When Raquel and I quit our secure and well-paying jobs in July last year, we knew that we were taking a risk (I spoke about these decisions in this post and this one) . It was a risk which at the time seemed very calculated due to a variety of reasons as we were moving to South Africa, my ‘home’ (which had already become a relative term for me) where I had family and was definitely not going to be like starting from scratch in a new country.
I can’t say we were naïve about the move as we were aware that it could take some time before things actually started happening on the job front, but we were confident that everything would turn out fine in the end.
As soon as we arrived we realized that despite our optimism things were going to be slightly harder than we assumed. For one, the timing of our move to South Africa was, for lack of a more eloquent expression, off. We assumed moving back in October was the best time, as it would put us in contention for jobs starting in the new year. Well, you know what less eloquent people say, “Assumption is the mother of all f#ck ups”.
The first problem of the timing of our arrival was that with end of the school year and long summer holidays being in December, most companies, especially those in construction, basically shut down for that month but also don’t really do much recruitment during November in preparation to the wind down of the year.
The second problem was simply that recruitment seems to take place from the end of the financial year onwards in March, as that is when companies close their budgets for the following year and when positions usually open up.
This quagmire meant that it would be highly unlikely to secure any jobs before March of this year, which left us with a bit of a problem, more psychological than anything as the wait to securing a job increased along with the uncertainty.
One of the main reasons we decided to start our life in South Africa was the fact I believed it would be much easier for me to find work here due to my extensive but varied experience abroad. I also believed Raquel would find work in South Africa with no real difficulty as her CV speaks for itself and her great experience would make her a valuable commodity in the job market.
Once again, we assumed a lot and well assumption kicked us in the face again. For myself, I underestimated one of the main drawbacks in my CV, the lack of consolidated experience in one specific area of construction. Like the English, South Africans like consistency in a CV and don’t always like a multipurpose professional which can’t always be placed in one little box (read my struggles with recruiters here). This made applying for jobs harder as recruiters couldn’t see beyond my CV’s lack of consistency which made it impossible for them to recommend jobs for me.
For Raquel, the problems were more on a legislative level and here were to blame as well due to our reliance on assumption and some slightly flawed advice from the South African Embassy in Portugal. We had underestimated the arduous process for obtaining a work permit and as the embassy in Portugal said it can be obtained in a week to ten days, we never questioned that this was only the case at the embassy in Portugal and that in South Africa, the process was significantly slower and can take up to months if not longer when your process is ‘lost’ in a drawer somewhere in an office in Home Affairs HQ in Pretoria.
And to make things worse we realized that very few companies in South Africa even consider hiring a non-South African without some sort of permanent residence, as one, it costs a fortune to hire immigration consultants to deal with the process (up to R20 000 sometimes) and two, it can take a millennia before the employee is even issued with a work permit.
In a matter of weeks our optimism was dampened by all these sudden drawbacks and we started questioning our decision to come to South Africa. We even started thinking about a plan B and gave ourselves a limit to the amount of time we spent in South Africa without securing a job.
When all hope was lost and we both thought that the decision had backfired on us, Raquel got a call from a company she interviewed with. They were willing to offer Raquel a job, as long as she could obtain a work permit within two months. As you can imagine, we were ecstatic but wary at the same time as we knew that this would be no easy task.
Ironically while we were in Johannesburg dealing with Raquel’s work permit application, I got a call for an interview (see this post for more) and two weeks after that, I had secured the job and we moved to Johannesburg to start our new life in this country.
However, Raquel’s work permit was lurking in the back of our head and once again we started thinking about a plan B for Raquel in case things didn’t work out with the work permit. I wouldn’t have considered our move a success if Raquel was not working and unhappy.
The cliché goes that good things come to those who wait, and fortunately all our waiting paid off as two weeks ago Raquel finally got her work permit and after all the worrying, hassles, queuing, phone calls things were finally falling into place.
For the first time in our relationship Raquel and I have a normal life where we wake up together; have breakfast together before work; Work hard to come home to the same apartment; Have dinner together and chat about our day while some Fado plays from the record player; We can finally do couple things like go to the movies on a Friday night.
It’s been a long wait for us to finally be in this position, so to say that we are happy things have finally fallen into place is a an understatement of enormous proportions.