Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to Hermanus, South Africa from the US three and a half years ago to be married.My husband is from South Africa, but grew up in America. We actually met in art school, but were just friends back then. One of the assignments that we had in our first art class together was to draw the person sitting across from us. Chris did a portrait of me that he still has to this day.
We lost touch after college but reconnected through a mutual friend in our late 30’s, fell in love and ended up getting married a mere 20 years after we first met!
Before we started dating, he told me that he was planning on moving back to South Africa, but I didn’t really believe that he was serious about it.
What challenges did you face during the move?
Before I decided to get married, I had a full-time job as a district manager for a merchandising company, owned my own home and finally felt “secure” in my career. I had spent many years moving up in my field and it was hard for me to let go of all that and start over. I have always had a very strong work ethic and much of my identity centered around that part of myself.
On the other hand, there was a lot of stress involved in my job too, and I was ready to let that go. I had also been on my own for most of my adult life and felt like it was past time to take a chance on love.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
My husband is an artist so most of our friends are artists or connected to the art world in some way. Most artists, no matter where they’re from, are just such happy people, which is super to be around. I’m actually truly happy for the first time in my life, so it’s great to have friends who are too. I don’t have time to complain; there’s too much to be grateful for.
What do you like about life where you are?
There are so many things I like about South Africa! Where do I start? The natural beauty here is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever seen. It nurtures my spirit daily. When I first got here my husband and I were driving along, and as we came around a corner that had a view of the mountains meeting the sea, I was moved to tears it was so overwhelmingly beautiful.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Not being able to have the option of having a career right now. Because of the type of visa I have, I’m not allowed to work in South Africa. The only work I’ve been able to find that I’m allowed to do is transcription for an American company. The money is pennies compared to what I used to make, but the transcripts are interesting and the work is flexible. Fortunately I have my home in the US that I rent out and receive additional income from.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
There are so many! It’s hard to pinpoint any one as having more significance over another.
One that has affected me personally is I have noticed that as a female, I’m not as respected here as a male. If I go into the hardware store here by myself, I’m treated okay because they have to help me, but if my husband goes with me and we are talking to a salesman or something, if I add anything to the conversation I might as well be talking to a brick wall! Ironically, I actually know more about tools, etc. than my husband because my father was an engineer and we used to do repair projects together when I was growing up.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country?
It’s so funny, when I first got here all I drank was Coca Cola because that’s the only thing I was familiar with. I actually drank more Coca Cola when I first moved here than I did in America! Now I drink Appletiser or Grapetiser when we’re out, because, number one – it’s delicious, and two – it’s a lot healthier than a sugary soda. I’ve also started to make fresh squeezed juices at home because they taste better than store bought juices and are healthier.
Produce prices are very reasonable here, so I can buy oranges for the same price or cheaper than buying ready-made orange juice. Let’s not even get into the wines here! They are divine!
What are your plans for the future?
Firstly, my husband and I are planning on having children soon. I hope to be a mother by next year. We’re having to seek fertility assistance because of my age, but the outlook is good. If we had to pay for fertility treatment in America, we wouldn’t be able to afford it.
I also plan to continue helping my husband with his art career. Some of the things I do are take photos and videos of him painting for use on social media and for the newsletter I write for him. He’s also writing a book that I’m doing the photography for, and I also photograph his artwork so he can sell prints.
Would you like to share your experience of life abroad with other readers? Answer the questions here to be featured in an interview!