Just be happy you’re here…immigrant!

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I’ve been an immigrant for over half my life now. South Africa is the 3rd country I have settled in since I left Zimbabwe at age 17. It’s always nice to move to a new country. New life, new people, new cultures, new languages…I mean, what’s not to like? Oh yes, the xenophobia. There’s usually always a bit of xenophobia to greet an immigrant wherever you emigrate to. That part of the experience is never nice.

Anyway, what I wanted to scribble about today is something I’m sure many immigrants have faced before. The “if you don’t like it, leave!” narrative. There is this notion that when you are an immigrant to a country, you don’t really have the right to complain about any shortcomings or negativity that country may have; that the country is doing you a favour by taking you in so you really should just “be a good immigrant and be happy you’re here.”

I remember once being attacked on Twitter because I was complaining about some government department in South Africa. Someone said to me “if you don’t like it why don’t you go back home?” That tweet gave more Tweeps the impetus to have a bit of a discussion on the matter. There were tweets like:

“I hate how foreigners come here and aren’t grateful for our hospitality”;

“Why do foreigners always complain? They are not prisoners here. They can just leave”;

“You allow people to come here and they start acting all fly”.

Now, this got me thinking…I live in South Africa. I may not be a citizen, but I am a resident. Do I not have a right to be unhappy about certain aspects of the country? And if I am unhappy, do I not have the right to complain?

And please note, this is not a South African phenomenon. From the United States, to the United Kingdom, to Australia. Ask immigrants in any country worldwide and they will tell you a similar story. It’s bizarre really. Why do locals feel the need to curtail the rights of foreigners to vocalize their grievances?

Anyway following my dressing down on Twitter, I was telling the Mrs. all about it. For context, she’s South African. I rant to her about how I think it’s so unfair and borderline prejudicial to be expected to live (or die, rather) in silence just because I am an immigrant who should be grateful to be living in SA. Guess what? She agreed…with the Twitter folk! WHAAAAT? She wasn’t as crass about it but she agreed with them nonetheless. Her exact words were “You can complain…just not like us”


It’s always a tricky subject. I guess immigrants can’t be choosers…or was that beggars? What do you think? Do you think immigrants should just be content with what they get from the host country and if they don’t like it, they should just leave? Or do you think immigrants should be allowed to complain if they are not happy?


**** just scribbling my immigrant thoughts ****


10 comments on “Just be happy you’re here…immigrant!

  1. YomiBazuaye says:

    Excellent post, about a very relevant topic.

    With your permission I’d like to share this post on the afropean facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/afropeans/), in fact I’ve just scheduled it for Friday evening. If you object to this let me know and I’ll un-schedule it.


  2. Nandipha says:

    Brilliant article. Factual


  3. vhuvu says:

    Well that’s the norm with most countries. We are not allowed to complain about the country if we not citizens yet we all face the same problems. I’d like to say my country is different because I’ve come across foreigners complaining about Zambia in Zambia and people agree with them sometimes if the point is valid. But hey the opposite will always exist too.


    • ImTawanda says:

      I love this line in your response “We are not allowed to complain about the country if we not citizens yet we all face the same problems”.

      You’re right, we all face the same problems irregardless of nationality. Glad Zambia is more accommodating.

      Thanks for reading

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I always enjoy your blog from over here in Philadelphia USA. Please keep writing. So good to read.


    • ImTawanda says:

      Thank you very much. I don’t get to write as much as I’d like to anymore but always great to see that someone out there enjoys the posts. Thanks again.


  5. Bongi says:

    I have been looking for your blog for a long time now. I am glad I found it and I just had to reread the post about over-political correctness. “Why didn’t she tell me to look for a dwarf dressed like a can of Fanta” Hahahaha!

    I really like your writing. Keep blogging!


  6. tariro83 says:

    You’re right, like you I’ve lived in several countries. I’ve experienced xenophobia but mostly, I’ve been welcomed and empathised with when the System has disadvantaged me. I could be wrong but I’ve found working with the grain rather than against it will earn you empathy. Set your anger aside and look beyond your complaint. You are in a System that was not designed for your needs, even if the locals are facing the very same issues. Understand you are not a citizen and it’s implications. Not for the hardest bit, be at peace with your situation. When you vocalise your peace, it will not put your local listeners on the defensive. Not only will you earn their empathy, you will also earn their help and most importantly, their respect. Look at it this, if someone comes into your house and complains bitterly about -say a window that does open properly. Your instinct is to become defensive… Do you see where I’m going with this? Thanks for the thought provoking piece. You write well.


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