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Eliab

4 Years Later Homesickness Or Just Not Busy Enough

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Evyn, hang bal for another year, get your citizenship, and then go where you'll be appreciated

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I did wonder about clearance after I wrote the last post....for so many jobs a green card is fine but I guess this field has a lot where you have to be a citizen.

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Good Day All

 

I would appreciate your input. Based on own experiences and maybe from friends and family already in the USA, which

country would you say is the most easiest to build a life in. Or rephrasing the question in wich country are you more able to build a life from scratch? In the South African senario, please exclude the crime factor (that is the overall reason why alot of people opt to leave), focus more on the job market, the property market (how easy it is to buy a property for instance), cost of living, healthcare, etc.

 

What has your experience been (living in the States) and what are your perceptions (wanting to immigrate) to the States.

 

And lastly are Americans more accepting towards us over there? What are the American perceptions about us, cause I think these factors do play a very important part when moving over there.

 

You input are very much appreciated

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Based on own experiences and maybe from friends and family already in the USA, which country would you say is the most easiest to build a life in. Or rephrasing the question in which country are you more able to build a life from scratch?

From my experience I can say that Australia is a very good option. The economy is in good shape (and has been for a while), private healthcare is affordable (medicare is free for all permanent residents and citizens) and the job market is also quite healthy. Add to that the safety aspect (almost no guns), weather and the similarity to SA in terms of culture and sports, then it becomes even more attractive.

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There is no easy answer to your post. You really need to go through this site and see what people have posted.
Things have changed so much over the years, both in the USA and SA that it makes your question very difficult to answer.
Getting to the USA is not easy. Most people come on a job visa or Greencard. Converting a visa to a Greencard is a long and frustrating process.
Everyone also comes with different situations. Coming to the US with a Greencard as opposed to a visa puts a whole different slant on things and makes your starting point a bit easier.
People treat you as you treat them - some are very nice and helpful and others not. It is not easy having no support system of family and friends - or rather very little support. You suddenly realise how you rely on them when they are not there. Not having Granny/friend to collect the kids from school when you are stuck somewhere and you know that they are waiting at the school gates or unable to get into the house. SA parents don't trust their kids to just anyone!

Americans seem to like us. They think we talk 'funny' and we use strange words like trolley for a cart, the boot for the trunk etc.. You can have some really funny conversations! Driving on the other side of the road has some funny and dangerous moments too. Facing 4 lanes of traffic coming towards you is very scary!

Depending on your qualifications, jobs are available. No one is begging you to come and work for them though - there are more than enough people looking for jobs. There is always someone standing in line for your job right behind you, so there is no slacking.
Take the time to have a good look through this site - there is a lot of useful information.

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Coming to the US with a Greencard as opposed to a visa puts a whole different slant on things and makes your starting point a bit easier.

 

 

Actually, I would say the opposite is true for the first year or two. Coming over on something like an L1 or an H1b visa means that you have an immediate job (and everything that goes along with that, like medical insurance, salary slips (often needed even to simply rent an apartment or home or purchase a car - unless paying cash) - often you have assistance from your employer for housing for the first weeks, and of course you KNOW where you will be going (which city), where you will be working (so which suburb, area to rent a house/apartment in, so not as to change your kid's schools etc straight away).

 

Coming over on a Greencard is great. Except you may be unemployed for months. That means no salary slips/proof of income that you need for renting a home etc. Like a new arrival on a visa, you have zero credit history, but at least those on a visa can produce proof of income - letter from employer, and/or salary slips, which you as the new GC holder cannot. In the meantime, you live in dollars off your ZAR.

And then....where do you rent? You don't know which city or which part of a city you may get a job in - so you rent a place, put your kids in schools, only to get a job 4 months later 3 hours away etc. In the meantime, unlike a visa holder who started work straight away, you don't have medical insurance (so have to navigate the exchange or get something privately).

 

Don't get me wrong - I consider myself very lucky to have started on a Greencard, and not had the long painful journey first through visas etc, but it does bring with it many more uncertainties and challenges in the beginning months than coming over on a visa. All, however, can be overcome, with tenacity and luck.

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I realize that this is an older posting, but thought that I'd weigh in my two cents anyway.

 

I have moved around quite a few times in my life, so I guess I was (in a sense) realistic in my expectations when relocating to the US.

 

When we launched MTN Nigeria back in 2001, I was one of the first 10 expats to arrive there. It was certainly the toughest year in my life: Completely different culture, seriously lacking infrastructure, tough environment to work in, dangerous, extremely stressful project schedules, etc. I watched as some expats returned to SA after the first 4 months, just to be called upon their services back to Nigeria 2 or 3 months down the line again.

 

Man! If you thought they'd drawn Amps during their first innings, they were REALLY pulling MEGA-Amps during their second... (i.t.o. emotional, physiological re-adjustment, etc.). It was then that I realized again just how easily the human mind can forget pain (think of the Comrades runners immediately after the race who'd say the'll never run it again, just to be back there again the following year). So when it was finally my turn to pack it in after a year, I went and sat down and took careful note of all the reasons why I would NEVER return to Nigeria again - just in case my memory would fail me too!

 

My brother & family, after 3 years in AUS, took 3 months leave and visited my parents in SA on the farm where he used to farm together with my Dad for almost 20 yrs. He related to me afterwards, that getting onto that plane back to AUS after that 3-month visit, was the hardest thing he had ever done - even harder than the day when they had emigrated! (Hence one of the reasons why I am very reluctant to return to SA anywhere even in the next 5 to 10 yrs).

 

So as I came over to the States, I tried to be very clear on the reasons that motivated me to 1) leave SA (negatives) and 2) to choose the US as my new destination (positives). At all times, one has to try and stay focused on those, especially when the doubt sets in. And especially when everyone else pastes their "luilekker-tone-in-die-sand" Summer holiday pics at Plett on FB while you freeze your lonely butt off in Winter on this side, etc.

 

When my 70-yr old parents emigrated last year, I encouraged them to make clippings of newspaper headings and paste it into a scrapbook. It helps to open that book from time to time and look through those headings again when the doubt sets in - and that day will certainly come for almost everyone. (I didn't bring any clippings along with me. What I do is just to think back of those mean, nasty & arrogant (Afrikaans!) neighbors I had back in JHB (very ironic, I know). Works for me though).

 

And if it seems as if the doubt wants to become overwhelming, perhaps it would help to do some reality checking too. Like others have posted here, the SA you and I have left behind a few years or more ago, is in actual fact a (far?) worse place today. When one gets into conversation with SA'ns who've been in the US for 15yrs or longer, that is when one recognizes that most of them have a fairly limited understanding / appreciation of how much things have actually changed since they have left it. The same is true of us: We have knowledge of SA the way it was when we left it, plus our minds tend to mask the negatives as the longing intensifies... (Just saying: Do a reality check from time to time)

 

I have no experience in having lived in another First world country before relocating to the US. However, I do have an ex-colleague who desperately wanted to get out of SA way back in 2009. So much so, that he applied to emigrate to AUS and his wife to NZ. Their rationale was that whichever VISA came through first, was the one they'll go for. So a little over a year later his wife got acceptance from NZ, then a month later AUS accepted his application and 2 weeks after that, he got drawn in the GC lottery (Go figure - right!!) Since getting the actual GC in hand was going to take another year, they decided to emigrate to Sydney in the meantime. Two yrs after that, they emigrated to Houston. And some 2yrs after that, they were longing to return to SA again....! (Luckily they didn't follow through on that one after he and I had, had a long talk about how bad things (BEE!) have turned at the company that we had worked together at).

 

So I'm not sure if it is perhaps a case of having tasted too many "sweet waters" already that complicates the matter for those who have lived in more than one First world country already (?). I don't know.

 

Another point: I think emigration (to the US) is somewhat easier for those who have never allowed themselves to become sport fanatics (especially rugby). Just an observation.

Edited by Reichette
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Reichette

 

Very interesting posting .... My brother have been in the USA for about 20 years now.

He and his wife visited SA once a year since they arrived there. (mostly because parents were still living).

At the moment his Mother-in-Law is still living.

But at no point did they ever talk about coming back.

He told me at 1st the changes was not evident, but it has been more obvious in the last few years.

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Reichert, so interesting...

 

In April 2014 I hit my personal low and was all set to return to SA after being in Kentucky for almost 3 years. I firmly believe I have a Guardian Angel, because I happened upon Saffers in a Lexington Mall who were here desperately trying to find a way OUT of SA, and they convinced me it would be the biggest mistake to give up the USA, as SA had changed very much for the worse in the 3 years I had been gone.

 

Funnily, I had stopped reading the daily SA news and was avidly reading all my friend's fabulous facebook posts at this point, and had conveniently forgotten the reasons we had left. Life in boring old Kentucky just seemed so awful compared to those sunny Plett holidays you mentioned! However, my chance meeting with those wonderfully honest Saffers in Lexington made me think a little harder, I started reading the news again and stopped with Facebook and within 2 weeks had cancelled my intention to return. Amazing how our mind tricks us into seeing only that which we want to see.

 

I thank God for putting those lovely people right in the path of the Sports store (that I NEVER go into) on that day, because they possibly saved me so much heartache.

 

PS - I want to do a little online poll to see if there is a correlation between keeping up with the news at "home" and years away from "home". I am interested to see what the data looks like and if this is in any way influential over one's decisions......

 

Well done, it sounds like you've got things nicely together. All the best!

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Funnily, I had stopped reading the daily SA news and was avidly reading all my friend's fabulous facebook posts at this point, and had conveniently forgotten the reasons we had left. Life in boring old Kentucky just seemed so awful compared to those sunny Plett holidays you mentioned! However, my chance meeting with those wonderfully honest Saffers in Lexington made me think a little harder, I started reading the news again and stopped with Facebook and within 2 weeks had cancelled my intention to return. Amazing how our mind tricks us into seeing only that which we want to see.

 

You nailed it right there, dude! Facebook is totally evil like that!

 

For the most part of the 365 day year, our friends and family in SA aren't posting pics of themselves sitting in Sandton Drive for an hour every day, being molested by "window washers", "salesmen" and cellphone thieves. Nor selfies of themselves with some smashed glass nestled nicely on the passenger seat where their laptop or briefcase was perched just moments before. They aren't posting arty pics from their newly replaced iPhones of the rays of sunshine beaming from a glorious African sunset streaming through the 10-foot-high electrified security fence to their complex which was slightly obscured by the half dozen or so Trojan security posters and all perfectly framed by the squeaky Trellidor from behind which they took the pic, all because the multiple layers of security they would have to traverse would only ensure that they miss the shot entirely or simply set off the alarm system by accident... yet again. Not many romantic pictures of the candle lit Nandos dinners, due to never-ending cycle of load shedding either. Nor racy snaps of themselves climbing out of a friend's shower, because their own home has been without water for over a week due to another burst water pipe in the neighborhood.

 

Yet those 25 or so days over Christmas, where everyone is taking pictures of themselves baked in sun, surf and fun at places like Camps Bay, the Knysna Heads, Lower Sabie Camp in Kruger Park, Oribi Gorge, Vaal Dam, Muizenberg beach, the Drakensberg, Hole In The Wall, Salt Rock or the thousands of other wonderful holiday destinations scattered across that beautiful nation can drive you positively insane with jealousy, especially while the trees are all bare over here, the grass in brown or covered in snow, the sky is a cloudy ash grey, and temps outside barely top freezing.

 

We had close Saffa friends stay with us this Christmas, which made a huge difference this year, but I find in general that reading the local SA news, which I personally find almost the polar opposite of reading Facebook, certainly readjusts your mindset a little. Possibly, and at times, a bit too negatively toward the place, but it certainly helps cure those FOMO blues. I also find that the best remedy is to come to these very forums and read and talk to fellow immigrants and share in everyone else's stories, hopes and adventures getting to and living in this strange country we have come to call home. It not easy by any stretch of the imagination at times, but where's the fun in easy anyway?

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Well done, it sounds like you've got things nicely together. All the best!

 

 

Thanks, though maybe I'm just good at bluffing, right? Just kidding! We all have our challenges that we are dealing with every day.

 

Talking about the job in Nigeria, all staff were individually counselled by psychologists before they went to Nigeria for the first time as well as upon their final return (as contractor I didn't enjoy those privileges though). Evidently, they told staff that the first 3 months would be the "honeymoon" period during which one will still be amazed and fascinated by the new environment (i.e. still be viewing the experience as a "vacation"). Then from 6 months until about 12 months one will go through a depression stage as reality will start to kick in (i.e. nothing is "new" anymore; the vacation is over; this is the real deal now). After that, one will gradually pull out again from the depression stage, the duration of which could vary from person to person.

 

When I was told this afterwards, I could identify that I went through all those stages almost exactly as they were described.

 

Now, the work pace in Nigeria was very intense (we burnt the candle at both ends, almost 7 days a week). A month of working there, felt like 3 months had gone by. Literally! With that said, maybe the psychologists had built the fast paced environment into their time predictions. Maybe the trauma of emigration (in a normally paced environment) plays itself out over a somewhat longer period (which may explain your lowest point after 3 yrs only, who knows?). It is of course possible that it may differ from person to person as well.

 

Glad to hear that you have managed to go through yours though without making any rush decision. One may even have several such low point experiences - the key is to see it for what it is.

 

 

One last observation, especially of GC winners: The whole process often gets viewed as one big adventure or project. Almost like the excitement of planning an overseas holiday. From the day one's entry gets drawn, various milestones get set out: Passing the interview, visiting the US for the first time to get the GC activated, getting the actual GC in hand, finding a job, selling one's SA possessions, emigrating, bringing a container across, buying a new car, buying a new home, etc, etc.

 

Then one day, all of a sudden, all those milestones have been reached and some people (if not most) will get depressed as there is "nothing else" to look forward to, except being faced with the reality that this no holiday anymore; it is now just another place to work and live at - just several thousands of miles away from one's loved ones! (It is then when the Plett pics on FB particularly add to the "tormentation", right?!)

 

If we're honest, just about every GC winner is vulnerable of falling into this "trap". It helps a lot if one remains focused on the long term picture rather while going about ticking off the various milestones along the way, i.e. that there WILL come a day when finally all the milestones have been reached and when one will have to get on with everyday living in the new country. Am I aware of it and am I ready and busy preparing my mind for it?

 

As a child, my parents took us on holidays a few times to the hot springs resort in Aliwal-North. My very first job ended me up in De Aar, working for Eskom. I often had to travel to Aliwal-North for work there. In the beginning I always looked forward to it and would always ensure that I booked myself in at the resort there. Guess what? That resort was a darn lonely place when the school holidays wasn't on - and even more so in winter times! As a result, it quickly lost its appeal for me and I was never able to look at it again as a holiday destination.....

 

When we came across to the US, especially in the beginning, I always tried to remind me of the Aliwal-North experience (i.e. focusing on the long term: this is no holiday and no short term project I'm working on).

 

 

PS. I, for one, am still following the news back home on news24.com fairly regularly - bad habits die hard, I guess...

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Hi all

 

I've been reading all your posts with a big lump in my throat ---- sadly we have come back to SA after only 3 months in the USA. My hubby one day suddenly decided that he couldnt do this and booked tickets to come back home. I was devastated!! We dreamed of moving to the USA since a year after we got married in 1998 ---- we worked on all options to get there over the years ---- my hubby is a self entrepreneur so we looked at L1 visa's etc and kept entering the Green card lottery -- until finally we won in DV2013 --- we were thrilled - espcially my hubby but somehow the closer it got to going - the less enthusiatic he got.

We wanted to leave SA due to crime and worries about what our two sons would do for a living here in SA when they grew up. But on the otherside of the coin my hubby lived a very good lifestyle here -- has a good business that earns him plenty money, had big houses, fast cars etc........... very hard to leave. I was willing to do it -- suppose its a mothers instinct to want what is best for her family but i also wanted a future where i would be safe as an elderly person one day.

Anyway -- we made the decision to give it a go and left for the USA in June 2014. We stayed with my cousin for a few weeks in Annapolis -- knew the area well as we have visited many times before and had done our research into housing etc. Somehow though when my hubby saw what size home he could buy in the area -- he kept converting back into Rands, as we were basically living on a Rand based income converted to dollars every month - it made him miserable. Compared to alot of you - we were in an enviable position -- we were not reliant on getting jobs to live, we had plenty money that we brought over to buy a home, cars etc. things were pretty easy for us in most respects --- got credit cards quickly, and already had a good credit score when we left, But being a financial guy, who always analyses and calculates everything he does --- hubby was feeling uneasy about how much money he was spending and things like medical insurance was double what it cost us in SA. He found it difficult to run his business in SA via skype etc and the drop in standard of living made him miserable. He basically felt he was dwindling away his retirement money and felt it would take him years to get to get on the same financial level that he was in SA ------- he also stressed that he would not afford the golf lessons that my son needed to become a professional golfer (it was $250 per hour for a good coach compared to R300 per hour in SA and felt like he was letting his son down and actually killing his opportunity to become a golfer) so he decided one morning he just couldnt do it. it also didnt help that his brother who went to OZ returned to SA (after 6 months in OZ) just as we left -- they were posting pics of their bushveld trips etc -- living the high life in SA - made my hubby homesick for his beloved bushveld

 

So now we are back in SA -- life is good in many ways -- live in a great home, drive great cars, have a good business and of course its great to be near family and feel South African again andaWoolies of course where i can get a cappucino in a decent cup and saucer and not a paper cup! But all these problems with Eskom and electrcity supply, BEE etc have not gone away -- suppose my hubby his chosing to make the best of things and enjoy life and take everyday as it comes. I on the other hand feel like perhaps he made a big mistake coming back -- load shedding is way worse than even a year ago --- water is no longer as clean as it was -- services and roads are all falling apart. I cant help but wonder what position we will be in later years??? Private schooling is just getting more and more expensive.

 

My advice to anyone wanting to come back -- make sure you think long and hard before you make that decision. I agree with most of you - stick it out until you have citizenship -- that way if you do come back to SA - you have not closed off your back door in the USA -- you can always go back to the USA if SA doesnt work out for you. Wish my hubby had decided to stick it out.

 

Moral of our story --- the more you have back in SA to come back to -- the easier it is to come back! Perhaps many of you dont realise how lucky you are not to have anything to come back to in SA.

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Thank you for your contribution Sol1. I'm sorry it didn't work out for you and your family.

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Sol, so sorry to hear that. I must say I do think there are some lessons in your post...one we were warned about - about leaving too much to make it easy to go back to... We sold up everything, did the fight with sars and sarb to get the funds out...worst case if we do go back someday at least the money has been in hard currency... But also the thing about earning rands is really tough. We know someone else who moved about 4 months ago, on an EB5, I'm not sure of the exact details but basically they are also relying on a Rand income stream and it's tough for them.

 

 

For us ... It's still quite early days but this is some of how we are approaching it....

 

We have done a 'swings and roundabouts' calculation. For example, people complain about food and services being expensive. Yes they are, but we have saved so much on car prices and not having to pay private school fees (or armed response subscription etc...), that the cost of a cleaner etc is more than made up for. We find a lot of SA expats focus on what is more costly (like domestic help) and ignore what isn't (most things you buy in stores!). Property is the one thing hard to compete on admittedly. Our house is not what we had in SA.... But we decided to pay up and got a similar size in a nice area and that works well enough for us... Especially with our little one wide eyed at seeing the neighbors' houses and not seeing security guards everywhere!!! The cherry on top for me - is that I am buying the convertible I always wanted but never felt safe enough to own on in SA. It's not easy and it's always the small things that get you unawares (like not knowing what laundry detergent to buy!!) but we have decided to focus on the positives and hope that gets us through the rough times. We are lucky also I must say in that we are close to some old good friends which also helps.

Edited by SJ27
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Glad things are going well for you guys so far SJ! We also sold up everything and moved money over etc--- all except the business as its a family business. I thought my hubby was quite mad to spend all that money to get there only to come back so soon. I sense that perhaps he may be starting to regret coming back -- but its done and we cannot cause more turmoil for the kids until my eldest has finished high school - he is in Grade 10 now.

We are wondering how on earth we can keep our green card open in case we decide to want to go back to the USA after my son has finished matric (3 years time) -- we still own a percentage of the business in the USA and have our credit cards open there etc. ---- anyone have any ideas???

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