I have updated this blog post, which is one of my most read.
Thirteen years ago I moved from Johannesburg, South Africa to Ireland. Not only was it a huge move from continent to continent, but it was also a move from city life to a rural life in beautiful Connemara.
It really doesn’t matter how many people you ask about the experience before it happens, it is still a massive shock to the system.
Ultimately my decision to move was motivated by the rising crime in South Africa. There were a few experiences that really touched my life and I realised that I was living with fear.
I don’t judge the people who have stayed and neither do I judge the people who have left the beautiful country that is my birthplace. The time came and I had to make my choice, and the fact that I had a 7-year old son was a huge part of that.
From South Africa to Ireland
We moved across the world and landed up in Connemara in early February. Connemara is a beautiful place, but it doesn’t really show it’s beauty in February. It was wild, windy and very cold. It rained almost every day. I wasn’t prepared, and my pretty umbrella bought in South Africa turned inside out and blew away the first time I used it.
With the hindsight of 13 years I am glad I made the move. It has been a very turbulent 13 years which has seen me live in Connemara, in Westport, Mayo and now back in Athenry on the east side of Galway.
It has seen me start my own business in the form of a craft shop called An Siopa Buί – The Yellow Shop. Through the shop I was privileged to travel across Ireland and meet some really special people. Circumstances change and I returned to the corporate world and spend two and a half years in Westport (considered to be the best place to live in Ireland.) I am now living in Athenry (made famous by the song The Fields of Athenry) and am moving onto a different phase of my life.
The common thread through my life and the big move has been people. The friends that I have made at every stage – both South Africans in Ireland, South Africans at home and of course my Irish friends.
After 10 years I took Irish Citizenship and am proud to be Irish – although I will always be South African too.
I visit South Africa as often as I can and will always have the song of Africa in my heart. When I am homesick I think of the sound of crickets on a summer night. The evocative smell of sunset after a hot day and the wonderful social culture of bring and braai (a BBQ where everyone brings something along).
I was honoured to take part in a TV series on RTE in 2007 called No Place Like Home. The producers came up with a cool concept of featuring foreigners living in Ireland, and comparing where their lifestyles in Ireland with lifestyles back ‘home’. The title really says it all. There is no place like home, but what I have come to realise is that you can have two homes. I will always have a little part of my soul in Africa, but now I have fallen in love with Ireland too.
The West of Ireland where I have made my home is a truly beautiful place. One day on a drive between Westport and Connemara I stopped to take in the view. The word awesome came to mind.
Truly awesome as you realise that this magnificent scenery is simply there for us to appreciate and admire.
Ireland has been good to me. I have made so many friends, through my crafting, through blogging , through the ICA and through my career. I have been welcomed into so many homes and drunk copious cups of tea as I have learnt the generosity of spirit that the Irish are known for.
My son is now grown-up and has completed a Physics Degree at University in Galway and is now working in his dream job in the United Kingdom. He has made his home here but I will always remind him of his African roots, so he too can have two homes. (Maybe even three since he has moved on)
You can read my post about my empty nest here.
My information about the legalities and practicalities about moving to Ireland is a little out of date. It is almost 15 years now.
I am delighted to say that there is a whole lot more information out there than there was when I did the move.
There is a wonderful Facebook Group run by South Africans who have made the move and I suggest that you join it and take a deep dive into the files. There is so much information available and the people in the group are so helpful.
You can find the group here.
I do try to answer all the emails I receive but it isn’t always possible so apologies in advance.
Thank you so much for reading.