Excerpts from expat life in South Africa
This expat interview comes from my friend, Clara Wiggins, here in South Africa. Clara has contributed some excellent articles to ExpatChild in the past and, as well as working and parenting, has also managed to find time to write a useful book, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.
Where do you currently live and how did you come to be there?
I currently live in Pretoria, South Africa. We have been here for five months and are here because of my husband’s job at the British High Commission. It is our third posting as a family – we have previously lived in Pakistan and St Lucia.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Having travelled on and off all my life, home is the one place that is a constant – in my case, this is the UK. Whenever we lived abroad when I was a child, we always knew that we would return to our home country. Although I love being an expat and exploring the rest of the world, I also love going “home” – the changing of the seasons, the telly, the fish and chips, the humour… there is always something about the cold, grey M25 on the first drive from the airport back to our house that makes me happy.
Do you have a few words of advice on coping with the first six months of a move?
It is so important to know that it will get easier.
Everyone reacts differently to a move and every time you move, it will be different (depending on whether you have children and what age they are, whether you have a job, which country you move to etc). But it is unusual not to at least have a few wobbles in the first few months. Just give it time. And don’t panic if you don’t make any friends immediately – you will meet people, often in the most unlikely of places.
Is there something that you wish you’d known before moving?
I wish I had known not to move until just before schools started.
This time I did my research so was pretty clued up when we arrived. We were also lucky enough to get a visit here to see schools, houses etc so I felt very prepared. But before we moved to Islamabad (which was our first move with children – my eldest was two years old, and the youngest just seven months) I wish I had known not to move until just before schools started. We arrived at a time when almost all the other families were back home for the summer – it was a very long, lonely, difficult few weeks…
Your best moment to date?
Hmmmm, hard one. We have had some fantastic adventures here in South Africa already, there is so much to see and do. We visited Namibia in December, which was absolutely amazing. But I think spotting our first leopard right next to us by the side of the road in Kruger has to be one of the highlights so far.
My life has been a nomadic one – I have lived and worked all over the world including the Philippines, Nigeria, Venezuela, Gibraltar, New Zealand, Jamaica, Pakistan and St Lucia. As well as moving myself, I now have the responsibility for a husband and two small children. Soon we will be joined by a puppy.
These days I live in South Africa and I spend my days staring at the computer screen, tearing my hair out, looking up puppy names and thanking my lucky stars that I can afford to pay someone else to do the ironing.
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