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Celebrating two years.

An ode to the most beautiful country and its people – thank you!

By Lynn Erasmus

It has been 24 months, 104 weeks, or 730 days.

Two years, in which time I had to relearn everything I knew – about life, business, people, and most importantly, about myself.

I had to break all preconceived ideas about what life had to offer; and shall I add, my expectations are incredibly high.

I reached for the stars and thought I could fly there. I didn’t realise that I first needed to gather my equipment to build the wings and study the path to the stars in case debris would hit me off course – which it did – and too many times to count.

I tried to reinvent myself, follow my heart, and do something I always wanted to do.

I studied hard, tried, and failed, tried some more, and failed some more. Made way more mistakes than I thought humanly possible and wanted to give up more times than I can count.

It was hard, I lie, it still is at times.

But alas, here I am, today, 730 days later and still marching forward – and if you see a crazy lady on the side of the road, trying to take off on a homemade rocket launcher – just smile and wave, it’s just me trying out a new method to take me to the stars. Cause that is all we have at the end of the day right – our dreams – sprinkled with faith and dusted with hope.

So, I would like to share my twos with you.

Two things I learned, missed, didn’t, could have, should’ve done, and more.

Two favourite things:

*All things related to nature here in Scotland – I think this was secretly the creator’s favourite country. Everything is lush and green and beautiful and always a little stream running close by.

I love the fact that you can do wild camping in nature, (as long as you are out of sight and clean up after yourself.) I love the many, many nature walks that you can take – and all within a 1mile radius from your doorstep.

*I love the freedom that citizens and visitors get to experience. The crime is kept relatively low, and support is always on hand. We have never been able to let our children out of sight until now. It is a strange feeling, and it was hard in the beginning to allow my eldest to walk to school by himself, (phoning him every 5 minutes to make sure he is still alive), but one I am deeply grateful for. This is what life is supposed to be like.

Two biggest mistakes:

*I have always struggled with rules and regulations and have been lucky in the past, getting by just winging it. Here, this is another story. I did not understand how important the processes are to follow when closing my first business and after I phoned them a few times to ask them to dissolve it, I thought that was done. Just to realise to my horror a few months later, that I was compulsory closed and not voluntarily, (which I thought I did as I phoned them…) and there is nothing to be done. Note to me – “dot the i and cross the t,” follow the processes and take a day off doing admin or pay someone to do it for you.

*MOT… Oh, my dear heart. Did I waste a lot of money on cars these two years. You see, here in the UK, cars are relatively cheap, but there is a reason for it. Because once they start giving you trouble, it is just not worth getting them repaired, so you just sell them for next to nothing. Most people are honorable and will tell you if there is anything wrong, but unfortunately, I have been caught out twice with duds and had to cut my losses or incur great expenses to fix the hidden faults. My next car, I am without a doubt, getting from a dealership…

Two biggest achievements:

*Winning an award – the Great British Entrepreneur – Foreign Innovation Award. If I learned one thing, it is the power of an award. It builds your reputation and credibility and is a powerful tool to get the recognition you need as an entrepreneur in a new country.

*Self-publishing my book – Break Those Damn Rules. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. What started as an emotional purge to help me deal with my trauma, ended up, being my salvation as it gave me the clarity to recognize my strengths and resilience. We are our own worst enemies, and we must be on constant alert to fight that inner critic who wants to break us down.

Two favourite foods:

*I love Haggis – there I said it. For me, it tastes like warm “Droewors” (a South African treat of dried-up meat mixed with fat in the shape of a sausage.) Still trying to arrange a regular meal with the family with haggis, but Rome was not built in one day right-).

*All the food is so cheap! Two years in and I still can’t get over how cheap food is here. Not take-out, that is just crazy, but food in the shops is affordable and makes your money stretch that much further.

Two monumental differences between Scotland and SA:

*The weather – duh. It is a radical change to get used to and I get hit with the winter blues every year. Last winter I skipped the blues over Christmas, the only thing I can think of is that I booked myself in for a steam room session. It helped a lot, and I should have kept it up, as it was delayed till January and lingered for nearly 3 months. Plus, we loaded up on Vitamin D and C, kept it light-hearted by celebrating the smallest victories, and took plenty of walks in nature. Lesson to self – book a trip to a warm country for January – non-negotiable.

*The Culture… Did I get a rude awakening here. I come from a country where we shout to each other who is the biggest and bests and why you should do business with us. Here, you play down your achievements and let other people drag that information out of you like a sore tooth. I had to learn to take it easy, to hold back a lot, of my opinions, experiences, my thoughts, and feelings. You guys keep those things under wraps – and then you bury them under the sand – for some lonesome explorer to discover a decade later. Then you act very very very surprised when someone mentions them like they just saw you undressing in your room. Oh, my hat – one thing you can learn from us foreigners – be prouder of your successes…, it’s called celebrating not boasting.

Two things I do differently since living here:

*I walk 90% more than I did in SA. It’s just plain easy to see why. YOUR COUNTRY IS BEAUTIFUL! Plus, it is safe to walk the streets and even in the forests. Also, my perception of distance has become distorted. In SA, I would normally drive an hour to work every day, including dropping off the kids at school. Now, if I know I must drive to Edinburgh for work, I make sure that I plan all my activities for that drive, see everyone I need to see on that day, and cram in as much as possible, as it is highly unlikely, I will be back for another month. Anything further than a 10minutes drive is deemed too far…

*I talk about the weather and even google it every week, just to make sure I don’t get caught in the rain, and if I do, to make sure I have an umbrella. I utilize every ray of sunshine schedule for the week – schedule playdates and lunch around it – everything revolves around the weather. Sometimes at networking events, I can talk about all the different facets of the weather, for over 5 minutes, before switching to more interesting topics… Oh and I now drink tea – and a lot of it.

Two differences in business between SA and UK:

*South African labor laws are one of the best in the world. It protects the employee, which means you have more rights than an employer. Labour is dirt cheap. In the UK, employees can be dismissed if they worked less than 2-years for the company. Plus, labour is much more expensive because the minimum living wage is law, and you can live fairly well if you don’t have debt or expensive habits. Even though labour is cheaper in SA, the cost of living is much higher and your salary on minimal wage will rarely allow you to survive.

*The red tape in the UK makes my eyes water…  Turn up the volume to 100 and you have reached the level of bureaucracy, policies, procedures, and administrative legalities you need to follow to start your business. I now understand why everyone was giving me the squint eye when I told them I am starting my own business, (a mere 6 months since arriving in the UK, with zero networks, financial backing, or guidance…). I was shocked when I heard someone explain to their colleagues that I had lived experience. I thought that was just a term used for helping people going through trauma, but it became evident that they meant my work experience, which I had no formal qualifications for. I don’t have an MBA in Entrepreneurship or marketing and branding degrees, but I have two diplomas in Journalism and one in PR. In SA it is like the wild west, anything goes. You can start a hairstyling business from the side of the road, you pull up a chair, get your scissor and comb ready, maybe even have an umbrella and walla – there is your little business ready to go.

Two best practices I adopted when I started my businesses:

*Join as many networking groups as possible in the beginning. You need to find your tribe and it will be difficult to crack in the beginning, but just keep on plugging away. Be nice, share something about yourself and ask the locals for their advice. People love to help, (don’t ever use or abuse this kindness) but ask when you are uncertain about something. Always offer something in return too.

*Get a high-profile mentor/coach. This helped me so much throughout my journey. I just wish I did this earlier, as I could have avoided many expensive and time-consuming pitfalls along the way. You need someone to believe in you, someone who has been there and walked the journey you are on – who understands your industry and is willing to go the extra mile for you. Not only to guide and mold you as a person but also to manage your expectations. You need someone you can trust, to bare yourself to, with honesty and vulnerability, and allow them to take your experiences, skills, and passions, put them all in a basket, then trust them to wash, shake, and dry them. Once done, you simply iron them out, and then you repack them – ready for version 2.0. Also, they will open many doors for you that would otherwise be shut.

 

To end this article, I would like to thank every single person I have met over the past two years, the informal and formal conversations, the laughs and even a tear or two shared in between, we are not all that different.

We may speak different languages and have different perspectives on life, life experiences, and even faiths and beliefs, but we do share one thing – we are part of humanity. And I am incredibly grateful for all the love, kindness, support, and trust that you have given me. For keeping your doors open to me, even when I falter and want to scream in frustration, you hold your voice steady and the door wide open. I salute you for your steadfastness, poise, patience, and resilience.

You are an incredible nation, not just bonny Scotland, whom I love fiercely, but all of the United Kingdom. I can see why you are so successful and hardy; you fought many battles for this freedom we all get to enjoy, thank you!

My family and I will continue to celebrate your rich history, uphold your law, and order and play our part in being the change we seek. Please continue to be patient with “incomers”, we have lots to learn, and most of the time, we rock the boat out of ignorance, not malice. We want what everyone wants – to be happy, safe, and to feel like we belong and are appreciated.

Will keep an eye on you from the stars, come visit.

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