Out and about is a column where we chat with people that are currently living abroad, or lived and worked there. We chat with Hananja Liebenberg in Ireland.
Where do you live and why there?
My husband and I moved to Ireland in 2017. We stay in Celbridge, a small town just outside of Dublin. Dublin is very expensive to live in, so most people find a place just outside of Dublin and drive to work every day.
Was it a huge adjustment?
Yes, emigration is always romanticised, but nobody knows how difficult it really is. Other than the culture shock, the weather was the biggest adjustment for us. It rains quite a lot and everybody knows that rain is distinctive of Ireland, but we could never have been prepared for how much it rains. Plans are always made with the expression, “weather permitting”. We miss the South African sun a lot. You do not get accustomed quickly to being in a strange country with strange people without any support from family and friends.
Tell us more about your family?
For a very long time it was only my husband and I. In 2019 we received the surprising news that I was pregnant. We were shocked, but very excited. Never could we have imagined what would happen that next year. We had huge plans to tour the world with the new member of our family…and then COVID-19 hit the world. Now a year later our little Emily has not met her family yet. My heart goes out to the millions of families in the same position. It is difficult to raise a child without any family, but she is our world and we will not exchange it for anything.
Do you still speak Afrikaans?
Yes, definitely! It is the best to have your own private conversation without anybody else understanding what you are saying. Emily’s first words are all Afrikaans.
There is quite a lot of South Africans in Ireland. Do you get together sometimes?
There is quite a lot of South Africans in Ireland. It is nice to bump into them in shops and on the street and then strike up an Afrikaans conversation with them. We normally have a large South African festival once a year where everyone gets together, braais and sometimes camps. There is also many South African Facebook groups for parents, communities and areas. We receive a lot of support from everyone on those groups. Most of our friends here are South Africans. It was not by choice, but it just so happened.
What was the strangest thing to get used to?
The time it takes to get something done, was the strangest thing to get used to. Forget Africa time, here there is no time. If you are in a hurry, they want to know why you are in such a hurry, there is lots of time. It was frustrating. The accents are something else. In Dublin alone there are so many accents that when you just get used to one, another one suddenly pops up. It was also strange to get used to public transport. You do not really need a car because you can get to any place with a bus or a tram. We were so scared of this new change that we went to the same place for three weeks, because we were used to that bus route.
Is it expensive to live there?
Ireland’s cost of living is of the highest in the world. Rent is unbearable and the possibility that you will spend half your salary on rent is good, but salaries are not bad and we can always afford luxuries here that we could never afford in South Africa. When you arrive in Ireland, you must find a job as quickly as possible if you do not have one already, because rands do not go far here.
From where in South Africa are you and why did you decide to go and live abroad?
I come from Krugersdorp in Gauteng. We lived in Carolina in Mpumalanga for the last two years. We have always had a passion to see the world. We could never sit still, never come to rest, we wanted to see everything the world has to offer, but we realised that while living in South Africa that would never be a reality. We decided to move for two years and tour a bit. But we saw another side of life. We saw how life should be and what safety should feel like and once you have tasted it you can never go back. It will be very unfair to take away the freedom and safety that my daughter has now from her.