We have been here just over 3 months and a recent conversation has made me realise just how idealistic I was before coming here - even up to last month.
We were so determined not to be the "expats" who joined the "South African Expat Group" on Facebook, (we still won't), so determined not to just connect with English speaking people, that which would be familiar and comfortable. Our hearts were so much to make friends with the locals of this country and find our way into their traditions and culture. (Yet, when I hear an SA accent my heart leaps with excitement - it's who we are and always will be!)
However, we recently had a conversation with a local friend of ours and he listened to me sympathetically and I have not been able to get his response out of my mind. He basically chastised me in the nicest possible way by saying that this country is filled largely with people from other countries, there are tons of Brits, Americans, French, Irish, Portuguese, German, South Africans and Flemish - and he asked me "What makes a person a local?" To me that felt like an odd question - you are local if you are from that place. However, as he pointed out, all these foreigners have been here for years, some are even the children of previous generations that moved here - surely that now makes them locals? I couldn't disagree.
The point of his conversation with me was really to not be so narrow about WHO or HOW we decide to fit in here, but more to just accept that there are lots of people here who are far from 'home', and just because they speak English, doesn't make them "not a local".
I realise that this sounds all horribly fuzzy - but now we have to rethink this. I kind of feel as though we live in a country that is like a stew: It's made up of interesting and flavoursome people, all sourced from different places with cultures and traditions stirred together to make something warm and tasty.
Maybe it will change a little of how I am experiencing people here, seeing it this way. It may not. All I know is that the word "locals" has taken on a new look that I hope will start to feel more familiar.
I know too that there is a bigger plan for us being here, it's a gift that came by way of employment - but I know there is more to it.
Each day is an adventure that we are embracing - but I am so looking forward to it all! We love it here!