Sorry that I’ve been incommunicado the past few days. My original plan of blogging every day in Adelaide flew out the window because of my schedule and because I was tired out from walking everywhere (which is awesome).
I’ve been meeting a whole interesting bunch of people in Adelaide the last few days and listening to their stories. If there’s one thing I can say from what I gleaned from those encounters is that your attitude as a migrant is so very important. You need to be positive, and you need to have a paradigm shift in your thinking to survive in Australia as a new migrant.
There is much information out there about what you need to do to get yourself a visa to Australia or what you can do when you arrive. But there’s not as much in regards to the mental preparation that you need to have before coming over here.
Mental preparation, I believe, is just as important (or even more so) than the physical preparation. From what I can glean from the numerous migrants I’ve spoken to, having the right mindset is really vital. You need to:
Let go of previous privileges and comforts
You may have had a big house, a maid and a personal driver in your Malaysian life. In Australia, unless you’re one of the very lucky few (and loaded), you’d have to start from scratch again. That means taking the public bus. Or cooking all your meals. Or doing without that HDTV or chauffeur. Longing for the comforts of your previous life will only bog you down with unnecessary regrets. Find creative ways to carve a comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle for yourself on a shoestring budget. It could be fun. Living a simpler life is an opportunity to discover who you are without your possessions.
Realise that you may not work in the same profession or industry, at least for a while, and accept that fact.
Are you in love with your job as I am? I am still struggling to say goodbye to my profession, and am slowly accepting the fact that I will never probably be that in Australia again. However, fortunately, there are ways for me to indulge in it even without a job here – and for that, I am fortunate. (I am a writer.) Being exposed to a new occupation – no matter how “low” – is a chance to build toughness and also an opportunity to get new skills.
Not tie your sense of worth to what you do for a living
People “back home” were always fascinated with what I did, and could never resist saying my name in tandem with my job title. I grew uncomfortable with that, because I didn’t like how much I enjoyed the kick I’d get out of it! I later realised just how much I have tied my identity with my job. Am I less of a person if I did not have a fancy title tagged to the end of my name? Well, of course not! And this is something we have to let sink in.
Be prepared for months and months of joblessness
Here’s a cold, hard fact: No matter how qualified you were, no matter how much experience you had back in the “Tanah Air”, all this matters squat in the Lucky Country. They want you to have “Australian work experience”, and if you don’t have that – it’s going to be tough. And in South Australia, due to the parochial nature of the job hiring practices, it is going to be especially difficult. Many had to take courses to requalify (and a lot of times, even that doesn’t work!). Many chose to volunteer or work odd jobs. Don’t be embarrassed to do that – it’s an honest living and in Australia, nobody cares what you do as long as it’s not illegal. Get your foot in the door and be prepared to work very, very hard at securing that first job.
Accept that this is the way things are in Australia, and getting angry about it is a waste of energy
Well, you can complain until the sky turns red, but things will never change in Australia unless you are God. It’s the culture here – some companies are just very reluctant to give foreigners a chance so you will have a tough time of it. What you can control, however, is your reaction to these circumstances. While some negativity is inevitable and you do need to express your anger and frustration once in a while, don’t dwell and wallow in it as it’ll sap the strength out of you. That strength you’ll you need to fight this tough battle and to endure your trials. Have a positive attitude – happiness is a state of mind, not of being.
Stop comparing Australia with Malaysia and vice versa
I mean, why wish that an apple was an orange? Yes, Australian people have different values and way of doing things – you can choose to be bitter and angry about it. You can even choose to have a superior attitude (“Man, did we do things so much better back home!”) so that you can feel better. But really, is this how you want to exist in the country you’ve fought hard to get a chance to live in? Again, one has to let go of wishing things could be just like Malaysia because they’re not gonna be like Malaysia. We can either choose to dwell on the good or the bad side of Australia. If you choose to dwell on the bad, then you’ll be miserable. It’s really just your choice.
Stop reminding people how awful Malaysia is
And while you may have “escaped” and am now “safe” in Australia, must you sneer at the country that gave you opportunities and educated you? Now, I know where this is heading. You’re saying that the gomen did not lift a finger to help you. Some of that is true, but who you are today is because of the opportunities and policies of the Malaysian government. And you know what, looking at who I am today and the kind of life I had – I don’t think I turned out too badly.
I need to blog about this more because I can go on and on about it. But frankly, Malaysia isn’t as terrible as you think it is. Sure, it’s not heading where we’d like it to, but must you put down the people who have made the choice to stay there? Their life isn’t as hopeless and terrible as you think. Also, having this mindset means that you’re a “failure” if you return to what you consider an inferior country. And that’s not true.
Treat this as an experience and an adventure, no matter how the journey will turn out
We have been taught that the only worthwhile experience to have is one that ends in success. But yet, many successful people went through numerous failures and in each experience they learned something new. In my life, that’s true as well. I’ve gone through quite a few heartbreaking and nerve-wrecking failures in my personal and professional life and almost all of them I’ve count as a blessing. Why? Because they’ve made me stronger and have changed me for the better.
Like I told Tony, a new Singaporean migrant – no matter how badly this turns out, this experience will enrich you in many ways. You’ll never return home empty.
PS: Just because I wrote all this, doesn’t mean I’m a master and 100% mentally ready for the move! I’m just a student like everyone else 🙂