At Expat Relocation & Immigration services, one of our greatest joys is meeting a range of interesting people, and being allowed to share a very important part of their life journey with them. One such client is Ava Kanaye. She and her partner made the decision to uproot their lives in South Africa once the borders opened up after the Covid pandemic and she asked Expat Relocation & Immigration Services to assist her with her residence permit application process, as well as all the settling-in tasks once she arrived in the Netherlands.
Soon after Ava’s arrival in the Netherlands, two large boxes were delivered to our offices, containing two houseplants that Ava sent to Janine and Elizette to thank them for their support during her relocation journey. Ava explained that the plants represented the saying “bloom where you are planted,” and that she’ll always be thankful to us for helping her do just that.
Although Elizette loves plants, she does not consider herself a “plant person” and always feels anxious at the prospect of having to care for one when she receives it as a gift. However, she took it as a challenge to keep this very special gift alive. Despite an unsteady start, Ava’s lipstick plant has now been thriving for 18 months and is growing beautifully in her office. To Elizette, this resilient plant acts as a metaphor for all our clients who are also adapting and growing and blooming in a new and unfamiliar environment.
It was a privilege to catch up with Ava, who is currently residing and working in Amsterdam. Her immigration journey has been a fascinating one. She went from holding a high-ranking corporate position in South Africa to slowing down her pace of life. Upon arriving in Amsterdam, Ava took a year off to reconnect with herself. “In South Africa, we tend to measure our worth by our careers and social status. I fell into that trap and suffered from severe burnout as a result,” she explained. During her break, she flourished and rediscovered some of her passions. Although she has since returned to the corporate world, she’s taking things at a more leisurely pace this time around. In addition, she has started her own business as a certified health coach, with a focus on women’s health and hormones. Ava is also known for hosting incredible South African dinner parties at her home.
According to Ava, the first step in adapting to your new environment is to embrace the change. Just like a plant needs to adjust to new soil and weather conditions, you too need to adjust to the new culture and lifestyle. The reality is that things are not the same here, and it’s not fair to make comparisons with your home country. Take the time to learn about the Dutch culture, their way of life, and their values. Take a walk through your neighbourhood and observe how people interact with each other. Visit the local market and try some of the traditional Dutch foods. Learn some essential Dutch phrases, and don’t be afraid to use them when you’re out and about.
Just like a plant needs water to survive, you too need to nourish yourself in your new environment. Make sure to take care of your physical and emotional needs by finding activities and hobbies that you enjoy. Join a local club or group that shares your interests. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet. Take some time to relax and recharge, whether it’s by taking a walk in the park, reading a book, or spending time with friends.
As you start to assimilate to this new way of life, it’s important to remember that growth takes time. Just like a plant needs patience and perseverance to grow, you too need to give yourself time to adjust to your new surroundings. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you make mistakes or if things don’t go as planned. Embrace the journey and learn from your experiences.
One of the most important things to remember when settling into a new place is to stay connected. Just like a plant needs to be connected to the soil and other plants to grow, you too need to be connected to the people around you. Make an effort to build relationships with your neighbours, colleagues, and other members of your community. Attend local events and festivals, and participate in cultural activities. Join a language exchange program or take a Dutch language course.
Inevitably, there will be times when you feel like giving up or feel like you’re not making progress. Just like a plant might face obstacles like pests, harsh weather, or lack of sunlight, you too might face challenges along the way. During these times, it’s important to stay positive and remember that setbacks are a natural part of growth. Instead of focusing on the negative, try to focus on the positive aspects of your new environment and the progress you’ve made so far.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is different. Just like different plants have different needs and grow at different rates, you too will have your own unique experiences and challenges. Don’t compare yourself to others or try to measure your progress against someone else’s. Focus on your own journey, and celebrate your own accomplishments along the way.
You might initially feel small and vulnerable, but with time and patience, you will grow and flourish in your new environment. Remember, every plant has its own unique beauty, just like you have your own unique strengths and talents to share with the world. You may not be the same as you were before, but you will grow stronger and more resilient. You, too, can “bloom where you are planted.”