Out and about: an email from Ireland

Out and about is a column where we chat with people who currently live abroad, or who used to live and work there. This week we chat with Kirsten Mocke who currently lives with her husband in Ireland. Kirsten tells us more about their emigration process and their life in Ireland.

Hello Kirsten, where in South Africa are you from and what made you decide to live in Ireland?

I am from Kempton Park, Johannesburg and I moved to Ireland because my then boyfriend who is now my husband (also originally from South Africa) went to Ireland and liked it so much he decided to stay there. I visited Ireland twice before I made the great trek here in December 2019.

Cork City

You emigrated in December 2019, tell us how you experienced the emigration process?

The farewell at OR Tambo Airport was a difficult day full of tears, but we all thought we were going to see each other soon. Nobody could have known that it would be two years before we would be able to see each other again. Covid-19 made everything so much more difficult.

My first night in Ireland as my new home is one I will never forget. It was December, in the middle of the winter, the house was cold and there was no one who switched on the heating before we arrived. It was dark and the shower’s water was like ice. I just started crying and had a total meltdown.

During my first six months in Ireland I was unemployed and it was an extremely difficult time. There were days that I would have given anything just to pack my suitcase and fly back home. In retrospect I think if it hadn’t been for Covid-19, I probably would have given up hope and returned home, but it wasn’t an option. I just had to stick it out.

I have now lived in Ireland for almost three years, and although everything is not perfect I feel more at home.

Was Ireland’s climate a huge adjustment?

The winters are cold and the sun sets very early. I think it is a big adjustment but as time passes everything gets better. A good quality thick jacket, a thick scarf, gloves and a beanie make it more bearable.

Do you get the chance to travel?

Covid-19 made travel difficult and when we finally got the chance to travel, I just wanted to go home to see my family. We have explored some of Ireland and hope to see more of Europe in the future.

Are there any South African shops nearby where you can get comfort food?

There are two shops within 40 minutes from us that sell South African products such as Nik Naks, Ghost Pops and Creme Soda. There is also a butchery that sells boerewors and biltong.

What do you miss the most about South Africa? What is the one thing you wish you could have packed in your suitcase when you emigrated?

It is probably the answer everyone gives, but I wish it was possible to pack my family inside my suitcase. The most difficult thing is to start over in terms of a support network. Irish people are very friendly, but they are not MY people and I think many South Africans feel this way when they emigrate.

I also wish I could pack Woolworths in my suitcase, because Woolies is just the best. I miss speaking Afrikaans and I miss our country’s culture. I miss Koo jam, walking barefoot and chili bites.

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