Ryno Potgieter, South Africa

One couple. 8,500 miles. 19 boxes. One rescue cat. These are the bones of a relocation story with “absolutely no regrets”.
Ryno Potgieter at the Plan.com office in the Isle of Man.

Meet 31-year-old Ryno Potgieter, an Analyst at plan.com.

In May 2017 he was still working in the heart of South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. 

A few weeks later he packed up his belongings and was on a plane to start a new life on a small island in the middle of the Irish Sea. It’s a decision that throws up many questions!

Why did you decide to move to the Isle of Man?

In the beginning the Isle of Man wasn’t on my radar at all.  I heard about it because of the TT races but my wife certainly hadn’t. Initially we were looking at jobs in The Netherlands because we have friends there.  I went for a few interviews while on vacation there, but I didn’t feel comfortable about any of the jobs on offer. When I returned to South Africa, someone at work mentioned there was an opening for an Analyst at plan.com in Douglas, Isle of Man.  I had an introductory chat with their Head Analyst over the phone and then we undertook the whole interview process on Skype. I also completed a technical test, and of the tests I had to do, this was the one I really enjoyed.  It was challenging and fun, testing to see if I could think my way around a problem and solve it, not just a theoretical test with no practical application.  It was about experimenting, working creatively and inventing new ways of doing things.  That’s the kind of thing we do here in the office every day.  [AB1] 

How does life on the Isle of Man compare with Pretoria?

The two places are worlds apart.  I love South Africa but when you live there, you are always on high-alert.  I’ve never been affected by crime but when you walk around, it’s always at the back of your mind.  It makes you stressed even if you don’t realise it. I suppose it’s a subconscious thing. 

Most people in the world are good-hearted but in SA, if someone approaches you in the street you are overly cautious and when you stop at traffic lights you always checking the mirrors.  On the Isle of Man, you can walk around at any time of day or night without looking over your shoulder.  It sounds strange, but that takes time to get used to. It takes time to adapt to feeling safe. The lifestyle is also definitely more relaxed here on the Island and we’ve made some good friends.  People have been super-welcoming.

What have you told your parents about the island?

I have a story that highlights the different way of life perfectly. A few weeks ago, my wedding ring fell off while I was walking in the rain. A friend suggested I call the police station to see if it had been handed in. I just laughed. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me but sure enough, someone had taken it in and the police told me I could come and collect it!  I couldn’t believe it.  There is no way that would have happened in South Africa.  I’m pretty sure it would have been sold or kept had it been found on the street in Pretoria.

I heard through the grapevine that you brought your cat with you from South Africa.  Is that true?

Yes of course!  She’s part of the family and there’s no way we would have left her behind.  I found her in the street behind the office where I worked when she was about six-weeks old.  We bonded straight away.  Her name is Gaia and she is super-lovable. She has settled in well to her new home on the Island. I must admit that getting her here was not an easy task – she needed more paperwork than us!

First, we had to get her vaccinated against rabies and after a few weeks her blood was tested to make sure she was healthy. Only then could she be checked out by the official state vet.  After that we had a window of about 10 days in which she was able to leave the country.  That meant the timing had to be perfect.  We had to be ready to go. 

I was on one flight; my wife, the cat and our boxes followed a month later.  They were on separate flights and coordination was the glue.  It was the main skill we acquired through the process.  I hired a van and met them all at Manchester airport. We collected the cat and the boxes from the cargo terminal and she was quite nervous. As soon as she saw me she began to relax again.  I booked us a pet cabin for the ferry trip to the Island – what a blessing for her! She slept behind my legs under the duvet the entire trip.  It was SO good to see her!

Do you ever feel homesick?

It sounds terrible, but we haven’t had a yearning to go home at all.  We are looking forward to visiting because we miss our family and friends, but I don’t think we will ever go back to live. 

One thing I really do miss is the weekly South African Braai.  It’s similar to a barbeque – not the kind of thing you can do very often on the Isle of Man.  I’m currently on the lookout for the best fish and chip shop on the Isle of Man!  For the most part though, we really like the locally produced food here.  You can literally see what you are eating in the fields around you.  It’s good to know that nothing here is mass-produced and the animals are roaming around in the countryside. It feels healthier.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about relocating?

The best advice we got was not to go home for at least a year.  Once you’ve made the decision to move you need to have the right mind-set. My wife and I decided to take the good with the bad and make it work. When you change jobs within your own country, you do it with an established support network but when you move to another country you have to start from ground-zero.  Making new friends, buying pots and pans, discovering and immersing yourself into a new culture.  You must accept things for what they are, not for what you want them to be. That all takes time and commitment.

Of course, we miss our family and friends but there’s always Skype. In terms of the actual practicalities I would say it’s important to be organised.  That’s where my wife was just amazing!  She created a calendar that was stuck on the wall, so we knew what to do every day in the run-up to the move.  All the deadlines were highlighted and it all made sense.  She’s the organised one, and she ensured everything happened when it was supposed to.  She really managed the whole thing!

Do you ever get bored living on a small island?

Nope!  We are constantly going out and meeting people.  We love music, so we go to loads of events and my wife is finally getting the chance to do the photography she loves.  I think we’re busier than ever. This has definitely been a good move for us all!

Any regrets?

Absolutely none.  We have a super life here and we are determined to make the most of everything.  We couldn’t be happier. 

Live your dream life in the Isle of Man

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