Out and About: An email from Dublin

Out and About is a column where we chat with people who are currently living abroad or who used to live and work there. This week we chat with Emri Vorster, who tells us a little more about the four seasons she experienced in one day and how she realised that South African children have excellent manners.

Hello, Emri. Tell us where in the world you live and why exactly there?

My husband and I currently live in Dublin, Ireland. We’ve only been here three months, so everything is still pretty new. I lived in the Netherlands for a year, and he has also been to a few places in Europe. He lived in Spain for about a month and that is really where we got the bug to do this. My husband applied for a PhD scholarship at Dublin City University (DCU) last year but did not spend much time thinking about it afterwards, so we were so surprised when he received the news that he got it. We then had to quickly plan to come over as soon as possible, preferably in September 2021. But due to Covid, we only arrived in January. Within two months, we had to arrange our wedding, find tenants for our house, pack up and get ready for the new adventure.

Adapting to a new country can be challenging. What was the strangest thing for you to get used to?

I have never been so grateful for the year I could spend in the Netherlands. It prepared me to some extent and made it a little easier to adapt. One of the things we have to get used to is the weather. It’s raining quite a lot. We have four seasons in one day and while I feel like I am freezing, everyone else goes on normally. Seeing how everyone continued with their lives no matter what the weather was like quickly forced us to equip ourselves with rain jackets, warm clothes, the right shoes, gloves and hats to take on this place!

Someone told us, “There is no such thing as cold weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

Some other things we have to get used to are their food and sports. Their food has little taste, and they are passionate about their beer and sports – not only rugby but also hurling and Gaelic football, two fascinating but strange types of sports. You play hurling with a stick, and Gaelic football is something between netball and soccer.

“Hiya, how are ya,” does not mean “Hello, how are you?” It only means “hello” and you do not have to answer. Sometimes I have to repeat up to four times, “Sorry, I can’t hear you.” They have a really heavy accent, but it is also so beautiful!

Are there any shops nearby where you can buy real South African comfort food such as biltong?

We decided from the beginning to make the culture our own as far as possible, including the people, traditions and food. And South African food is also quite expensive, of course. However, we started feeling a nostalgic craving for Mrs Balls, Crosse & Blackwell mayonnaise, All Gold tomato sauce, Creme Soda, Big Korn Bites, mealiepap, Jimmy’s sauce and rusks! So we surrendered, and on Saturday we came home with a whole box of South African food from Saffalicious, a store in the town of Clane in County Kildare. They cooperate with a few shops, almost like spaza shops, which sell South African food.

Tell us about your work and what your typical day looks like. Is life quieter there and do you have more family and leisure time?

Because my husband is doing his PhD, I was able to come along. This is an exception, as Ireland is very strict with its work permits and visas and no student is allowed to bring a spouse. But they do make exceptions for research, although the privilege comes with many requirements. For example, we had to show an unabridged marriage certificate and prove medical aid membership. We also had to prove that we have accommodation in Dublin, which was quite a challenge, as it is difficult to find accommodation here. However, God prepared everything for us and we could even sign a lease before we arrived.

Of course, I am not allowed to work because we may not depend on the state for anything. At first, it was a great advantage; I had time to get used to a new marriage and a new country, and I had the time to make us feel at home here. We had time to do things!

But in the long run, it will be a challenge for me because I would like to stay busy during the four years we are here. There are many volunteer organisations and places that need help. I have gotten to know myself, my husband and our environment better lately. I am involved in the library and I am researching some interests. Here are community centres that offer exciting activities and projects throughout the week; attending those activities will help one get to know the area and people. I could not yet use my degree in theology here in a church but there are plenty of opportunities to minister all around us! I came across a Christian organisation in Dublin that works with children and has a coffee shop, Taste & See Cafe. It immediately put me in touch with fellow Christians from all over the world and gave me a place where I could lend a hand!

How did you get involved and have you already made friends? Are your friends mainly South Africans or people from other cultures?

In Dublin, as in many other countries, there are many South Africans, and it is nice to get to know them. Because my husband is studying, he has made friends with people from all over the world and we enjoy that. We came across some South Africans we knew here in Ireland; that was a nice bonus. We also met new South Africans with whom I do not think we would have made friends in South Africa. Some are much older than us and have lived here for over ten years; others have only been here for a year or so. One of my favourite experiences is to come across South Africans by chance. At church we met friends of different ages and from all over. To get involved, you need to get out of your comfort zone and join an exercise, reading or art group, or start chatting with an unfamiliar barista. It helps you find your feet, build a support network and become part of the community. Nowadays, you can join all kinds of groups on Facebook, such as hiking groups or couch surfers who provide accommodation globally and arrange trips where you meet many interesting people. For example, we went on a road trip through a part of Ireland with a guy from Denmark and one from the Philippines. What a great adventure that was!

Will you ever return to South Africa?

I get goosebumps just thinking of it! South Africans are the only nation for me. Wow, we are unique and fantastic! It is the greatest privilege to be able to live here in Ireland and embark on adventures with my best friend and broaden our horizons. But we are not sure we would want to raise our children here. Life here is rough, and we have seen very few well-mannered children.

We know South Africa has many challenges, and raising children is a challenge everywhere because they have access to too many things, but our language, country, and people are still the best!

In South Africa, exposure to so many different languages, cultures and social circumstances is an advantage. It made us strong enough to become world travellers! Our families are still there too, and we would not like to raise our children so far away from them. But the Author of our story will send us where He needs us, and we are willing and ready!

What do you miss most about South Africa?

To braai! And the sociability of a braai. To be stopped by someone in a shop and to talk the hind leg off a donkey. Here people don’t stop for a chat in a shop. I miss dumela and ke a le boa. We miss our weather! Our country is unique; we are part of our people. South Africa certainly is second to no other country! I miss knowing my neighbours and chatting with them. And I miss our well-mannered kids.

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