There's real value in new perspective. I view the South Africa I return to far more positively than the one I left two years ago. Now, I can truly say I'm proud to be part of this country, and I'm proud to be South African.


What an incredible story arc just the past two years of my life has been.

I'm a strong advocate of the notion that every experience in life contributes to who you are, and there's often a learning somewhere there that you could take with you. Within these past two years there have many for me.

Back in late 2019, I was absolutely desperate to get out of South Africa. I complained about many different aspects of living here, and longed to experience something different. And crucially, something I thought almost certainly would be better. Far better. I just wanted out, as soon as I could have it.

But, importantly, I knew nothing else. I'd lived in SA my entire life. It's the classic greener pastures mentality, right?

And interestingly, in this instance, I was proven wrong.

And more interestingly, I'm glad about that!

The setup

As those of you who've emigrated likely know, the process can be arduous.

There are fees, there's an application process, and there are requirements to meet before you're even considered. I barrelled my way through all of these with the same positive optimism with which I generally live my life.

I believed I could, and then I proved myself right. And that's something to be proud of!

After having completed my Master's degree (which gave me more points to get into Canada through the Express Entry system), as well as finished some years of work experience, saved a bunch of cash, and gone through all the testing, applying, and paying that needed to be done, all I had to do was wait.

Eventually, after around 20 months, I had my CoPR stamped in my passport, and was reaching the end of my job application process, after speaking with numerous interesting companies in Canada, all of which were quite distinct. None of them excited me as much as samdesk did though.

This tech startup had many things going for it that the others didn't. It had fun colleagues. It had a strong culture with values that aligned with my personal ones (so important). It had an interesting product that had a positive impact on society. And it would give me the freedom (through trust and autonomy) to show my value, make my own decisions, and feel like I'd made a meaningful impact on the company. Not to mention, I was able to pivot into the People & Culture field, which was a huge goal of mine, and something I was very excited about.

The execution

June 2022. The time had come.

I had my new job at samdesk lined up, thanks in no small part to the advice of my three closest friends to take it. "What do you have to lose?", they asked. Nothing, I realized. So, I went for it.

I moved to Edmonton, Canada in June, and started work in July 2022. At first, it was surreal. Almost magical. Look at me! In a new city, making things happen all by myself! What an achievement. And it was.

But there's a patina that wears off after some time. Once you've settled into normal daily life, things are sometimes just naturally less exciting. You're not caught up in getting to know your new surroundings anymore. You're no longer racing around introducing yourself as the fascinating newcomer. You're not hunting for apartments, buying fancy new furniture, and setting up new subscription accounts. You're just... living life.

Daily life is commuting on the train. It's shopping for groceries. It's doing some printing at the stationery store. It's going for a walk in the park. And daily life is where you realize if you're truly fulfilled by your new country.

And I very much wasn't. Eish! What had I done? The dissonance set in. How could a place I had researched so thoroughly present itself as something so different? Why was the experience so distinct from my expectations?

I think a lesson here is just not to have those expectations. Go in with an open mind, and be ready for anything to happen. You only know once you've tried it. But think about whether it's worth trying at all. For me, it definitely was. I gained a great job and met some cool people through the experience. I still know those people, and I still have that job, so I don't have regrets. I'm still glad I did it. I'm just glad I could pivot it into what it is now.

I took issue with numerous major aspects of Canadian life, and I won't delve into those here. But one of the main things was also having to reestablish my social circle, being away from family and friends. That kind of network is so valuable, and having it back in SA is incredible.

One thing I do want to highlight is culture. I never knew what it meant to feel Proudly South African, but I do now. Having been the odd one out in a sea of Canadians made me feel more South African (outside the country) than I ever had before. That makes sense though. I was connected with my true identity when I was no longer surrounded by many aspects that contributed towards it.

Sometimes things just aren't for you. The fit isn't there. And that's totally fine! We live and learn. You just move on to whatever's next. Keep moving forward to better things.

I want to be clear that this is in no way talking down Canada. This is also not an attempt to dissuade anyone from trying to make it somewhere else, if they really have the desire to try.

But one of the main learnings for me through this was that there are pros and cons to living everywhere. Nowhere is perfect. And while I knew that already, what I hadn't experienced before was that you essentially need to figure out which pros and cons you want to live with, and go for those.

At first, for me, I only knew the ones in SA. And on balance, it seemed bad. So, I left. After having experienced the ones in Canada, South Africa suddenly appeared far better than it did before. There's that wonderful perspective.

The return

I ended up back in Cape Town in December 2023, and wasn't sure how long I'd be here for. But I was very quickly met with the overwhelmingly exciting realization that this country is for me. And also just how special this city is.

I was made so happy by having returned here, that I definitely didn't want to leave.

I got to spend quality time with my mom. I got to go out with my best friend on the weekend. I got to have fun conversations with the cashiers at the grocery store. I knew how everything worked. And I felt at ease, open, and myself as part of this culture. Because it's my culture.

Yes, South Africa has its issues. Every country does. But I'm fine with them. I know them. I know how to work around them, and live happily alongside them.

No, South Africa isn't for everyone. And it's on you to figure out where your place in this world is.

But, just bear in mind that actually going for it... actually doing it... may bring you perspective you never thought possible. And you may just end up happily right back where your story began.

Sometimes things turn out just how you thought they would. And sometimes they don't. But what's fun is you get to learn something about life, and about yourself, along the way. And maybe you get to realize what really matters to you.

Life's a journey. And I'm so glad that mine has brought me back to SA.

Dit is tog lekker by die see!

I'm so happy I'm home. :)

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