Things they don’t tell you before immigrating to the west

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

—Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut

Happy Black History Month Folks! I am so excited to see what this month has in store for everyone. I’m looking forward to coming together to celebrate black excellence and support one and other. I encourage everyone to get out there, and share their stories the best way you know how. Get out there and start a blog, post a youtube video, record your music or write that book! For me, this month is all about empowering others and sharing my own story. This Black History Month energy needs to be a year round vibe!

Today’s post is all about the things I didn’t realize would happen before moving to Canada. For those of you who don’t know, I moved to Toronto in March of 2013. I had no idea what to expect and I genuinely had 0 expectations.

Moving to the western world was such an eye opening experience. I was exposed to so many new types of people and ways of being. I know i am not the only one who moved and was taken aback by the experience. This post is for those of you who are looking to move to the “west”, or have already moved to the “west” and are looking to find something relatable.

1. The Black Card

If you’re a person of colour you automatically become racialized. You will become a black person. You may not have realized you were “black” before moving, but as soon as you’re here, it’s your official reality. You are no longer referred to as Ugandan, or Barbadian and definitely not Kenyan. I was never referred to as the black girl until I moved here. It became the main method of differentiating me from my peers. Quite frankly, this was the hardest thing to get used to. People were not using it maliciously but it just felt like another way for the west to strip me of my identity.

I never understood why North America places for much focus on race and colour, but I have since learned to use it to my advantage. Whenever applying for grants, scholarships or programs I am sure to highlight my achievements and my being black. The black card is often seen as negative but there are so many programs that are looking to diversify their environments. Moral of the story, use your colour to your advantage when you can!

2. Somethings Just Don’t Make Sense

You will have a completely different mindset and understanding to everyone else. I don’t now if this is because of a difference in cultures or because of the way schools operate here, but man it’s different.

The priorities of recent immigrants often differs from people who were born and raised in that area. You will be going through so many things behind the scenes, and people will never find out. Some of the issues you hear may seem minuscule to your own struggles. However, a valuable lesson I learnt was to never undervalue someone’s struggle. It is all too easy to assume you have it a little harder as an immigrant, but be sure to always have empathy. You will receive what you put out there, trust me.

On the other hand, there have been very many instances when I’ve been in conversations where I’ve just been so lost. People tend to keep the discussion fairly shallow and are often reluctant to venture into a more in-depth conversation. I’m sure this is something that even non-immigrants experience as well, but the difference in the focal points of life are prominent.

So all in all, just be prepared to feel a little “out of the loop”.

3. Oh Man… This Weather Though

The cold is not cute, snow ain’t either. Let’s move on.

4. Homegoing

When you finally get to go home, you’ll come back a changed person. You learn to appreciate your country so much more when you’re away. I’ve been living in Toronto for five years and the two times I’ve gotten go to Kenya have been amazing. I realized how great I had it before moving and how beautiful my home is. I literally could not stop speaking about the things you did and I guarantee you’ll do the same. My friends get sick and tired of it, but I love reliving the moments.

Not only will you learn to appreciate home, but you will learn to miss the little things your new home has to offer. I was incredibly humbled wheni realised that i genuinely missed some aspects of my life in Toronto while i was in Nairobi. So dont take everything for granted, life can get pretty grim, but the grass is always greener where you water it.

5. Unexpected Changes

Lastly, you’ll change in ways that you didn’t even know. It often takes a change of perspective to see how much you may have grown. When I compare myself to the person I was before moving here, I realize all the lessons I have learned. Living in Canada has given me opportunities that I would not be able to get in Kenya. Living here has also taught me how to be ridiculously independent. I didn’t appreciate these lessons until I stepped back onto Kenyan soil and tried to relive the life I used to live. Time changes you dramatically and you just need to take a step back and appreciate your own growth.

Moving to a different country will always be tough but as long as you surround yourself with the right people things will be just fine. An important lesson I had to learn at a young age was that life does not move forward if you keep looking backwards. I spent a lot of time saying “What if I hadn’t moved… where would my life be now?” but that was holding me back. 2019 is the first year that i have really learned to appreciate my surroundings and my ability to try out new things in Canada.

If you’re moving abroad and you have a ton of questions drop them in the comments below! If you’ve recently moved and you’ve got stories to share, go ahead and do just that!

Once again, happy Black History Month,

Hope you enjoyed

xx Ru


One thought on “Things they don’t tell you before immigrating to the west

  1. Regarding the black card. People from the continent of Africa outstrip all others immigrants in terms of educational achievement and that includes immigrants from Asia. Or at least they used to. I believe the reason for that is the lack of black identification/internalization. I would advise that you don’t let a label get foisted on you that may not serve you well. Or maybe the grants and stuff will…not sure. Nice posts.


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