Who are you? / Where, when and why did you move abroad?
My name is Dr. Michèle Moriarty and I am originally from Johannesburg, South Africa.Due to escalating crime in the country of our birth, my husband and I decided to embark on an adventure overseas, which first took us to London in 2007. I absolutely loved my time in the United Kingdom, both on a personal and a professional level.
I was fortunate to be able to further my tertiary education in London at the prestigious King’s College, specialising in Orthodontics. It was always my lifelong dream to become a Specialist Orthodontist, an opportunity that I was not afforded in South Africa.
My husband was then offered a position at a design agency in Salzburg, and in 2014 we decided to move our young family to Austria. As my family has felt so settled here in beautiful Salzburg, I decided it was time to properly put down my roots and open an orthodontic practice.
What challenges did you face during the move?
One of the biggest challenges when emigrating is that you suddenly don’t have a network or support structure any more, both on a personal and a professional level. All the contacts you’ve spent a lifetime nurturing, no longer exist. Add a foreign language and the challenge is immediately amplified!
It was very difficult to come here as a non-native speaker and then have to suddenly enter a specialist profession speaking German at the highest level. In my own case, I was fortunate to have spoken some German as a child (unfortunately only occasionally), so this helped me to achieve the C1 level required for registration with the Dental Chambers. It was a great challenge to slowly learn the necessary vocubulary for my specific profession, as this is not offered in your average language course!
In orthodontics I need to explain very difficult concepts to patients about their own dental health and treatment, and their ability to understand me is an important part of the consent process. I am thankful that most of my Austrian patients are gracious enough to oversee my occasional grammar mistakes and instead value the wealth of knowledge and experience I have brought with me.
I am also pleased to be the only native English speaking orthodontist in Salzburg, which is an advantage for the many expat families who have now settled here. There are several international companies in Salzburg that attract young professionals to move here, including Red Bull, and this has helped me to slowly grow my practice.
What do you like about life where you are?
Salzburg is just wonderful for raising a family. It is surrounded by mountains, and my children are growing up playing in the forest, swimming in lakes and skiing in powder snow. We lead an outdoor life, enjoying the nature that is literally on our doorstep. Mostly, I appreciate how safe I feel here, which is in stark contrast to the life I had to leave behind in South Africa.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
I love the following quote by Paulo Coelho:
“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”
My foreign accent is my badge of honour as it takes great bravery to leave everything familiar behind and make a start somewhere new.
Having emigrated twice, I would say the most important thing is to make a real effort to integrate into your new country. Learn the language, embrace the local culture, shout for the national team! If you are friendly to your host countrymen, and bring value to the community, you can almost be guaranteed that you will receive the same in return.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m very excited for my future here in Austria: I would like to continue to grow my orthodontic practice in Salzburg, and later perhaps open a satellite practice further afield in Salzburg province. And who knows, maybe my children will become the next champion Slalom skier or ice hockey player, which would not have been possible had I stayed in dusty Africa!
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