The decision to relocate is never an easy one, and moving from the familiar comforts of the United States to the vast and diverse African continent is a life-altering choice that comes with its own set of struggles and benefits. For the sake of this article, we’ll delve into the experiences of an American family as they embark on a journey to Africa, exploring the challenges they faced and the numerous rewards they discovered along the way.
One of the most distinct differences, is the smell of combustible fossil fuel and mechanical exhaust that you cannot ignore. The infrastructure is one of the most challenging aspects of the continent. The roads are poorly maintained and it is difficult to commute, especially as a foreigner. The availability and quality of infrastructure and services can vary greatly across the African continent. Access to healthcare, education, and other essential amenities may not be as readily available as in the United States, which posed challenges for a young family.
One of the primary challenges as a family is adapting to a new culture. African customs, languages, and traditions are vastly different from what they were accustomed to in the US. Learning to navigate this cultural shift was a significant hurdle. Not to mention keeping up with the various dialects of each ethnicity.
When it comes to employment opportunities, most locals will discourage you for good reason. There are no jobs here, they say often and securing stable employment is another obstacle, unless you already have an offered position. The job market in Africa can be competitive, and finding positions that match your skills and qualifications can take time and perseverance. It may be better to start your own small business, utilizing skills and experiences learnt in the western world to your advantage.
As with every developing nation there are security and safety concerns especially due to the portrayal of certain African regions in the media. It took some time for them to adapt to their new surroundings and gain a deeper understanding of the local security dynamics.
Despite the various challenges, there are benefits to be had by moving to the continent. One benefit is the immense cultural enrichment. The exposure to a rich tapestry of traditions, languages, and cuisines, expanding worldview and broadening their horizons. One unintended consequence is that most westerners are force to learn to conserve resources like energy and water and to live on less rather than abundance. These are all great survival skills to master for the future and, more importantly, gaining valuable life skills that would serve them well in the future.
Africa is renowned for its breathtaking natural landscapes, from the savannas of East Africa to the deserts of the Sahara. African communities often prioritize strong social bonds and hospitality and you are sure to find yourself welcomed with open arms, forming deep connections with neighbours and experiencing a sense of belonging.
Relocating from America to the African continent is a transformative experience filled with both struggles and benefits. It challenges one’s preconceptions, pushes them out of their comfort zone, and rewards them with cultural richness, natural beauty, and personal growth. While the journey may not always be easy, it is, undoubtedly, a unique and rewarding adventure for those who dare to embark.
Subrina Hall-Azih is a Trinidadian educator residing in the United States.