Everything Has Changed – We Left South Africa…

We Left South Africa - Immigrating To Ireland

If you do not follow me on Instagram or Facebook, this might come as a bit of a shock. To be honest, it is still a shock to me too.

On the 27th of November my husband, kids and I boarded a plane at midnight with ten suitcases and heavy, yet optimistic hearts. We left our family, friends and familiarity behind and started the 25-hour journey to our new home. Very few people knew, we did not get around to say goodbye to everyone as we only had three weeks to finalise everything.

Despite the utterly insane timeline, it wasn’t a spontaneous decision at all.

Our last day in South Africa 27/11/2019

There are so many reasons why.

Moving to Ireland has been a dream of ours since we started dating 10-years ago. It is a beautiful country with a rich history and epic culture. The people are wonderful, the accent is gorgeous, it is safe, the quality of life is amongst the highest in the world, the economy is good, the benefits are great and the scenery is insane. We always had this dream of living in a little stone cottage in the countryside, smoke billowing out the chimney and fluffy sheep grazing in our back yard.

We would apply for jobs, give ourselves a timeline… only to pull back. We would miss South Africa too much, it would be too hard to leave our families, we wanted our kids to grow up in a diverse country, etc. There was always an excuse, always a reason to stay. A couple of years ago, we once again found ourselves seriously considering immigrating – this time because we feared for our children’s’ future in South Africa. It was with the intense Xenophobic attacks that we were once again reminded of the deep hatred that poisons the country’s soil. It sometimes feels like everyone hates everyone… there is just too much bad blood. But, like many South Africans we stayed – because things had to get better.

A few years later a mother was hijacked. She tried to get her baby out of the backseat, but the hijackers sped off – her son’s foot caught in the seatbelt… dragging him behind the car. That story brings me to tears every time I think about it, it still gives me nightmares. It caused a sense of panic and anxiety in me that never left. It was my worst fear, and I tried to avoid driving with the kids in my car unnecessarily. Every year got worse, until I became so desensitised that it scared me. I saw so many hijackings and smash and grabs just travelling to work and back, every noise woke me up in panic at night, we avoided malls, we paid an insane amount to have our kids in private schools with top security systems and we avoided other people as much as possible. We gave up our idyllic life on the farm after our neighbour was shot dead and we almost became a farm murder statistic ourselves. We moved to an area with a lower crime rate than most, and we became prisoners in our home because I was so paranoid about keeping my kids safe. It made everyone miserable.

Besides the crime, financially life was draining. No matter how much money we made – it was never enough. Cole and I both had high paying jobs, we did not lead extravagant lifestyles and we worked incredibly hard – but the cost of private school, medical aid, food, rent, electricity etc. just seemed to cripple us every month. It depressed me so much to think that there were so many people worse off than us, who went to bed starving every night. And there was no one to help them. It felt too heavy.

I am not saying South Africa is a dump filled with crime and poverty. The situation in South Africa is the way it is for so many deep and complex reasons. Apartheid went on too long, it caused so much pain and hurt that people of colour are still feeling it in their blood generations later. Some white people feel guilty and don’t know how to fix it, while others spew their racism and reopen the wounds over and over again. The government uses racism is a weapon to be elected, while simultaneously bankrupting the country through corruption and stealing from the most vulnerable. People turn to crime out of sheer desperation, and keep going fuelled by hate. It is a vicious cycle, and like many South Africans – I did not feel welcome in my country. I tried to educate myself, to own my white privilege and to try be part of the solution – but it could never be enough.

A big turning point for me was when a girl went to her local post office, only to be raped and murdered by a post office worker. A post office I frequently went to while I lived in the area. So many women and children are raped and murdered on a daily basis, and it terrified me. There is something seriously wrong with the majority of South African men – and I have no idea what it is. The #AmINext movement lit a fire in my soul, but was also the start of an irreversible turning point.

Cole and I broke our no-mall rule and headed to our local mall when Nova was only a few months old, that day we would become the victims of a attempted kidnapping. It ruined me. I developed Agoraphobia, severe depression and refused to leave my house. I would not even go into our garden. I did not sleep, the kids only went to school and back (even though I really just wanted to keep them at home), we did not go anywhere for months and months. I became so paranoid and consumed by fear. We knew we had to go. As if it were a sign, Cole got an e-mail from a company he applied to YEARS ago to go for an interview. He was offered the job and we had three weeks to pack up our entire lives and leave.

Everything just seemed to fall into place. Ireland is in the midst of a housing crises, yet we were able to secure our dream home before moving over. Financially we could do it, we were emotionally ready and looming Brexit gave us the extra kick we needed.

We have been here for two months, and it was the best choice we have ever made. It has not been easy – but I will touch on that in a different post. I love South Africa, I miss it. I miss the warm sun, the culture and the beauty. I miss knowing where what is, I miss my family and I miss my favourite shops – but I will never go back. I have realised that the issues back home are not my responsibility. My kids however, are.

I brought them into this world, it is my responsibility to keep them safe. To give them a life worth living. That is my ONLY responsibility. People might say we ran away… maybe we did. As I watch my kids walk down the road on their own, hand in hand with their friends on their way to school – I just don’t care. We have big open windows without burglar bars, we sleep soundly, we go on long walks and we are not afraid of the dark.

I don’t care what people think. This is my life, and I am proud of the fact that we could do this for our children. I am grateful for the opportunity and I will be grateful every single day of my life.

I love my home country, but I’m not coming back.

So.. why did we leave? Why not.

We can.

We wanted to.

For work opportunity.

To follow our dreams.

For a better future.

For life.

I am not sure what this means for my blog, I suppose I will focus more on my journey. I hope you stick around for it!

Do you have any questions for me? 

“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving. I didn’t want to destroy anything or anybody. I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love


31 thoughts on “Everything Has Changed – We Left South Africa…

  1. Mich says:

    Wishing you a bright and brilliant life in Ireland! Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate 🙂 It will always be a hard decision to make, but as you said, you did it for your family. Sending all the good vibes (and a wee bit of sunshine)!

  2. Keri Bainborough says:

    Ah Maz, this hit home big time. We are also so on the fence about moving to the UK too. And I recognize the privilege of having that option and a family home there to move to easily and safely. To be honest, if it wasn’t for our four pets and our wonderful friendships, we would probably be there already. Just yesterday I was on my way to a baby shower in Tokai and I had barely left my driveway in Somerset West when I realized I had no airtime because I had forgotten to pay my bill and even though I had paid it as soon as I realized the day before, MTN only reconnects you 48 hours later. I literally fell into an immediate and scary pit of anxiety about driving the 50 minutes (most of it on the N2) without a phone, that I turned back home. I sat in the driveway shaking with anxiety and also sadness that this is my life – too afraid to drive without a phone in case I break down on the N2 with no signal. Luckily my husband showed me how to load airtime onto the car phone and I was able to drive to and attend the baby shower. But mostly I was so cross and sad that this is the situation we as women in this country find ourselves in. Confined to certain spaces and roads and only feeling “safe” if we have access to emergency calls. Like you said, there are such big problems here in SA, despite its beauty and feeling of being home, that it just feels like too much to handle. I know you will find love and happiness and a sense of belonging soon and I totally understand and support your decision and move as a family. Much love to you all and hope you settle in soon soon!


    • Maz says:

      I don’t think we realise just how much anxiety we walk around with every single day, until we are in a situation where we don’t have to be scare / guarded /tense all the damn time. I cannot remember the last time I felt this free. I watch women jog around on their own, kids walking the streets, little tiny kiddies riding their bicycles to school – and I cannot believe it. It makes me so angry that so many back home don’t have the opportunity to live “normally”.

  3. Tanya Kovarsky says:

    I love this post. I’m so glad your move has been a great one. I don’t see it as running away. You moved to protect yourselves. Looking forward to more posts about your life there 🙂

  4. Andrea says:

    I applaud you for taking that bold step… When i first experienced life outside of SA I never wanted to return but I did because i was still a scholar. Now im stuck here and still dream of of taking my kids there.

    • Maz says:

      It seems so much crazier when you are on the outside looking in! You realise just how abnormal daily life in South Africa really is.

  5. Sam says:

    So brave. A lovely post.
    I really hope that Ireland gives you much joy and peace. Might see you there one day! We are also getting our kids passports ready. They’ve received their Irish citizenship.

    Unfortunately South Africa is ruined by corruption and greed. Our beautiful country is no longer safe and opportunities are few. All the best.

  6. Celeste says:

    I read tbis with tears in my eyes. Why? Because, as I was reading about your utter dear, how you lived in a prison, I heard a faint sound putside my bedroom window and immediately ran to check our security cameras. The rest of our system is currently offline due to a lightning strike, and it has me so scared that my 4 year old is currently sleeping in my room with me, my husband and both our large brees dogs…

    We are currently saving up and following procedure to immigrate ourselves, for our daughter, for her future. It scares the bejesus out of me, but the thought of staying scares me more.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It gives me a twinkle of hope that we too will be okay.

  7. Carmen says:

    May you find total peace together with the joy in your big decision. As a mum and granny of 5 of the most precious kids, I am delighted that they have all left our beautiful but broken South Africa. I am so happy that they have safer days and better opportunities. (Although my daughter initially “missed” “the edge” especially at the traffic lights). She was heavily pregnant with her first (in CT) the night 5 armed balaclavered men invaded our home of 6 weeks. (We had just moved from CT to KZN.) They horror of what my husband and I experienced that night upset Carey so much, that it affected her health and she had to undergo a c-section a few days later. At that time her husband’s firm began retrenching and doors opened for them to start a new life on another continent, and I am delighted!

    The intention was to join them one day. And that should be about now. But as much as we would love to, life is keeping us here. I now take care of my 91 to dad, while I fight the cancer I was diagnosed with a year ago. And I am so grateful for the blessing to be with my dad at this time of his life, and for the fantastic care and support I am getting … from a SA government hospital!

    We all have reasons we do what we do. We all have choices to make in life. May you have perfect peace as you settle into your beautiful new life. 💕

  8. Kirsty says:

    You have quite literally written down my thoughts exactly. We are in Aus at the moment as my Husband has accepted a job and the company paid for us to visit before we officially emigrate. I constantly feel like I have to justify my decision and that is not ok! We want to go. We are fed up. Tired of spending thousands each month on medication to keep anxiety and stress induced insomnia at bay. Financially we will be earning a quarter of what we do in SA currently BUT you absolutely cannot put a price on freedom! I can’t wait for my son to grow up feeling safe, having equal opportunities regardless of his skin colour and access to facilities everyday that only the financially privileged experience in SA. WELL DONE for being brave and for putting your family’s wellness at the forefront of your reason to move. Enjoy the adventures in Ireland!

  9. Fran says:

    Can’t tell you how strongly I relate to this post. Was in tears by the end. We have not emigrated yet, but we must soon, as you say out of responsibility to our kids and despite all we are leaving here. Recently reread Eat Pray Love and that quote rang so true.

  10. Jeanne Henderson says:

    Thank you for your post, my wife is always talking about caffeine and fairy dust.
    This one hits home especially since we are in the midst of an immigration process ourselves and have been separated for seven months now, due to financial requirements of the spousal visa. People either have the opinion that you’re “lucky” to be immigrating or running away, but they have no clue the sacrifices made in order to give yourself a better future both financially and emotionally. In our case with all the fees included we’re still facing another few months apart. My one relief in this process is the fact that my beautiful wife is once again anxiety free, she is happy to walk the streets to visit family and friends, without having panic attacks or sleeping with kitchen knives under her pillow. I struggle to live without her but life is going to be, and already is better with our move.
    It’s always a relief to read of the happy endings, giving hope to us when we question our decisions in these months apart.
    Wish you a wonderful happy life in your cottage 🙂
    P.S I hope for fluffy sheep too, she isn’t having it. 😂

    • Maz says:

      Yeah, I did not get my fluffy sheep either 😛

      But anyway! I think you guys are incredibly brave. And yes, people do not realise the sacrifices. I don’t think my husband and I have ever fought as much in our lives – as much as it has also brought us closer together, the stress has been a true test of our relationship. I cannot imagine how hard it must be doing this all apart. It will be worth it!

  11. Rita says:

    This is our dream too. Ever since we went to Ireland for a holiday, we have been longing to move there. We can only hope and pray to one day have the opportunity to go and to leave this ‘living in fear’ behind us.
    All the best to you and your family. Looking forward to read about your new adventures in Ireland 🙂

  12. Christa says:

    I admire you bravery and honesty. Your Instagram account was one of the reasons that I contacted the agency that I have been saving the number for such a long time. At least I’m now at the stage of preparing for my IELTS test and hope to be moving to Ireland before the end of the year. There is so much question I want to ask you about your experience so far.

  13. Rachelle says:

    If I could leave (SA passport sigh) this post could easily have been written by me, except that I don’t have kids. I can’t even imagine what life here would be like if I had kids too. I adore SA, it’s in my blood but what is the point if I can’t live in it, as in, really LIVE! I’m a trail runner – I have to run in groups (not even with a mate or two) if I want to go to the secluded places I used to go to. So I’ve lost my mojo. I don’t want to have to plan every single thing about my life including when I am going to run – sometimes I just want to wake up, head to the mountain and run. I have 2 big dogs – people say, take them. But if they were shot or hurt, I would never forgive myself. So even that stops. We have to plan every single thing to make sure that we are safe. It’s not only exhausting, it’s a terrible, stressful way to live. I worry about family. I worry about friends. I worry about driving. I worry about staying at home. What kind of a life is that? I live in one of the most beautiful places but what is the point if I can’t truly enjoy it. In fact, it just makes it more frustrating.
    So Maz, I totally get it. Even without kids. But with kids? If you can go, there is no choice not to. If I had options, I’d be gone too.
    Wishing you a lifetime of happiness over there. And congrats on taking the leap!

  14. Haley Cornelli says:

    Just reading your blog now, with a helicopter flying around outside. As the was a Cash in Transit heist close by where the bombed the van. You made the best decision for your family. Hands down. Please don’t take note of people’s opinions that don’t matter.

  15. Cindy says:

    Very relatable. I left SA in 2007. I thought I was going to work on a contract for 6 months and then return before making a move to the UK. Things turned out differently. Spent 2 years in the USA and met my now husband. Since he is Romanian, we now live in Romania and we have a daughter. When people ask if I have been back or want to go back to SA, my instant response is NO. I do not want to take my family to such a place. I do not want to spend money there. I’d rather visit my brother in New Zealand. The cost is about the same…maybe a bit more. Or visit friends in the UK. But I will not risk taking my daughter to such a country where they are snatching kids out of cars like they used to steal cellphones and handbags. I might sound negative to some….I’m just putting the safety of my family first. Yes, I miss some things about SA but when the cons outweigh the pros, my mind is made up. Plus, you’ll see, the more you stay away, the more you do NOT want to go back.

  16. Sibongile says:

    As a mother and a woman, I can absolutely relate to the fear and despair that news stories such as the Uyinene case and the hijacking case bring. But as someone who is privileged and lives in the suburbs of Cape Town, I know that my chances of falling victim to such crime are much lower than many other Capetonians, most of whom are poor black and coloured people. It’s important to discuss the fear, but we also need to acknowledge the privilege of, firstly, living in middle class suburbs and secondly, being able to mobilise resources to leave when we feel that the danger is getting too close to. We need to be mindful to use a public platform to talk about this and not acknowledge that this is a systemic problem from which the descendants of the victims of Apartheid have no escape, within this city or in other countries. Praying you and your family have a wonderful and safe life in Ireland xx

    • Maz says:

      Although your chances following victim are significantly less in the suburbs than in underprivileged areas, it is still more than double than the rest of the world. I do not feel that I have not acknowledged my privilege. And yes, I am lucky that I happened to marry a man with a British passport – and we are privileged to have been able to leave a country that is crumbling. I think I addressed the systematic problem quite clearly.

  17. Jaen-Pierre Joubert says:

    Hi Maz

    Well pleased for you and your family for moving to Ireland, it’s a wonderful place and we’ve visited a number of times. We moved to the UK 19 years ago, and I never have or will feel guilty for doing so, no excuses, happy with my family here. You can speak to a small portion of the sizeable expats this side of the world and I’m sure most will agree, a better life to be had!

    Just one thing you mentioned that doesn’t sit well with me, is where you say “There is something seriously wrong with the majority of South African men – and I have no idea what it is.” I feel that you certainly don’t know enough of us to generalize to this extent. I’m the first to agree that many Saffa men are absolute pr!cks in so many ways, don’t know how to behave or treat others, but I think that you will find loads of men anywhere in the world can be the same. If you are referring to violent crime statistics, and I would fully agree that they are absolutely horrendous to think so many horrible crimes do get committed so regularly in RSA, and it may be a much larger average compared to most other countries. Even then, it’s not the MAJORITY of us.

    I sincerely hope your new life in Ireland blesses you continuously, and from the sounds of it, you’ve made a brilliant start. Wait until summer with the extremely long days, it’s absolutely magical!


    • Maz says:

      Hi Jaen-Pierre. Thank you for your comment! Ireland truly is a wonderful place. So is the UK, we have loads of family there and will hopefully make a trip over soon.
      I can understand how my issue with South African men would cause a knee-jerk reaction from you, but like you said – you left 19 years ago. You have no idea the fear us women have had to live with every day. I speak about the majority of South African men. I speak as a woman who just left a country where it is easier to get raped than it is to find a job. I speak as a sexual assault victim, who can’t count one hand the number of women I know who have not been sexually assaulted, abused or had unwanted/unsolicited sexual advances from men. I mean what I say absolutely full-heartedly. The amount of women and young children being killed by MEN is astounding. The amount of abuse and violence against women by MEN is unheard of. Rape culture and mysoginistic jokes and comments are very common around the braai and inside offices… so common, that men often don’t even realise it until a woman points out that what they are saying is wrong /makes them feel uncomfortable/ normalises rape culture. But, if we do that, like I have many times – we are labelled a bitch. I know. Not all men are rapists. Not all men abuse their significant others. Not all men actively oppress women. I get it. Unfortunately the majority do/did/would.

      Every day, we hear of women getting groped at their jobs or sexually assaulted at clubs or drugged at parties and so on. As a woman in South Africa, you would not dare take an Uber on your own. If you see a group of men walking towards you, you cross the road. Men don’t need to do that. I think talking about the issues women face and the problematic behaviour of men is incredibly important. If you are a man and don’t recognise yourself in the behaviour described by women recently, then great. Our discussion of it shouldn’t offend you, or put you on edge. The men who are behaving like allies in this are the ones that are amplifying women’s voices, examining their own behaviour, and not drowning out our conversations in search of praise or validation.

      Can’t wait for those long Summer days!

  18. Rory walter says:

    I too left a beautiful farm that I worked hard for ! But made the decision to pack up and leave together with my son , that was in 2000 . It makes me sad to remember the wonderful memories but as the time has passed I’ve realized that it was the right Choice, good luck to your family for the future , you won’t regret it !!👍

  19. Ryan Marie says:

    I am so insanely jealous of your family being able to finally pull the trigger on this move. I only live three hours away from my family but I find it so hard to be farther or do make any big decisions like that. Congratulations on your new home!

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