From South Africa to Ireland: The Thompsons Excellent Adventure
My name is Garreth Thompson I hail from South Africa, Johannesburg more specifically. I now live with my wife and three kids in a small sea side village called Bettystown in County Meath, Ireland.
1. Why did you move abroad?
At its most basic we were looking for a more stable upbringing for our children. But at the same time it’s more than that. As a human race we don’t favor change very much, there is a whole world out there ready to be explored but we tie ourselves down to a place and a job and live our lives out never really experiencing anything else. So this is our way of having an adventure and exploring the world around us. Will be here forever? I think not!! but for the moment we are happy and settled. There is still far too much to see and do here.
2. How do you make a living?
I currently work for one of the largest truck importers and retailers in Ireland as a sales executive. My background is mostly in the transport industry but from the commercial vehicle side of things. I also spent 6 years running a Steel supply company in Johannesburg before getting involved with my Dad. We started Commercial vehicle retail and repair business just outside of Johannesburg in 2011 and I ran that along with my dad until we decided to leave. In a perfect world id like to earn an income from blogging or freelance writing of some sort.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I am in near constant communication with home. The world is a terribly small place and very well connected, we mainly use WhatsApp whether it is messaging or calling and then Facebook and sometimes Skype. But the result is the same no matter the tech.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Ireland?
My wife and I are both filled with a deep sense of wanderlust, and so we often stick the kids in the car, fill a picnic basket and set off into the unknown. Being new here and not knowing any of the countryside or attractions, the non-touristy ones anyway, has allowed us to just explore. We often get to a crossroads and I’ll look over and say “ where to” and then C will point, and off we go. We have come across some real gems doing that. And then of course there’s the Guinness. There is no better place to have one!!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Ireland?
Not understanding a damn thing about the local sport. And the looks of complete bewilderment when asked what team you support and you can’t even name one.
6. What do you miss most?
I’ve spent a lot of time debating this with my wife and some of the other expats we’ve met. Everybody has different opinions, but for us it was family, that’s the biggest thing. It’s hard to say goodbye, especially because immigration is open ended, it’s not like a vacation where a return is guaranteed.
In the very beginning I missed some of the Food we were used to, but that has since gone away as we’ve discovered new things. Sometimes the weather can be a bother so as a result im always within arm’s reach of an umbrella and sun glasses .
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I really have to thank my wife for this. I was in no real hurry to meet anybody when we first arrived. I suppose I was stuck in a rut of sorts. She had joined almost every expat group imaginable and had come across a lunch that was planned in Dublin, by South African expats for South African expats. She had to almost drag me kicking and screaming to it, but in the end it was the best thing she could have done. We met some wonderful people that day that have become really good friends and that has made the transition far easier.
In the little village where we stay we are surrounded by great neighbors whom we visit at least once a week. One family moved over from the UK and another South African couple who only immigrated to Ireland 9 months ago. So we are far more socially active here than we ever were at home. And not just with South Africans we have met people from all over.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
The fact that a cup of tea and some sort of pastry can fix anything, and I mean anything. All that its managed to achieve is to make me fatter.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Leprechauns are key figures in Irish mythology and if you find one of the little people of Ireland, then according to folklore, you may find his pot of gold. In Irish folklore a Leprechaun is one of the faerie folk and are often associated with faerie forts, the ancient Celtic settlements. According to popular Belief, this small elf like figure is pictured wearing traditional emerald green clothes and is often sporting a beard and smoking a pipe.
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?
According to all the research we did, in other words I just googled it, the consensus was that it’s a lot more expensive. Im not entirely convinced though. To begin with the South Africans rand is very weak versus the Euro (15 Rand to one Euro), so it was always going to be Difficult. But once we were employed and earning Euros it became very similar. Dublin can be a lot more expensive than the smaller towns and villages. For example a pint of Guinness in Dublin will cost you 8 to 10 euros but in the local pub in our village it costs only 4 so it very much depends where you are.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Just do it!!. My wife nagged me for years and I was having none of it and I regret that now. I spent a lot of time saying maybe next year or the year after and so on. It was all a cover for being afraid to change, afraid of the unknown. Don’t get me wrong it is scary and its definitely not easy, but it’s worth it no matter your reason.
The experience one gains from doing something like this is invaluable and you will soon realize that change is good; it’s exciting and tons of fun.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my/our blog by accident I suppose. My wife had been giving weekly updates via Facebook and there were calls that she starts a blog or something to that effect. So I did, in the beginning it worked well, as a way of keeping the family and some friends up to date with our little adventure. we sort of shared the writing and each did posts alternatively. That lasted a few months until she got completely sidetracked and I’ve been going at it since and it’s been surprisingly enjoyable and at the same time re-awakened a love of writing that id buried deeply over the years.
Garreth's Blog, The Thompsons Excellent Adventure
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