Hi I’m Suzanne, known by more people as ChickenRuby. 40, mother of 3 Aged 13-20, step mother to 2 aged 22 & 24, eldest profoundly disabled.
SAHM, not by choice, laws of the country.
Relocated January 2011, 3 older kids remained in the UK, couldn’t get them a visa (never considered it actually).
1. Why did you move abroad?
Back in September 2010 Hubby took a call out of the blue asking him if he fancied working in South Africa….how could we say no?
2. How do you make a living?
Big bug bear of mine, can’t work here. In the UK I was a Child Welfare Officer for The local FA. (Football Association) I was also a Lecturer in Special Needs and I trained Teaching Assistants. I specialised in Autism.
Now I’m involved with two charities here, Santa Shoe Box, where I’m involved in the collection and distribution of Christmas shoe boxes for the under privileged. The other charity is The Baby House, a home for abused and abandoned children under 5, where I deliver activity sessions and teach English through song, play and craft.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Well I’m on twitter 24/7 it has been my saving grace, we use Skype when the internet bandwidth permits and I Facebook the nice side of life. I prefer letter writing; it really feels that someone has made an effort. Most of the people I actually write with though are people I’ve ‘met’ on twitter. There’s a BIG problem with mail reaching us and although letters make it back to the UK within a week, there’s little chance of a parcel getting out of this country.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Johannesburg?
The sport, we are all sports mad, cricket 20/20 at Centurion and the Wanderers, one day internationals, Vodacom Cup at Ellis Park, Spurs v Pirates, Rugby etc all these iconic grounds that we’ve only ever seen on the TV. Plus we get to watch all the Premiership football on the TV, including the 3 o’clock kick offs.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Johannesburg?
I want my independence back, to go places freely, to have my own income.
6. What do you miss most?
Aside from family, nothing...at first it was PG Tips, but I’ve overcome that and anyway that was more about finding something to tell people I missed, because they felt I should miss something. We’re used to the TV channels and programs, we sing the jingles in the adverts and I can now food shop without having to examine every label.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It took me 10 months to make friends, there were a few office ‘do’s’ a couple of coffees with immediate neighbours and a failed attempt with an expat group. I joined Internations, but to be honest with you, it’s more for networking about work. It’s been the same with the rest…’so what do you do for a living?’ ‘nothing’ sort of kills the conversation and there’s only so long you can say ‘I used to be a ….’ for.
Hubby drops the kids at school at 7am and they are collected between 1.30pm and 5pm daily, no routine to see regular faces, living in a security estate the children come and go, so again not dropping off and collecting and missing opportunities to meet other mums.
I now have a couple of good friends with the added bonus that the hubbies get on, we socialize in one another’s houses, no appointments needed, go out to shows, meals etc, general gossip and wine drinking. One set met though my eldest sons’ friend and the other also expats though hubbies golf….
…and no I don’t play golf, for expats it seems to be the cure for all ills, but not for me despite living in a house that overlooks the 16th green.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
What the heck is a robot? A braai? And why? Biltong???????
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
It’s the most dangerous place in the world to live. You can’t drive at night, especially as a woman on your own. It’s hot all year round. We had a burst water pipe in July last year when temps dropped to -5c.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
A bit of both really, rent is so much higher as is the initial cost of buying a car. I nearly had a heart attack at the price of a new tyre. There’s no extra charge for my 17 year old to learn to drive in my car. Meat is much cheaper and of a higher quality, but there’s no ‘supermarket power’ here, everything is pretty much the same price wherever you shop. T big advantage is that we are paid in local currency.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Visit the country you intend moving to before you actually arrive to live there. I wish I’d had the opportunity to ‘look around’ price things up etc. It would’ve made a huge difference to the stuff we got rid of before moving.
Check what work you can do as a ‘trailing spouse’ how easy is it to get a work permit? What are the country’s requirements? Their short falls?
For years I’ve dreamed of having some ‘me’ time, but 24/7 for the past 16 months has been the biggest issue for us as a family. I’ve told hubby that I’ll need to be a kept woman for ever now.
It can be a very lonely existence at times and although they make speak the same language, everything you’ve ever known is very different and it takes a long time to adapt to the culture.
I would liken it to a bereavement of your old life after about 3 months when the honeymoon period dips. But what got me the most was the 6 month post, when I thought I was moving on. Discuss it with your partner, your children and don’t be afraid to say you can’t cope.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in 2009, dressed as a dalek after winning #fancydressfriday on twitter, it grew as a way of tweeting longer to rant and let off steam, it details our entire move to South Africa the highs and the lows and I talk openly and honestly about parenting teens and step children.
Suzanne's blog, Chickenruby
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