Who are you?
I’m Phil. I’ve been many things.A university English instructor, a musician, a picker-upper of dead bodies, and a sales guy.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
In January 2016, one of our VPs in Canada asked me if I’d consider relocating to South Africa for a few years. I thought, “Well, I live in one of the safest countries in the world, I have tons of friends and family nearby, my career is on the right track, and I’m comfortable where I’m at. Taking a huge risk in my career and uprooting my wife and 2 young kids to move them to country known for crime and corruption seems like a terrible idea.”
And so we are in South Africa…
What challenges did you face during the move?
To be honest, the biggest challenge was taking the kids away from their grandparents and other relatives. The commute to make it to family dinners in Canada is a bit of a bummer.
Luckily, we worked with a great relocation company, so the moving and settling in process was really quite smooth.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We used a relocation company. They took us to about 10 houses in the first couple of days we were here, and we lucked out and found one we loved almost right away.
Are there many other expats in your area?
We haven’t met many in our immediate area, but Pretoria has a ton of embassies, so we’ve met a bunch when we’ve been out and about.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Too close. I’ve made far too many friends here, and keeping up with attending and hosting braais is really quite exhausting. I constantly find quirky things about South Africa to rip on mercilessly in my blog, and my local friends return the favour. Apparently Canadians have our own fair share of quirkiness…
What do you like about life where you are?
I’m never, ever bored. I’m frustrated sometimes, confused often, but never bored. There’s always something to do or something going on nearby. South Africa is a like your crazy ex-girlfriend. You know she’s crazy. You know you’re better off keeping your distance. But she’s so much fun you find yourself going back for more.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Hands down being so far away from home. It’s 2 flights and a LOT of work to get back to Vancouver. That being said, with Skype, Facetime, etc, it’s pretty easy to connect with people all over the world. I think it’s much easier to be an expat now that it was even ten years ago. My kids can read stories to my parents in real time, and they can interact with them as they go. The distance is still brutal though.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Efficiency. Or lack thereof. It’s hilarious most of the time now that I’ve adapted. But South Africans run on their own time. What would take 30 minutes in Canada sometimes takes 30 minutes here. Or a few hours. Or weeks. Or days. And you never know what it’s going to be. They have lovely expressions here: “Just now,” “Now,” and “Now now.” Each is supposed to convey differing levels of urgency, but in reality, each one means “I’ll get to it when I get to it. Unless I get distracted, in which case, you’re going to need to remind me. Several times.”
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
Holy Moses- South Africans could definitely show the rest of the world a thing or two about food. I’m embarrassed of the BBQs I used to host back home. Here, they braai- and it’s like a BBQ, but so much better. They use charcoal, or if they really do it right, wood. The wood gives the food an insanely heavenly taste, but more importantly, it takes a long time for the coals to get ready, which means there is LOTS of time to drink in the meantime, which I think is the whole point anyway.
One of my favourite things to eat in South Africa is Bunny Chows, which is curry in a hollowed out bread loaf. These are best bought from the sketchiest looking roadside stand you can find.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Don’t have expectations. Your new home isn’t your home home. Nobody likes anybody who comes to a new country and expects it to be just like their home country. Mix with locals and take the time to enjoy the uniqueness of your new surroundings. It won’t last forever, and you’ll miss it when you leave!
What are your plans for the future?
I’m really hoping my hand modelling career takes off.
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