Annette Hersey is a wife to one, and mother to two. She and her family relocated to Houston, Texas from Johannesburg, South Africa. She also spent parts of her childhood in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Britain. Her blog 'An American Tale – Our Great Adventure Goes West' documents the adventures of her family.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Johannesburg, South Africa
Q: Where are you living now?
A: The Woodlands, near Houston , Texas
Q: How long you have you lived here?
A: 10 months
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: Spouse & 2 children, ages 5 and 7.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: My husband received a 3 year contract with his company in SA. I am a stay at home mom at the moment.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life in the US?
A: I enjoy the friendliness of the people, and the education level & schooling. I think the quality of life is good.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: We miss the culture of the people in SA, we miss the good weather. The humidity in Houston during the summer is extreme.
Q: Is the city safe?
A: Compared to Johannesburg, yes. But it does have parts more prone to crime, like any city has.
About living in Texas
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: The Woodlands has a lot of other expats living here. Kingwood, Cypress, and Katy are all nice suburbs.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Texas?
A: Very good.
Q: What’s the cost of living in the US compared to South Africa? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: It’s reasonable, probably better than at home in SA. Cars are cheaper, and electrical equipment seem cheaper. Any service related industry is expensive.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: At the moment I mix more with other expats, but the locals are outwardly friendly.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Not at first.
About working in the US
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: The economy is still suffering from the recession, and there's been a large dip in employment opportunities.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: For my husband, who works, it is the metric vs imperial system that takes some getting used to.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: Yes, we have all had some problems adjusting to various things. Like the weather, cultural changes etc.
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: Fairly easily. They like the school here.
Q: What are the schools in Texas like, any particular suggestions?
A: The elementary public schools here in the Woodlands are excellent. You have to check online which school districts are rated well before deciding where to move. You live where the school district is good.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in the US?
A: The health plan we are on is good. Medicine and healthcare can be expensive without one.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Look for support groups, get involved in a local church. And be prepared to be the one to reach out for friendships. It’s not going to happen if you don’t make the first move. Try to get out as much as possible, get to know the area, and as soon as you can, get your telephone and computer up and running, it is your only lifeline to your friends and family in the beginning, and will help you to keep your sanity. Be open to new things, new activities and new hobbies etc, even a new line of work. It’s a great time for new opportunities to come your way. Be prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions in the beginning. Don’t be too hard on yourself!
~ interviewed February 2010
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