My 10 stages of emigration

I can’t speak for anyone else’s emigration process, but if I was to trace the steps of our emigration, it might go something like this.

  1. Decision making – this was the moment we made the decision (in our case it was fairly quick and easy), and the start of it all.
  2. Telling everyone – this was by far one of the hardest steps because we knew it would cause sadness for our families (even though they were happy for us), and affect their lives too.
  3. Getting moving on plans – putting our house on the market was the first big step, along with moving some savings out the country too. Our toddler had gotten into an amazing school this year, and we decided to rather keep her at her playschool so that she would have less change and upheaval this year (haha – this was before Covid was on our radar). The moment we made that call to the school, I burst into tears (the first outpouring of many) as I realised that this was real, and we were giving up on some good things. Her name had been down at this school since she was six days old, and turning it away felt like a very huge step in the emigration process.
  4. Reality setting in: I remember running the Jeppe marathon in February, a race I’ve done many times, and realising it would be my last one. I had a similar sentiment over Jewish holidays (“This is our last Rosh Hashanah here”, or “Next year we’ll be celebrating Pesach in Amsterdam”). It felt very real knowing that so many things would be our “last”.
  5. Waiting and not knowing – the start of lockdown brought another level of unknown: when would we leave? The deeds office had closed, and we didn’t know when our house transfer would go through, or if/when there would be flights to Amsterdam. Lockdown was exceptionally hard for many reasons (I lost my mom during this time too), and being in flux added to the difficulty of it all. We felt a bit unrooted, not knowing how much time we had left.
  6. Kicking it into gear: Our house transfer went through towards the end of May and then things went quickly. We ordered our shipping container, and from June, we were renting our house. That month, we hustled, sold, gave away, packed, coordinated and moved to an Airbnb, and braced ourselves to leave.
  7. The goodbyes: From distanced goodbyes to friends, to teary Zoom farewells, this part was the necessary “evil”. We never got to say proper farewells to friends and family, most of whom live in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. In many ways, I feel relieved to have been “spared” the anguish of difficult goodbyes, but we never had the choice, and I think there would have been comfort and closure in the painful hugs.
  8. Anger and guilt: Just before we left, and upon saying some of the goodbyes, I felt anger at our situation, and livid that we “had to” leave, and tear our family apart, and have to start over. (Disclaimer: I realise we didn’t have to leave, and that we chose to relocate, but was it really a choice?)
  9. Regret: For a brief time, just before we left, I wondered if we had made the right decision. Watching my son say goodbye to his dad was devastating, and at that point, I just wanted to backtrack.
  10. Acceptance and hope: Landing at Schipol, navigating our 15+ pieces of luggage to wait for an Uber van, with some of the old fears and anxieties discarded, and a new life beckoning.

Our last sunset in Johannesburg

Our luggage in Joburg, just before heading to the Dutch Embassy

Arriving in Amsterdam

While we drank our first coffee in Amsterdam, Rebecca got a balloon

First sunset from our apartment

 

5 comments
13 likes
Prev post: The expat series: From Johannesburg to Amstelveen, The NetherlandsNext post: My recent lesson: Always take an umbrella

Related posts

Comments

  • Karley De Nobrega

    September 3, 2020 at 7:21 am
    Reply

    Hi Tanya. I'm really enjoying your info on moving to NL. We're in the same process as outlined above and planning to leave in November. […] Read MoreHi Tanya. I'm really enjoying your info on moving to NL. We're in the same process as outlined above and planning to leave in November. Also going through the same emotions you mention, so it's reassuring for me, especially when my nerves and doubts kick in. My hubby is not going through any of it - he just wants to go tomorrow! In the next 2 months, we have to still do the following: sell our house contents (we're only renting) and car (our 2nd car got stolen from our driveway last week after standing outside for 3 years!), secure jobs, book flights, complete packing of small container, finalise pet arrangements, secure rental in NL although we have no idea where yet - all dependent on jobs (otherwise we'll B&B for a short stay when we arrive). The thought of still having to do all of the above is very overwhelming but we're both determined to make it work! Thanks for sharing your family's experiences - it is helping me immensely. Read Less

    • Tanya
      to Karley De Nobrega

      September 3, 2020 at 7:46 am
      Reply

      Thank you for following, and please let me know if I can help in any way, or answer any questions. I remember how overwhelming it […] Read MoreThank you for following, and please let me know if I can help in any way, or answer any questions. I remember how overwhelming it all felt, but day by day you get things crossed off, and then things feel manageable and doable. You will get there - literally and figuratively :) All the best for the admin, and sorry about the car! Read Less

  • Monica

    September 1, 2020 at 7:03 pm
    Reply

    😢😢. So much of what you write resonates. Kerry and Ross had six weeks between his signing his contract with Dell in Australia to the […] Read More😢😢. So much of what you write resonates. Kerry and Ross had six weeks between his signing his contract with Dell in Australia to the time they boarded their flight out of here. And they had the same doubts and questions. Was it the right decision? Hell yes. Our hearts are broken but our heads know that they have opportunities they would never have here. Read Less

    • Tanya
      to Monica

      September 3, 2020 at 7:43 am
      Reply

      I feel sad that families get separated... that's the heartache.

  • Denise Kemp

    September 1, 2020 at 8:35 am
    Reply

    Quite a profound statement on Rebecca's t-shirt

Leave a Reply