From Ireland to Botswana: Anna shares her experiences and challenges

Expat interviews
  • expat in Botswana
Published on 2021-07-16 at 10:00 by Veedushi
Anna was born in Ireland but spent many years abroad, including in Europe and Asia. She currently lives in Botswana, where she followed her husband who got a job offer there. Anna talks to us about her life experiences and challenges of relocating overseas and adapting to a new culture.

Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background?

I was born and raised in Ireland and went to university to do European Studies with French and Spanish, and always thought I would live and work abroad. I taught English as a Foreign Language for a year (in Dublin) while figuring out my next move and decided to study International Human Rights Law. That's what led me to Geneva, where the UN Human Rights Council sits, and that's where my life abroad begins, I suppose.

What brought you to Botswana? For how long have you been there?

My husband (we got married last month!) is from Botswana, and we decided to try it out for a while because he found a decent job here. We arrived around six months ago now, though it doesn't feel like it; I'm still adjusting!

What made you want to leave Ireland, your home country?

I always wanted to live and work abroad, though I'm not quite sure why. Probably just curiosity about the world - I don't have any problem with Ireland, I actually really like it, and I'd love to move back at some stage now that I have a kid. I think it is a lovely place for children to grow up, and it is becoming more and more multicultural, which is important for a family like ours.

What has been your best experience so far, from Ireland to Switzerland, then to Myanmar and finally to Botswana?

Each experience was so different, but I've loved all of them. College (university) in Ireland is great fun, and I learnt loads too. Geneva was important for my professional development and is where I met my husband, so it does hold a special place in my heart. Still, I think living in Myanmar was the most exciting experience. Now, of course, Myanmar is suffering from the fallout from the military coup and rapidly increasing Covid cases and deaths, but when I was there, everyone had so much hope, and the young people I was working with gave me endless energy and inspiration. Myanmar is a beautiful country, rich in culture and nature, but people have long been exploited and oppressed. My heart really breaks for what the people in Myanmar are going through right now.

Did you find it hard to adapt to Botswana?

Short answer, yes. And I'm still adapting. A big challenge for me is not having an in-person job here, so it is a bit harder to meet people, and I can go days without seeing anyone other than my husband and son. I'm sure other people moving abroad during the pandemic went through worse, though. Another issue is that I need to learn to drive! I'm used to living in cities with decent public transport.

What were the major challenges you've had so far, and how did you overcome them?

I think my main challenge (still ongoing) is planning. As someone who has been "globally mobile" and accidentally ended up where I am, it is a bit overwhelming to suddenly try to plan for the future as a young family. We still want to explore and experience a lot of the world, but we also need some financial security and stability. We want to be close to family, but our families live on different continents! So as an intercultural couple, both with our own career paths, it is really difficult to find the balance and plan for the future. 

Another challenge has been cultural adaptation. In Botswana, it has been intense; because it is my husband's home country, there are things that are obvious to him that I have had to learn. But I'm getting there by being open, asking questions, trying to befriend Batswana, and picking up the language (slowly). 

What does the life of a remote development education consultant look like? What are the challenges to remote working in Botswana?

Since I'm working from home, I have a childminder who comes to the house, and I pretty much spend 9 to 5 at my laptop having meetings or working on learning materials. There are definitely challenges to remote working in Botswana. I'm still figuring out some admin, like which tax rate applies to me, stuff like that. Unfortunately, the internet is also quite expensive for the service - I pay around 100 USD per month for an average speed of 7-10mbps. This is because the population density is low, so there just aren't enough people to pay for the infrastructure. Hopefully, it will improve with time.

You are also a mom. So how has the transition from one country to another been for your child?

My son was only nine months old when we came here, so it has been quite smooth. He seems to love the outdoor lifestyle and spends most of the day playing in the sand. I think the younger they are, the easier it is.

Let's talk a bit about the pandemic. How was it dealt with in Botswana, and what is the current situation?

Botswana had a couple of periods of extreme lockdown last year and closed all borders from April until December 2020. The case numbers have been quite high, and sadly there is a disproportionately high death rate. At the moment, we are still under the State of Emergency, movement between districts is restricted, there is a 10 pm-4 am curfew, mandatory mask-wearing, and a ban on the sale of alcohol. The vaccine rollout has been really slow; so far, only over 55s and healthcare workers have been fully vaccinated, as far as I know. And with this third wave, there are rumours of a strict lockdown coming back. So far, I'm lucky to have had a little bit of freedom to be able to meet some new people!

Is there anything you miss from your home country or the other countries you have lived in?

So much! Obviously, I miss my family and friends. But a close runner up is food! We are in a relatively small town in Botswana, and there just isn't the same variety. I miss cheap and cheerful South East Asian dishes, tropical fruits and street food in Myanmar and Irish comfort foods like lamb stew and brown bread with loads of butter. 

I also miss going out dancing and drinking, but with pandemic restrictions, I guess very few people can do that, and now that I have a little boy, I probably don't have the energy or stamina for those late nights.

If you could go through all this all over again, is there anything you would have done differently?

I've actually thought about this a few times, but I have to say no! I had absolutely no idea I would end up married and with a kid in Botswana. Never in a million years could I have imagined it, but all my decisions and choices led me here to a loving husband and cute little boy, so how can I have regrets?

Where do you see yourself and your family in the next few years?

I wish I knew! We would like to stay in Botswana for a couple of years and then hopefully move back to Europe closer to the Irish side of the family. But we are always open to the unexpected. 

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