Before reading any further, I feel it is important to say that this post is in no way directed at anyone in particular, nor is it applicable to all expats. It’s just something I’ve felt for ages, and following the recent developments in our beautiful country and the subsequent trying times we as South Africans face, I decided it was time to get it off my chest. I hope no one takes any offence, but if you do, perhaps you need to think why…
If you know me, you’ll know that I am fiercely patriotic – perhaps, at times, to a fault. However, I by no means have blinkers on when it comes to the terrible things that happen in our beautiful country on a daily basis; but I love South Africa, and love living here, in spite of it all. The mixing pot of cultures, religions and traditions, the quirks of the locals, the vast and glorious landscapes and the tenacity of the vibrantly spirited people who live here – arguably people who make up one of the friendliest nations in the world – are just a few of the elements that have ensured South Africa has a permanent place in my heart. I am privileged to have done a fair share of travelling, and while I have merely touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to places I have visited, with each place I go to (and end up falling deeply in love with), I am constantly reminded that there really is no place like home. And I couldn’t be more thankful that my home is South Africa.
Now, I don’t for 1 minute expect everyone to have the same view of my home as I do. I am well aware of the troubles that we as a nation face, and understand that sometimes, for some people, the con list is simply far too long, and seeking greener pastures in another country is the only answer. I also understand that not everyone leaves because they don’t like it here; some people leave for their careers, some people leave to be closer to family, and some simply want a new adventure in their life. And then there are those who do leave by choice, and for those reasons I don’t need to mention. And I respect that.
But what you as the expat need to remember, is that some of us remain by choice. Despite what some may believe or what your personal experiences here have dictated, some of us do actually WANT to live in South Africa because we love it, because we feel like it is the best place to raise a family, to have a career, to experience life and to see out our days. And, quite frankly, I am tired of being made to feel like this is something I need to apologise for.
I am tired of seeing those Facebook rants that – perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not – shame those of us who want to live here, implying that we haven’t got our families or our own best interests at heart. I am tired of those shared Facebook posts of some awful crime, with the “I’m so glad I don’t live there anymore”-type comment attached.
But, more than that, I am tired of having to keep quiet whenever I see one of these posts. Instead, we’re expected to sit back and take it or, even worse, like it and comment how we wish we could also get out of here. It’s almost like the unwritten rule is that those of us who live in South Africa should support your decision to leave, while you judge our decision to stay. That we should be cool with you shaming our home, but not challenge your views on it. Enough already! Because, despite what you may think, nowhere is without its faults.
Like I said before, as much as you chose to leave, there are some of us who CHOOSE to stay. I’m not tied down here unwillingly; I have a good education with 3 degrees and can ultimately work from anywhere. My husband works in an industry that operates all over the world, and his skills would be in demand in numerous countries. We have a little one on the way who would in no way be affected by a move across the seas for a long time still. We have no pets to take into consideration and financially, an international move would not leave us in a world of dept. And while it would be incredibly difficult to leave my family, we would do it if the need arose. But that need is not on the horizon, and we continue to enjoy our life in our little corner of the world each and every day.
Perhaps what I’m trying to say is this:
I get why you’ve left. Believe me, even in my patriotic (and perhaps even idealistic) mind, the thought has crept up. It’s a huge move and I really do sincerely wish you all the best. I love the fact that you’re getting a new life experience (and appreciate the fact that I have free accommodation in a foreign country – much needed with our weak currency, as you so often remind us!). But I won’t lie, I resent the posts you put on social media that actually come across as nothing more than a justification for the great life you left behind. Because, let’s be honest, would you really feel the need to share, comment and like posts containing horrific content directly or indirectly affecting your loved ones back home if you were 100% secure in and happy with your decision? And have you ever thought of the fact that, by sharing the all too common “Phew, I’m so glad I no longer live there” post, you are, in fact, indirectly celebrating something untoward happening to another person; perhaps even a loved one.
Look at it this way: when a horrific terrorist attack happens somewhere in the world, would it not be in disgustingly poor taste for me to post something saying, “Gee, am I glad I don’t live in X!”? It would. I would be shamed, and deservedly so. But is that “bad South Africa” post really any different?
All I ask is the next time you take to Facebook or another social media platform to “name and shame” the place that was once your home, you think twice. Is what you’re about to say really necessary? By all means, embrace your new home and share with us the pictures and experiences of your life, but perhaps try and do it in a way that doesn’t damn South Africa and those of us who live here. Let’s celebrate each other’s choices and differences and support one another’s decisions – especially the tough ones – in a way that doesn’t focus on the negative.
I sincerely hope that no one reading this takes any offence, as that was not the intention in writing this piece. I merely wanted to put forward the view from other side of the fence, and perhaps spark a little bit of sensitivity going forward.
“Sounds the call to come together, and united we shall stand”; we’ve all sung this many times – perhaps it’s time to start living it, and continue to embrace the unique spirit of Ubuntu that our country holds so dear.