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Visiting Shetland in October with a possible view of relocating


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I hope I'm posting in the right section!

I will be visiting Shetland (which is a long standing dream!!) with my youngest son in October for a week for a recce to relocate.

As a family, we visited Orkney in April this year including house hunting and naturally fell in love with the place.

However, I just felt I needed to visit Shetland before settling for Orkney.

We currently live in Devon and totally appreciate the difference compared to island life (particularly the weather!) but we need a drastic lifestyle change away from the rat race due to my wife's poor health (2 recent heart attacks and she's only 43).

We have 2 sons aged 17 and 14 and so I was wondering how limiting if at all their lives will be on the island.

My wife and I want to fully integrate with the community and 'pay it forward as it were.'

I am also interested what the social impact of the oil workers have made. I read about one of the local fish and chip shop not being happy concerning anti social behaviour from them, so I was wondering if places such as local pubs can be a little risky with my wife in tow. (We're not prudes in any shape or form, we visit our local most days but some behaviour can be too much, particularly if they're strangers).

Many thanks in advanced and feel free to tell me to sod off and stay at the bottom of England as it is the rugby World Cup lol

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If you are of Syrian origin then you're in luck, the council have a special offer on at the moment, whereby the local tax payer will bankroll your time here and some do-gooders will bake you a cake and furnish your bleak abode with many gifts and offerings of local delicacies.

Oh yeah,  I forgot to mention the embittered bigots in my big screed about the joys of Shetland ! ;-)

Edited by Horns 'O' Da Geo
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Wrong section mate, but I'm sure the mods can point you in the right direction. 


My tuppence: Shetland is an extreme place to simply escape the rat race, but it's worked out okay for a lot of folk I guess. I was born here so don't have the rose-tinted specs that a lot of relative newcomers may have, but at the same time I've chosen to start a family and continue to keep this place as my home, so it's definitely got it's good points.


I know you talked about the weather, but I don't think it's possible to fathom the effect it can have on not only your mood but also the ability to leave the isles. In summer we're lucky if we get more than a few days of unbroken of sunshine. There have been times when we've enjoyed a clear hot spell – and when that happens the place is unbeatable in my opinion.


Thing is, sometimes summer doesn't really happen at all. This year we had a few nice days, but paid for it with a load of mist that disrupted planes to the mainland and scuppered many people’s holiday plans.


As for the winter, well it's actually not much colder than mainland UK. Problem is that it's wetter, darker and much windier. The nights draw in fast and, come December you'll barely notice that the sun has risen before it sets again behind the clouds.  


Speaking of travel plans, bare in mind that leaving Shetland is a mission in itself. You can sail on the ferry (14 hours) or you can fly. Getting your whole family away and back wouldn't leave you with much change from a grand. The cost and the planning involved mean that a lot of folk only get a few trips sooth (that's Shetland for south, as you may have guessed) a year. 


Will your kids like it? It depends. If they're outdoors types they might love it - when they get the weather. When I was 17 I couldn't wait to leave for uni  - and from what I hear teenagers still bemoan the lack of things to do up here, although you could argue that that's applicable to teenagers everywhere. 


When I was at school in the 90s I felt for incoming children from England. Their accents grated and stood out, and, as in many cultures, being different is not always something to be celebrated when you're a certain age. Perhaps with social media etc things are a bit better these days. Again, I guess it depends on they kids. 


Integration in to the community is a tricky one to pin down. In Lerwick there isn't, to my mind, a great deal of community. Sure there's clubs and interest groups, but I think the rural communities probably have more going for them in terms of socialising and getting involved. There is a significant distinction between Lerwick (the toon) and almost everywhere else. Property is harder to come by, but it's closer to the amenities. As a 'toonie' I prefer it, but I've got family and friends in the outlying areas that would never dream of living in Lerwick. 


I still go to the pubs when I can, although as the father of a young son it's less than I would like. I'd be generous if I was to say they were a mixed bag. They are almost all pretty dire. You'll maybe find a few threads devoted to this topic, but honestly,  compared to mainland pubs they are a lacklustre affair, largely monopolised by a local publican with zero interest in improvements. The few independent ones are past their prime. Some of them trade on past glories  - 'the lounge', for example,  used to be an amazing place for local music and hospitality, but you'll find little of either nowadays. Others seem to mainly cater for the drinking needs of the incoming workers ('bargies'), who are predominately hard drinking males from Northern England cities like Liverpool, Newcastle or often places like Glasgow. Some of them are fine. I've little more to add in that respect!


You mention Orkney. As a Shetlander we have a friendly (kinda) rivalry with Orcadians, but to be honest there are as many similarities as there are differences. I'm told the customer service, tourism and general levels of hospitality are far superior in Orkney.


Having never spent much time there I can't really comment, but Shetland's customer service is sometimes hilariously bad. I've got a friend at work who moved up here from Fife a few years back and, while he does actually love it, he can't get over the general lack of interest many small businesses take in their customers. Again, you'll find threads devoted to this topic, and there are always exceptions.


The good points? Well I can't think of a better place to bring up kids. It's safe, the standard of education is exceptional and there IS a lot to do, but it's seldom laid out on a plate for you - and that, to my mind, is sometimes good thing. As for the people, like anywhere they’re a mixed bag.


As I wrote in a former thread:

 “there's a bit of a 'tall poppy syndrome' that's sometimes comes into play up here. 


Many a local toe has been inadvertently stepped on by well-meaning 'sooth-moothers' who brashly take control of local committees, clubs etc, wrongly assuming that the more moderate, quieter members are perhaps in need of more vocal leadership, when in reality they just have a more self-conscious approach, and are acutely aware that some of their fellow islanders have long memories, having probably known them all their lives.


Tred lightly, smile and take the time to listen to what's going on before passing comment. You'll soon feel at home and hopefully you'll want to stay. “


Good luck in whatever you decide to do!

Good balanced post

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Thank you so much to everyone, particularly Horns for taking the trouble of replying and giving me so much to think about.

I can only imagine how severe the weather can be up there but we currently do live in a rural location where our back garden is Dartmoor and as an almost full time hiker, I prefer inclement weather where you don't see anyone (until I reach a cosy pub!) rather than having to share it with fine weather walkers only.

As regards to my sons, my youngest is very out going, he had a professional football contract with Exeter city and as I understand it both Shetland and Orkney enjoy their football (kicking lumps out of each other in particular I believe lol).

He also loves fishing and kayaking.

My eldest son however, lives his life with his head buried in his laptop in a world of his own and so I'm not entirely convinced he'd notice if we moved to the moon as long as it had wifi.

So far I've pencilled in 3 house viewings on the mainland and 2 on Yell.

I'm looking forward so much to coming there in October, it will be great to get a feel of the place, we're staying on the mainland quite near Brae, in the country where we would like to be and hopefully my son and I will be able to chat to some locals during our stay.



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^^^Your youngest son will have a dozen teams looking to sign him. Good football players are treated with reverence in Shetland.

Can't add anything to the warts and all post horns has written, I was going to write how much I love living in Shetland and it would've read like a tourist brochure, but there is, as he has pointed out, some significant drawbacks.

I hope you get a good feel for the place when you visit, good luck whatever you decide.

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If you are of Syrian origin then you're in luck, the council have a special offer on at the moment, whereby the local tax payer will bankroll your time here and some do-gooders will bake you a cake and furnish your bleak abode with many gifts and offerings of local delicacies.


Oh yeah,  I forgot to mention the embittered bigots in my big screed about the joys of Shetland ! ;-)

We still have people that if you don't "follow the script" like to cry and denounce you and shout you down. I can unstandardised why you would like to leave England, it's not what it was anymore after it was enriched and made vibrant. Luckily in Scotland we are more boring monoculture and cohesive.

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Thanks Capeesh, was also wondering if there was a semi decent pub or hotel etc where my 14 year old son and myself can shore up and watch the rugby while we're up there??

I would probably take him to the British Legion if you're in Lerwick and have a game of Snooker or pool afterwards.

Maybe others can help with suggestions, not much of a pub goer myself nowadays.

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Horns 'O' Da Geo gave an excellent over-view.


Personally, and this saddens me, but I feel that Shetland(maybe more so Lerwick) is becoming more like it's own mini rat race. Even to the point where many don't know their own neighbours :(


It's very true that there just isn't the same community spirit left in Lerwick but the rural areas are better.


My friends in Shetland tell me that Orkney is more like the old Shetland - a slower pace of life and more community minded.


Trust me, nothing you've experienced can compare with a Shetland winter.


I think it's a valid point that having health issues and living in rural Shetland is maybe not the best combination.


Another point, don't fall into the "up here" mind-set. Shetland is in the middle of the North Atlantic and is an entirely different culture from England and even Scotland.


One final observation is I wish the SIC etc would be honest enough to publish the figures for how many people arrive and leave Shetland each year.


It "slipped out" one year on Radio Shetland about 7 years ago and it was staggering. From what I remember I think it was basically 600 arrived and 600 left.


I just feel that this tells its own story.



Edited by Kavi Ugl
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