Immigration can be a terribly stressful experience.
Not only do you get the feeling that you’re packing up your life in one country and moving to another (which is, after all, what you’re doing), the most difficult part is in the mind: will we assimilate? Will our kids have a safe and prosperous future? Will we lead better lives? Does this departure from our home country mean a permanent goodbye?
If you’re leaving close family members – like parents – behind, the stress is even more acute. Will I be available to them when they need care? Will they ever be able to come live with me if the need arises?
Since I have emigrated from India to Australia in the year 2001, and since many of our readers are of Indian descent, I want to talk a bit about the Indian immigrant’s experience.
India is just about the world’s oldest living culture. There are many things that make you Indian that you don’t even realise until you leave the country. When I first came to Australia as a sixteen-year-old, what struck me the most was the absolute silence – both in public places and private homes. In India, there is ambient noise everywhere; the honking traffic, the barking street dogs, neighbourly conversations etc.
And then there is the food. You will miss the food. Of course you will.
You will miss your family. Though things are much better now with Skype and Facetime and so on, there’s nothing like being with your loved ones in person, and it won’t take long before you begin to fondly reminisce about life aboard the mother ship.
However, it is not all bad. One of the most prominent advantages will be that you will earn more than you used to, even if you get a daily wage job, and your kids will almost always be better off with a higher quality education.
The operative word is hope. Here is a quick five-point guide to survive those horrendous first few weeks as an immigrant in Australia.
- Find your local Indian community. The easiest way of doing this is to pop down to the Indian grocery store nearby and pick up the free circulars that will give you all the news about the Indian community. Once you find it, attend some events and make some friends.
- Become mobile. In India, a car is a luxury item, but in Australia, it is a necessity. Often, two cars in a household are not uncommon for the average man. Getting yourself a car and a working driver’s license ought to top your list.
- Understand how grocery shopping works. Take a note of the opening and closing times of the supermarket nearest to the place you live. When you first go there, accompany a person who has been living there for a while so that they can guide you about the process.
- Figure out a source of income. This can be a job, or it can be state sponsored income support that you can use until you can stand on your two feet. Find out if your family qualifies for income support, and while on it, apply for jobs.
- Take in the local culture. Start your assimilation process by taking in the local cultural events: theatre, movies and tourist spots will give you a decent introduction to the place you live, its history and culture.
In no time at all, if you follow the above steps, you will shake off the homesickness blues and enjoy your new life.