Interview With Hannah Pirnie, Founder, Translating Me

What prompted you to set up Translating Me?

I have kind of fallen into it 😐

I love the quote from Steve Jobs –

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.”That’s what has happened – I had never imagined back when I was working at Saracens Premiership Rugby Club that I would be living and working over in South Africa. But once we did move, I couldn’t stand that the first question I would get asked at an event was “what does your husband do?” I felt like I had gone back to the 1950s, it didn’t take long before I had lost my self worth, confidence and had no idea who I had become.

I was forced to strip back my idea of what a meaningful life was supposed to look like, and redefine my own personal worth, especially challenging society’s obsession with “doing, achieving and accumulating”.

I decided I had to do something and due to visa restrictions I couldn’t work, so I decided to retrain. I studied executive coaching and absolutely loved it!! That’s when I realised the power of taking responsibility and that we all have a choice about whether we blame others (partner, the company etc) for our current situation, or we start creating dots with the faith that one day they will come together.

I started Translating Me with the hope that the Identity Project will be a dot for one other expat to ensure their time abroad mattered. To know that they were not just someone else’s partner, or parent, but could use their talents and opportunities to create something special.

In your opinion, why is Johannesburg such a great location for expats?

Joburg is one of the few cities without a river, sea or port, nor are there any mountains. But it does turn purple in October, have hot rain bouncing off the streets in December, warm clear blue winter days in May. You can walk around barefoot probably 360 days of the year (which my children now do), but the one thing I can guarantee is that you will be met with a welcoming smile and “howzit?” as soon as you land, whether it is from the cleaner in the OR Tambo airport or someone you pass whilst walking in the park, Johannesburg is mainly all about the people.

If expats are brave enough to venture here, it’s often a much harder decision to know why you would ever leave.

Tell us more about the Identity Project.

The Identity Project is a transformational online programme for all expats (whether or not you are working or accompanying your partner), to ensure you make the most of your time abroad. I don’t want people to feel the way I did, to loose their self worth and confidence simply because they were brave enough to leave their comfort zone and live overseas, or to run out of time, and not discover the best of local culture. There is so much lost potential in people not trying out their ideas, approaches, or suggestions.

The Identity Project is a 6 step process that supports expats to become more intentional over the experiences they would like to have, and better prepared for the challenges. Ensuring they are in a position both mentally and logistically to maximise the opportunities available.

Do you have any advice for people who are thinking of relocating to South Africa?

Just come and experience it for yourself, don’t listen to the media and negative press. Don’t be fearful, it really is one of the most beautiful and spectacular countries on this planet, and don’t forget to pack your warm clothes for winter, the houses don’t have central heating.

Finally, when you're not working, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have adopted the South African sundowner, so adore having a G&T either out in the bush or on the beach with great friends and my wonderful family. Then running it off with our ridgeback the next morning on a beautiful trail run.

The other spare time, I am a very proud mother to wonderful 3 yr old twin boys, and a compassionate 6yr old girl, correcting all three on their South African accents!

You can find out more about the Identity Project and keep up to date with Hannah's adventures at TranslatingMe.

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