From South Africa to Shetland

From South Africa to Shetland

As tourist guides, one of our jobs is to make sure visitors to Shetland get to see Shetland at its best and have an experience they will never forget. Sometimes Shetland wins the hearts of our visitors so much so that they decide to make the move to Shetland on a permanent basis.

It is a big thing moving to Shetland, especially if you are used to city living, but to be part of a close-knit island community is a wonderful thing.

 lion, safari, South Africa

One person who made the move is Paula, who works for Island Vista. Paula was born and raised in Zimbabwe and then moved to Cape Town, South Africa.  Even when she was still at school, Paula had a great urge to travel. She never travelled to many places, but one of her most memorable experience was working on a kibbutz in Israel for six months. It was a big thing at that time to work on a kibbutz and to have a one year working holiday in London. 

After six months on a kibbutz, Paula returned to South Africa as she was homesick and felt she had enough stories to tell. It was in 1995, after working for the Rugby World Cup in Cape Town that Paula decided it was time to have her one year working holiday in London. This ended up being a never-ending holiday as 7 years later, she was still there.

After that time, she craved a different lifestyle and made her way to Scotland. She settled in Aberdeenshire and started working in the MacDonald Pittodrie House Hotel.

It was there that she met her partner, Magnus who is originally from Shetland.  After a year of working together, Magnus asked Paula if she wanted to move to Shetland with him. And the rest as they say is history!

Paula lives with Magnus on a croft with 3 dogs, Highland Cows, and sheep. Paula confesses that she did not know much about crofting life when she first moved to Shetland but now, she can easily barter with other crofters for the nicest coloured Shetland ram lambs for breeding purposes and feels quite at home mucking out. 

 Eshaness, cliffs, Shetland

Paula has many interests but two of them are wildlife and photography. Needless to say, Shetland is an excellent place for both. Paula has learned so much about the birds and wildlife since moving to Shetland and admits to not even knowing what a sparrow looked like when she first arrived here. Paula has relied on the knowledge of local experts in Shetland and has absorbed every word they share with her. Shetland is one of the best places for bird watching in the UK as it lies in a great location during migration time. 

puffin, Shetland, seapinks, flowers

Has Shetland changed Paula?  It has, she has embraced its culture and is now a tourist guide and ambassador for these beautiful islands. Has it always been easy? No way. Has it been worth it? Absolutely.

If you are seriously considering a move to Shetland, it is worth coming here for a couple of trips beforehand. I recommend taking one of these trips in the middle of winter. Winters in Shetland can be tough going for anyone who does not know what to expect. Coming here for a recce in winter will help you prepare for that. I am a firm believer that forewarned is forearmed.

We have a lot of good job opportunities in Shetland, but accommodation can be a bit more challenging. Promote Shetland has a Facebook group for people who want to live and work in Shetland. It is a good place to ask questions and get advice.

Of course, if we can help in any way, please get in touch.

Good luck with the move.