restricted to South Africa – it is present all over the world, and especially in the countries that we South Africans tend to emigrate to, namely the UK, the US, New Zealand, and Australia. 

The countries’ media don’t extensively report much on these incidents because they know it adversely affects their tourism and immigration, which they require to keep their economies ticking over. I write this as the backdrop to the many South Africans being duped by the governments of these countries and emigration agencies that paint a rosy picture of life there – but are not completely honest.

From my experiences, I would like to present the other side to emigrating that you will not hear from agents (who don’t come cheap), for you to make an informed choice. If you don’t have a job offer before you emigrate, then my advice is to wait. Don’t believe the agent who says it’s okay or easy to get one. Migrants generally have huge problems finding work, and your South African qualification is often not recognised, requiring more work to get it accredited for you to be eligible for a work visa. This also incurs more costs and time. And don’t think that there is no xenophobia, racism, and discrimination. My family, friends, and I experienced this first-hand. We were even told by certain employers that if we didn’t “toe the line” we would be fired, resulting in our work visa being terminated, and us being deported. Migrants are often bullied by locals. They are seen as “soft targets” and become victims of crime.

These countries have a high depression and mental disorder rate as a result of a number of factors – limited sunlight, financial issues, and working long hours. The cost of living is high. Often rent and accommodation costs take up 70 percent to 80 percent of your salary. The ability to save is diminished, as your disposable income is minimal, resulting in many working more than one job just to make ends meet. Consequently, there is less leisure time. Ask yourself why most young adults from New Zealand immigrate to Australia? And why do Australians immigrate to Europe? In New Zealand, the media are banned from reporting on suicides and, statistically, the country has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. Why is this if its grass is so green? Psychologists say the isolation, of being in a foreign country, and missing family, friends, and lifestyles is a major factor in psychological stress, because you lose your support networks, which need to be rebuilt when you emigrate. 

The biggest cost I had to pay was not being at home when my mother died in South Africa and I was not around her in her last years. This needs consideration as most of us come from closely-knit families.

Myan’s advice:

  • Think it over before you go
  • Do your homework and research by first going on holiday there and doing regular online checks on news, weather, job prospects, and all the country’s requirements.
  • Don’t rely on the agents’ word and don’t be driven by fear.
  • Be clear why you want to emigrate and weigh up the pros and cons.
  • You and your family need to be in agreement. If you are undecided for any reason, wait.
  • Be prepared to embrace change. Many have succeeded in emigrating, but it does take time and a lot of patience.
  • Be prepared to go backwards before you go forwards regarding your income, work, and standard of living.
  • One last thing, if you do emigrate, please don’t badmouth South Africa – many do to justify emigrating. It’s not cool.

MYAN SUBRAYAN is a writer, speaker, and life coach to sports teams and businesses. He has written biographies for Chad le Clos, Pierre Spies, Jannie de Beer, and All Black, Inga Tuigamala. For more information, visit www.myansubrayan.co.za or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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