My Malagasy Diaspora Tantara: Diaspora Stories Told Around the World
Today, an estimated 300,000 Malagasy people live outside of Madagascar and live all around the globe. No diaspora story is alike but what we share is that love and connection to Madagascar that we carry in our hearts, new hometowns, and life. Here are our stories.
Today: Nickie gives us insight into the difficult but rewarding challenges she faced immigrating from Madagascar to Montreal, Canada. Her story is one that many immigrants will face coming to a new country coupled with balancing a career, relationships, family, your own culture, and a whole new life. Keep reading for tips Nickie gives on adjusting to living abroad!
Hi everyone! My name is Nickie, I was born & raised in Madagascar, now living in Montreal, Canada.
What was your motivation for going abroad?
It started quite early, by the age of 13 or 14, I had this thought that it would be nice to experience life abroad someday. After graduating high school, I entered university to study computer science. Not particularly my dream career but I was curious about it so I said why not. At the same time, life was full of routine. Before I knew it, I fell into the comfort zone. I wasn’t exactly living how I wanted but it was not bad either, it was just ok. I could endure it so it continued that way for a while but of course it backfired on me. At some point, I felt like I was forcing myself to live this way. I didn’t really enjoy it but I chose to because it was the safest route to go. Getting a degree & then a stable job, then get married & start a family is the usual path young Malagasy people take. I didn’t want it to go that way & I always believed that there is more to life than that. Yet, I fell into the comfort & the sense of security of knowing where I was headed in life so I continued further until the beginning of my 3rd year in the university. I realized at that time I didn’t want to work in the field I was studying for the rest of my life, to the point where it became suffocating. As I said earlier, life was very dull due to the never ending routine. I needed a change, a really big one. The thought of going abroad came back to me. Long story short, I talked about it to my parents, they were very supportive, probably because to them it was a chance for a better future too, bless their souls. I dropped out of university to focus on how I would go abroad. I was always drawn to anything related to art & visual communication. With a mix of luck & determination, I found a graphic design program, I applied & with a few bumpy roads along the way, it worked out in the end. Thank God because I had no plan B. That’s pretty much how I ended up breaking out of my comfort zone, packing my bags to move ~15000km away from home: Montreal, Canada.
How did you feel leaving the motherland? What was the most difficult part?
I must admit it was weird leaving everything behind to start a new life. Looking back, the thought of going alone in a foreign country was pretty scary but I didn’t have the time to think about that back then. Or rather, my excitement was bigger than my fear. In the end, this is something I wanted & I knew deep down if I didn’t do it, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.
The most difficult part is probably the loneliness that came with it. I moved to a country where I literally didn’t know anyone. It’s much different now but back then, I was truly alone. The hardest times were around the holidays, I used to hate celebrating my birthday at some point because it was full of melancholy but it got better eventually.
Migration can be hard. Where did you find strength in difficult times?
I think we Malagasy people are very resilient, that trait helped a lot to overcome whatever I had to deal with. In difficult times I try to remind myself why I was here in the first place. It is the life that I chose & it was worth it. The first few weeks I arrived here one of the people I met told me in a casual discussion: “as long as you don’t give up, you are going to be ok”. I carry that sentence with me everyday & I actually say it back to the new migrants that come my way because it is so true.
In what ways did migration change you?
Adjusting to a new country & new culture, studying & working at the same time, having to think about budget, groceries, taxes and all the fun stuff I took for granted when I lived with my parents, I grew up overnight, and I became 10x more responsible. Being alone was also a blessing in disguise because I had to learn to be comfortable spending time with myself because I had no choice. It gave me the opportunity to reflect & get to know who I really am.
Well, I also realized much later on that leaving Malagasy society was freeing for me if I can say. I arrived in a country where nobody knew who I was, and a very open minded one at that. I didn’t have the pressure of maintaining a certain image anymore to not be the “enatry ny fiarahamonina”. I truly hate that saying & the culture of caring about what society will think about us if we dare to stray away from the “norm” established by it. Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud to be Malagasy & I respect & cherish our culture, it is who I am but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything & some aspects of our society is one of them. I was never the type to conform to begin with but I do believe the environment we are in plays a huge part in our development as a person. Back in Madagascar I had that pressure & was cautious of my surroundings & I was still afraid to fully express myself.
Being free from that peer pressure, prejudice, and old & conservative thinking that is still strong in Malagasy society up to this day (especially if you are a woman I find), suddenly I was less afraid of exploring & making mistakes. I had nothing to lose and living in a society where I had no pressure whatsoever helped me to not care about what people will think of me anymore. I took this opportunity to begin a journey of self discovery & self love. After years & years of work & self-reflection, I became the independent, confident in my own skin woman I always wanted to be & for that I am very proud.
What do you miss the most about Madagascar?
The food. OH! MY! GOD! The food there is the best. The warmth, the beach, the big family gathering, how people connect and the island rhythm: I am not sure how to explain this but we take the time to slow down compared to here, the city’s fast paced, it’s always running non stop, that’s the impression it gives me.
What advice would you give someone who wants to move abroad?