To Move or Not to Move? Ask Yourself THIS Before Moving to Africa
Plotting your escape from the good ole US of A? Is a move to the African continent on your horizons? If you want to land on the continent in the right state of mind, you should do a little self-reflection before you arrive. After all, a move to the African continent is a huge life change. This is a decision that will likely impact multiple aspects of you and even your friends and families lives. So before you jet out, ask yourself these questions first, so that you land on African soil with a solid foundation.
SELF REFLECTION EXERCISE—ask yourself these questions before moving to an African country:
Will the in-country health care be suitable enough for my medical needs?
Are you a retiree or someone with a chronic health condition? Then you definitely need to research the local health care scene in-country. The quality of healthcare in African nations varies widely country to country, with private hospitals and doctors generally offering the best care. While public health care is often understaffed, overcrowded, and battling resource deficiencies. Purchasing private medical insurance is an option or aim to have enough cash to potentially pay private facilities upfront in the event of an emergency. South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt, Mauritius, and Botswana have some of the best healthcare around the continent.
Do I have any family obligations that I need to deal with at home?
Are your parents getting up there in age? Do you have a critically ill relative? Or maybe you’d feel really conflicted about missing your little brother’s last year of high school. If you’ve got familial obligations, think long and hard before moving to Africa. Airfare to and from the continent isn’t cheap. Plus, the continent is a long ways away when there’s a family emergency back home. If you have any serious family commitments think hard before uprooting your life. A move to Africa can always be rescheduled, but precious time with loved ones can’t always be replaced.
Can I handle intermittent loneliness?
Despite all the thrill, a move to Africa can be hard on your mental health. You’ll be far away from your family and close friends. And, the holiday season can feel incredibly lonely when you can’t make it for a trip home.
Thinking about relocating to an African nation? Just know there may be times when you don’t have a gazillion social events to fill up your schedule. Sometimes you’ll be hanging solo on a Friday night or spending a Thanksgiving alone. When I was volunteer teaching in Namibia, there were some pretty quiet public holidays. My Namibian colleagues all went home for the holiday weekend, while I was left on my own. Sure, sometimes I was invited to spend time with them, but not every time. Are you the type of person who can't deal with alone time? Think long and hard before moving to Africa!
Do I get phased by negative Nancies?
When you tell folks you’re thinking about moving to Africa, get ready for:
- The “aren't you scared” questions.
- Debbie downers everywhere!
A lot of people have misconceptions about Africa. And they can completely put a damper on your exciting move to Africa plans. If you’re moving to the continent, either keep your thoughts to yourself or get ready to keep it pushing. If you’re the type to be easily swayed, think carefully about a move to Africa. Get comfortable going against the grain.
Am I willing to go through sticky immigration situations?
Visa applications can take months or your paperwork can just...POOF... disappear altogether. As an expat in Africa, there are times you will be in-country illegally between work permits. Immigration processing for expats in Africa isn't for the faint of heart. You've got to be strong-willed, persistent, and persevering in the face of some sometimes anxiety-inducing scenarios. If you cave in at the first sight of a challenging situation, African expat life may not be for you. You’ve got to be the type who doesn't give up at the first taste of a challenging situation.
How flexible am I?
There will be hot days where you will find yourself without AC or a fan. Sometimes your internet will randomly go out and it will be days before its repaired. There was a day I stood on one of Namibia’s notoriously long “end of the month” ATM lines. When I finally made it to the front, the machine suddenly went out of service. I had no choice but to deal with it and move on with my day. On the continent, you will have to deal with certain things not always going your way.
Am I comfortable with sharing?
In the past, I’ve written about the culture of sharing plates of food with my Namibian inlaws. In response, I’ve had American friends reply in disgust about how they could never share plates. Well, if you’re seriously considering moving to Africa, understand that many African cultures share bowls of sauce, plates of porridge, and yes, people sometimes eat with their bare hands (gasp!).
Pack along some open-mindedness and shift everything you’ve been taught about what’s “gross.” There’s even a popular saying around parts of Africa that goes, “in Africa we share.” So think about pushing past your own hang-ups. There’s a beauty and much to be learned from the constant sharing that exists around the continent.
Can I be away from family for long periods of time?
Do you live by the theme #familyovereverything? Would you struggle with being away from family for long periods of time? How will you deal with missing birthdays, weddings, and new babies? If you’re planning a move to Africa, reflect on if you're really prepared to miss out on life back home. Or, be prepared to spend a lot of money flying back and forth a lot (but if you can afford to, go for it!).
I answered a few of these questions with "no." Should I scrap my interests in moving to Africa?
Come up with a few “no’s”? Don’t freak out and abandon your move to Africa plans. Take these questions as points to reflect on and adjust accordingly. It’s perfectly normal to decide you need more time before making the big move. Shift some things around and keep strategizing. Plus, there are plenty of ways you can integrate African life from right within your home country—like following news and entertainment from the continent, attending cultural events, and meeting Africans in your country.
So, what's your verdict? Think you’re ready to move to an African nation? Share your thoughts or tips in the comments below!