All that glitters is not gold but it can be…My immigration experience

Kutlwano Hutamo
5 min readNov 12, 2021

I decided to move from South Africa to France. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. But…There’s always a but, moving to a new country has its drawbacks. As the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in France. There is nothing that compares to living a stone’s throw away from an enchanting city, having the freedom to ride on a bicycle along the world’s busiest streets, and exploring the great outdoors. Being able to just wake up and decide to visit the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and many other historical monuments has no comparison.

The drawback is that when you’re alone in a country, the loneliness starts to creep in, and you start missing home. The obvious thing that I missed at home was family and friends. Technology has allowed us to stay in touch even when we’re thousands of kilometers away. I mean we have FaceTime, Zoom, WhatsApp, and many other technologies. However, the ability to be in the physical presence of your loved ones is unmatched.

Then the other thing you also start to miss is food. We take a lot of things for granted like for instance, some takeaway joints are exclusive to South Africa. Take Chicken Licken and Anat for instance, you don’t find those in France. The other thing is that although chains like Nandos can be found in the UK, USA, and other countries, it’s just not here in France.

For me, food compounded my homesickness. I started trying to recreate some of the food from my favourite food chains and it was fun playing around with different flavours and nailing the right one. Although this alleviates the homesickness somewhat, you cannot recreate being with family and friends.

And then, of course, there is the language issue. Let’s get one thing straight, the Paris of today is not the same as that of years gone by. Parisians are no longer rude to you if you speak to them in English, in fact, most relish the opportunity to speak to you in English and practice. There is an essence in words that cannot be translated. You can communicate in English, but some concepts get lost in translation because the essence of the words is lost.

When a person didn’t grow up speaking English, certain concepts are hard to grasp. Besides that, I would find myself infusing South Africa phrases into a sentence. For instance, I would be exclaiming “eish!” which means anything from “wow”, “Whoa!” or an expression of utter shock due to something that renders you speechless. My other favourite is “ja” which is pronounced “ya” and means yes.

These things cannot be recreated and can only be understood in the local context. More on language, have you tried grocery shopping in a country where English is not the official language? Don’t get me wrong, thanks to globalization, some products like shower gel, antiperspirant, and some fruit are the same everywhere. And yet, some vegetables are slightly different and some varieties are not common in South Africa. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the store to buy lemon and oranges and they were imported from South Africa.

Eventually, you learn to live with the lack of your favourite foods, and you make new friends. You start to really appreciate this new place that you now call home. I stay in a tranquil, picturesque area that is right by the river and when I feel like it, I can work on the banks of the river and watch the ducks gracefully swimming in the water. I can horse around on the bike or on a whim, decide to ride the bike, and go to Paris. Sightseeing in Paris on a bike is definitely something I would recommend.

My favourite part about being in a new place is learning the language and the history. There is really so much to learn in this world. Don’t even get me started on the local cuisine! Sampling the local food is easily the best part of going to a new country. I don’t eat dessert often, no, really. I can count the number of times I eat dessert in an entire year on my one hand. But when in Paris…You do as the Parisians do. So, I was wolfing down madeleines, crepes, macarons, la tarte Bourdaloue, pain au chocolat, eclairs, soufflé and many more!

I definitely recommend living in a different country. There is so much adventure awaiting you as soon as you manage your homesickness and start living in the moment.



Kutlwano Hutamo

An adventurers scientist/MBA graduate navigating entrepreneurship and wellness. Semi legal eagle.