Moving to another country.

Posted: 12th December 2009 by admin in Uncategorized

Well, you more than likely will not appreciate this website or understand what all the fuss is about unless you have moved country at some time. Maybe just for a few months every 4 years or you may not even remember coming to the country you now live in but all the same you will probably be involved in a move again.Some TCKs will be used to moving on and even look forward to it, others its a big thing as they haven’t moved very often. But for others like me when I was 14, I did not realise what it would mean for me.

For me the experience was quite traumatic. I had gone to England for a few months every 3 to 4 years, usually at Christmas time so in some ways at least I had some idea of what England was like. However, at the age of 14, I left Nigeria for what I thought was the last time and headed to England on a plane. I was excited and looking forward to it in some ways. I was going to live in England! It almost had a holiday feel. The ride “home” was with two other missionaries, yes my parents were staying in Nigeria for a few more months. I had to leave to ensure I was able to start the next school year.

I stayed with my Aunt and Uncle in Sheffield. Strangely enough the excitement didn’t take long to wear off. I was an asthmatic and my cousins and my uncle all smoked! I ended up confined to my room for much of the time just to be able to breathe. However it seemed I had not really understood the need to say goodbye properly to people I had known in Nigeria. Perhaps it was because I was at boarding school and there had been a summer break before I headed to England but I soon began to miss the friends I knew and had grown up with. There wasn’t the possibility of keeping contact with emails and the internet in those days.

School was difficult to adjust to as well. I had been going to a school with an American curriculum, now I was attending a secondary school with a British curriculum. I had to unlearn my Americanisms and my accent soon began to change too.I found myself misunderstood quite often and struggled with the fact that I did not share the life experiences of the other children. I did not support a football team which immediately excluded me from many of the conversations.I didn’t know how much things cost initially and had to get used to slightly different money.

I soon found myself being very lonely, feeling that there were few people who understood that not everyone lived in a mud hut in Africa. I missed my friends and my brothers. Strangely I did not miss my parents so much. Perhaps it was spending most of my school years at boarding school and whenever we were “home” with my parents in Nigeria, they were usually working at the hospital and the cook or someone else was looking after us.

When my parents did come to England a few moths later I moved in with them but they really struggled to understand me. I was angry, frustrated, depressed and confused. I interviewed my mother some years later and she said they were worried for me at the time as I refused to speak to them for quite a while and were considering getting help for me. Well, I felt that in many ways it was their fault. They had dragged me away from the people I knew to a country which was so different from what I had known in ways I could not of comprehended before. They hadn’t even come with me! I had lost everything it felt.

A little while later we were on the move again. Off to a new house in the south of England and to a new school. That was when the depression took hold. At times it felt like a continual unbearable emotional aching and sadly I began to get addicted to those feelings. Poor me! Nobody cared what I thought or felt, everyone else had their own life but nobody was interested in mine!

It took a while for me to adjust to the new world around me. To build memories that I had in common with those around me. To re-evaluate the world around me and the things I did and how I acted and reacted. In fact I settled in well, becoming school prefect and going on to study at Furniture College in London. The new country was finally part of my life, although there was still home in my heart for Africa and I still had split loyalties. It was easy to become African again when I met a Nigerian although theirs was a different Africa to the one I had experienced as an MK.

So for those of you who experience a move to another country, you may find your experiences will be the same or similar to mine. Perhaps you will adjust easily, perhaps not. But it helps to know that what you are going through is a normal process of adjustment. Yes, just like me there are many many more people going through the feelings of excitement of moving, the difficulties of fitting in and coping with the differences of the new country, the feelings of isolation and depression and finally the readjustment and the acceptance of their new situation.

There are things that can make this process easier and I believe that just knowing that it is a normal process helps many people cope with it easier.

Going through such experiences too has its benefits. We have new insights into the differences of two or more cultures. We tend to re-evaluate our lives and how we live them. We sometimes find very good friends who take the time to help us through these times. We grow in character if we use these changes in a positive way and try not to get too bitter. These times are often times of transition in our lives. Yes they can be quite traumatic for many but can lead to an enrichment we would have not thought possible.

  1. Anonymous says:

    I completely relate. When I moved to the Philippines and America, it was culture shock and reverse culture shock, and then complete destruction of my belief system eventually. I could probably trade stories with you on the assumptions people make about the Third World and how frustrating it is when they ask things like “oh did you order vanilla ice cream because your country is so poor that that’s the only flavor you have?” But hey, what can you expect?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Another great post by Suzanne, you’re on fire! 🙂

    I have a question – how would you describe your identity under 140 characters?