11 December 2016

Living the expat life

I have been in the UK for 8 weeks now. Eight full weeks. My family have been here for five.

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In these weeks, we have moved into a new house, bought and built a crapload of IKEA furniture (and are at risk of looking like an IKEA catalogue), been to London once as a family, been to Reading a couple of times as a family and slowly made peace with the chilly weather.

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I have travelled to Leeds three times for work, and made peace with the British rail system. The husband has found a lovely contract position, which means he is making some money and feeling like a productive human being.

And, in this very short time, we have become a much happier bunch of people.

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In South Africa, we lived in constant fear. It is not the obvious, surface, “I’m being hunted” fear, but rather a deep, subconscious fear that you don’t even know is there. We had a high wall around our house, and an alarm system linked to an armed response company. We, as a family, communicated constantly on WhatsApp to let each other know where we were, to let each other know we were safe. We lived close to one of the biggest parks in Johannesburg, but could not walk through the park alone during the day, and you definitely did not go anywhere near the park after dark.

When we started looking at houses in England, I had this romantic notion that I would like to live in a small village in the English country side. After a lot of searching, we found just such a place.

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We found a lovely terraced house in a little housing estate deep in the Berkshire forest. It is idyllic, to say the least. When I walk out of my front door I can see the horses from the neighbouring stables grazing and squirrels playing in the trees. At night, I can see stars in the sky.

The biggest downside of where we live is that the closest train station is a 2 mile walk, but I get to walk through a beautiful woodland area and a golf course on my way. The walk has also helped me regain a bit of fitness and shed some of my baby fat *grin*

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I do this walk when it is dark most of the time. And my biggest fear is walking into spider webs.

We no longer have fitful sleep because we are no longer afraid. We no longer need to spend 10 minutes before bedtime locking up the house and making sure the alarm is set. We no longer worry when one of the family members go for a walk, or even travel across the country.

Of course, we are not completely naïve, and understand that crime still exists in the UK. But it is not as woven into the fabric of every day life that you need to live in constant fear. All round, we are a happier family because the fear has been removed. And this makes all the things we have left behind, the little sacrifices, very much worth it.

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