From Cape Town to 4 Other Countries

Denmark

 

1. What is your name?
Rukeyah Adams

2. What country were you born in?
Cape Town, South Africa

3. What job did you have in your home country?

Process Improvement Manager

4. How long have you been living in your new country?

I left South Africa in March 2011 for Copenhagen, Denmark where I lived for 1 and a half years.
I then moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania where I lived for 2 and a half years. Thereafter I moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and stayed for 3 and a half years. I currently reside in the Netherlands and have been living here for just over 2 years.

5. Did you immigrate alone or with your family and kids?

My first move from South Africa to Denmark, I was single and made the move alone. When I moved from Tanzania to Saudi Arabia, I was 7 months pregnant at the time. Both my children were born in Saudi Arabia, so the move to the Netherlands was the first one with children.

6. If you had immigrated with your kids, what were their ages when you immigrated and how did they adjust to the new environment?

When we moved to the Netherlands my children were 3 years old and 10 months old. At those ages children adapt pretty easily and Alhamdulillah we had no issues. I think it can be more difficult for older children who have already established friends at school etc.

7. How are the schools in the new country?

In the Netherlands children may start preschool at 2 and a half years old. The norm is for children to attend 2 days a week for 3 hrs a day. However, for children who struggle with language, or children who need more exposure to the Dutch language such as expat children, the government fully subsidizes 2 additional days per week. So my 3 year old could start school for 4 days a week as soon as we arrived. We made the decision to send our children to a local Dutch school as opposed to an International school as we want them to learn the language and be able to integrate fully and not be restricted due to a language barrier. Dutch schools are 100% free (well, you pay with your taxes). The only things we pay for are outings and a small parent contribution which is not compulsory. We are very happy with the Dutch education as our children are allowed to be children with emphasis placed on social confidence instead of pressure for achievements. There are no uniforms, no prefects, no prize givings, just happy carefree children Alhamdulillah. Most children attend a school which is within walking distance to home. Children as young as 8 years old ride their bikes to school by themselves. I was at first very concerned about how my daughter would manage with a brand new language. I didnt want her to feel alienated, or be disadvantaged in her learning. But Alhamdulillah it was the best decision I could’ve made, she loves school and was fluent in Dutch within 4 months.

8. What is your job in your new country?

Denmark – Global Process Improvement Manager
Tanzania – When I left Denmark I got married and “retired ” 😀
Saudi Arabia – Both my children were born in Jeddah and I was a full time mum to my babies.
Netherlands – I am now a writer of children’s books, my first book is currently in the process of being published.

9. What do you enjoy about your new country?

Denmark – Denmark has such a high quality of life, everything just works. The public transport is meticulous and makes getting around effortless. I loved the safety of the country. I could walk by myself in the dark without having to look over my shoulder. The Danes can give the impression of being cold, but given a chance they are really friendly and helpful.

Tanzania – Tanzania is a very underdeveloped country, so there is very little to do. Hence, all your time is yours to spend with family, as you not rushing to different places and events all the time. The Tanzanian people are easy going and humble. I really loved how everyone refers to each other as “kaka” (brother) or “dada” (sister) even if you are strangers.

Saudi Arabia – what I loved most about living in Jeddah was being only one hours drive away from Makkah. I absolutely loved the fact that all restaurants are halal, with all types of cuisines you can possibly think of. It was not uncommon for us to eat out for breakfast, lunch and supper on a weekend. It’s not surprising that hubby and I piled on the kilos during our time in Saudi. The thing I loved and really miss about living in Saudi, is having every salah read over the masjid loudspeakers. The muathins have the most melodious voices and it really was a treat to have as part of our daily life.

Netherlands – I love the simple lifestyle. Everyone rides their bikes to get around. I love the safety and opportunities living here affords my children. Expats are eligible for citizenship after 5 years of living in the country.

10. What do you miss the most about your home country?

I miss my family the most. I miss the food. I miss my cape town slang and humour being understood. I miss sharing special occasions with family. As an expat, with time, you will find substitutes for all the things you miss from home. You will slowly start building a support network and friends will start to become like family. But the longing will always be there. It will get better over time, but it will never go away. It is a constant that you have to learn to live with.

11. What advice would you give someone that is contemplating to immigrate to the country you have immigrated to?

For immigrating to any country, my advice would be to forget all you know, and be prepared to learn a new way of life. If you’re going to try to cling to the life you had in South Africa, you will have a tough time. Being an expat is not for the feint hearted. You will make many sacrifices. However, if you keep the reason why you made the decision in focus, try and integrate as much as possible then Insha Allah you will reap the rewards. And with the right mindset, the rewards are many.

12. What challenges, if any, would you advise them to anticipate based on your experiences when you first moved to your new country?

Denmark – The weather! It will feel like its winter all year long. The constant darkness can be depressing. During winter it can be pitch dark from as early as 15h30 in the afternoon.

Tanzania – Halal meat is not readily available, not the way we are used to in South Africa.
– Due to the bad roads, traffic can be very bad. Just a 10km distance can sometimes take up to 3 hours to get to.

Saudi – We have unfortunately had a number of racist encounters in Saudi. Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, Filipinos and anyone who looks like they might be from these countries are immediately assumed to be manual laborers and treated as lesser than. My husband is dark skinned and we encountered this on many occasions.

Netherlands – Halal products are not as widespread and easily available as in South Africa. So many products contain gelatine, therefore absolutely everything has to be checked before purchasing.

 

13. What advice would you give them to overcome those challenges based on how you overcame them?

Denmark – Make taking a Vitamin D supplement part of your daily life. This is highly effective in keeping the blues away and strengthening the immune system during those long dark winters.

Tanzania – We used to bring 2 x 23kg suitcases of meat along with us each time we visited home which was roughly 4 times a year. Alhamdulillah we never ran out. If that is not an option, I would suggest finding a local masjid first, then checking with fellow congregants where they purchase their meat from. Tanzania has many sects, so while there are many Muslims, they don’t all share the same beliefs. It is very different to South Africa in that sense, hence my advice to find the correct masjid first.
Most expats employ a driver. Labour is very affordable and it is not uncommon for expats to have a driver, a cleaner and a cook.

Saudi – Hopefully knowing this info will help someone making the move to Saudi to be prepared for such behaviour, Insha Allah. As in our case it totally took us by surprise.

Netherlands – Find a local halal butcher first, as most butchers also stock a variety of halal products from groceries to sweets to baked goods.

14. How was the visa process for immigrating to your new country?

Denmark – All arrangements was made via my company. All I had to do was to physically hand in my passport at the Danish Embassy. There was a waiting period of a few weeks. The process was completed during my first week in Copenhagen at the local authorities.

 

Tanzania – The process was very simple. You can arrive on a normal tourist or business visa. The company you work for will arrange a work permit to be added as a stamp in your passport and arrange a TRA (tax registration number) for you and your family members.

 

Saudi Arabia – The process from signing the contract to getting the visa can take a minimum of 3 months. In addition to the normal documents you also need to do a medical exam including HIV test and a hearing test. Biometrics has to be completed at a VFS facility. In Saudi you will be required to do another medical. Please insist that this is done in a mainstream hospital ( Jeddah recommendation is IMC) as some of the “polyclinics” are not very sanitary. Once approved you will receive your residence card which must be renewed annually by your employer (sponsor). Once in the Kingdom, you can sponsor your spouse and children on condition your job title allows it and your salary is deemed high enough. They will have to follow the same process so expect to be apart from your spouse and children for a minimum of 3 months.

 

Netherlands – Your employer makes a request for a working visa called an MVV, very similar to a multi entry visa. On arrival in The Netherlands there is usually an immigration lawyer supporting your company to arrange a BSN (tax registration and civil id) and a 30% tax ruling if applicable. You also need to register your address in the city/village you reside in to complete your arrival processes. For family it is the same process. You need unabridged birth certificates for yourself, your spouse and your children. These need to be apostilled in South Africa to be accepted in the Netherlands. An apostilled marriage certificate is also required. A Nikah certificate will not be accepted, it has to be one issued by Home Affairs.   

15. How is the cost of living in the new country compared to your home country?

 

I always struggle to answer this question because I feel like we are comparing two completely different things. Because of the weak rand, a direct comparison will make just about everything seem very expensive. To me €100 is a lot of money, but that converts to R2000 which I view as very little money. That’s because of what I have access to with €100 versus what I have access to with R2000. If you are earning the currency of the country in which you are also spending it, there is no point in doing comparisons.

 

16. Anything else you would like to add, or any advice you would like to give to anyone that is contemplating moving to your new country?

I would like to add that the experience as a working expat is very different to that of the spouse of the working expat. I have been in both positions.

The working expat has somewhere to go every day, colleagues, work events, etc which aids in the transition.  If you are making the move as the spouse, you will have to put in extra effort to get out of your home to make friends, try to integrate, build a support network from scratch. These things don’t happen overnight, but you have to be prepared to put yourself out there else it will be a very lonely experience. Join expat groups, volunteer, arrange play dates, all of these will aid in eventually getting to a place of having a network you can rely on in your new surroundings.