This week we talk to Suzanne van Heerden in Nashville, Tennessee in the USA. She told us about her internship at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and how she met her husband in an ice-cream shop.
Where do you live and why there specifically?
I currently live in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2017 after the completion of my honours degree I was accepted to complete an internship in 2018 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville. I did not have any other choices than Nashville and that is how I ended up here. About half way through my internship I met my husband through a mutual friend in a famous ice-cream shop. The die was cast and I decided to extend my visa for a second year and to stay on to work as an au pair for a year which later became two years. My husband and I got married this year and I am currently busy with my application for my green card.
Was it a huge adjustment?
Yes, and it remains a huge adjustment. I think it will always be an adjustment for me. Some days are better than others, but the culture shock is huge. I am very thankful that I ended up in the South. The people in this part of America are unbelievably hospitable and friendly. It is also more difficult for me to adjust because it was never my intention to immigrate. I love South Africa very much and never thought of ever immigrating. I will move back any day. Who knows maybe I will retire there one day.
Are there other Afrikaners in Nashville?
Yes, Nashville has quite a large Afrikaner community that grows by the day. We have a Facebook group of about 700 members and it is just those who indeed have Facebook. We have our annual Afrikaner gatherings and braais. We have a Tannies Tea every month that the women of South Africa can attend. This delicious cake and tea is hosted by a new person every month. We constantly watch the Springbok rugby games together and it is always sociable. It is always nice to speak my home language. Afrikaans is such a pretty language!
How does the work culture in Nashville differ from the work culture in South Africa?
To be honest I have not had a ‘real’ job here yet. But if I can elaborate on my internship I can say that the hospitality/hotel industry here in the USA is a very competitive industry where you work long hours and your schedule changes weekly. Obviously like in any hotel industry you work weekends and you rest in the time you have off. I feel the culture differs in the USA as here it is each man for himself where in South Africa it is the opposite because we look after our people. In South Africa we are also very prompt where here they do not care much. We are also good mannered. I feel during my internship people were not really good mannered. They are not familiar with “Thank you”, “How are you?” or “Enjoy your day”. We also get more time off/holiday time in South Africa. Here it is work, work, work 24/7.
What do you miss the most?
This in all honesty is a difficult question to answer, Firstly, my family. I have not seen my family since January 2018, Secondly, the Kruger National Park. The Kruger National Park is close to my heart. I love the Kruger National Park very much. I grew up in the Lowveld and drove to the Kruger National Park for the day almost every Sunday. I am now arranging my South African wedding in the Kruger National Park in 2023. I miss the people, the diversity, our unbelievable culture, food and wine. I miss the smell of the Bushveld and the smell of rain. I miss a real Bushveld thunderstorm. I can go on and on because the list is endless. I miss everything. I sometimes miss it so much that I make sure I do not miss an episode of SafariLive on YouTube.
Is it expensive to live there?
Yes and no. When I did my internship, it was expensive because I earned a minimum wage. On my arrival in the USA I compared and converted everything from rand to dollar which was a big mistake because then everything looks expensive to the eye but you must remember you earn dollars and not rands. Shopping is also very expensive here in comparison with South Africa. Certain goods like medical is very expensive in the USA but it is six of one and a half a dozen of the other. Each state differs in terms of tax. Tennessee in general is completely affordable in comparison with other states like California and New York. But eish! I still do not know how the dollar works. I do not think I will ever know.
From where in South Africa are you and why did you decide to live abroad?
I come from a very small town in the Lowveld, Graskop in Mpumalanga. I lived there my whole life until I came to Nashville.