My wife and I have moved 8 times in our marriage, so we became pretty familiar with what it took to move to a new city. Checking out homes or apartments, learning where to shop for groceries, getting new insurance, finding schools for our children, making new friends–all of these take time and energy, and can make moving difficult. If you have moved, I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences.
But making aliyah, becoming an immigrant, is all of these and then some. It’s not just about applying for insurance and finding new doctors–you have to learn a whole new healthcare system. It’s not just about re-learning the layout of a different supermarket–you don’t even know how to identify the ingredients you’re trying to find. It’s not just finding the school that best fits your child’s educational needs–the schools may have entirely different educational goals than what you were used to. It’s not just trying to find a handy-man to fix something in your home–you don’t know the language to describe to him what you want him to do.
Each person who has made aliyah will have their own list of the small things that are annoying and tough to handle, and the big things that seem overwhelming. All of these things are part of what we call “immigration stress,” which is more than adjustment to new surroundings. It is about trying to become a part of new culture, with new language, new systems, new expectations, and new rules. And it’s stressful. In future posts I will write more about how experts suggest immigrants best manage with this stress, but the first step is becoming aware that it’s not just you who is having trouble with this, and accepting that it’s okay for some things (or most things!) to feel like an uphill push. And with the right attitude and support, this is another challenge that you can overcome!