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Travelogue: What to expect when moving from South Africa to London

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In October 2016, I moved from sunny South Africa to the wonderful winter that only the United Kingdom can be well known for! I joined my wonderful boyfriend (FYI – he is from SA too!) and adjusted to the change – and have never looked back!

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The next points will only be based on my experience in the UK thus far (for now!).

The Cold Climate Myth

Don’t get me wrong, the blazing hot sun and warm temperatures certainly do wonders for a person! But, if your biggest concern that you have when emigrating is the weather, I am sure you can find an article about emigrating to the Bahamas in the summer somewhere on the web!

Yes, it rains. Yes, it is overcast a lot of the time and yes, the temperature drops are quite drastic – but (and this is a big BUT) – Don’t be fooled by the image portrayed of the UK weather that you see on TV and in films. With that being said, the weather is easy to adapt to. The buildings are designed with insulation and almost everywhere you go there is a heating system of some sort.

The clothing items sold here are also significantly warmer and thicker so you are able to function properly when moving about. Also, one important thing that many people do not know: We do have a Summer and we do have ‘heat waves’, we even have beaches! It all depends on where you are – Location, location, location.

Beginning the job search

Unless you have won the lottery and have decided to purchase a luxury estate, you need to make sure you have your income secured above anything else (and a roof over your head of course).

Employers love hiring South Africans because of the strong work ethic they behold as well as their ‘can do attitude’, so there should be no issue there. Websites such as Indeed and Monster are great sites to look for work across all sectors you may be interested in. Like most job pages, the positions are posted by a mixture of both employers directly or by the recruitment agencies. The recruitment agencies are often quite efficient and will try and do their best to assist you in finding the job that you are after.

Make sure your CV is updated to the UK format – you will be surprised how much information put on our South African CVs that is not necessary here such as a picture or even your date of birth! It is also helpful to have a LinkedIn profile. This is the professional equivalent of Facebook and will help companies discover more about you and your working background.

Speaking of Facebook, this is a prime tool to have while job hunting as it has loads of groups for companies and job seekers to connect in certain areas of the country with daily jobs, articles and tips to help you secure that income! Follow the link here to view one of the pages that I found useful in my hunt: https://www.facebook.com/groups/saffajobs/

Stop the habit of currency converting

Going from earning rands to pounds may seem like you struck the jackpot, but this is not always the case! The cost of living is subsequently higher and in turn, the income you earn needs to make up for this factor. However, on a personal level, I have found budgeting more manageable and saving can be easily done if you play by the rules.

It took me a couple of months to wrap my head around how much my grocery shopping would amount to had I spent the ZAR equivalent back home and in turn, I learned to stop doing it completely. The lifestyle is different and adjusting becomes much easier once you stop comparing the prices of eating out, chocolate bars, fuel, etc.

Learning the lingo

Right, let’s just address a few common assumptions:

Not everybody speaks like the royal family, not everybody has the accent that you may hear on Geordie Shore and last but not least not everybody speaks like Dizzee Rascal sounds in his ‘Bonker’s song’.

Different areas have different ways of speaking in terms of pronunciation, tone and slang. Also, a lot of the time you will find that some of the things you say may not make sense to the British. For example, the word ‘shame’ to South Africans is often used in a sympathetic or endearing manner. Using the same word here is completely different and is seen as a form of sarcasm. I found this out the hard way after a client of mine had told me that his wife was ill and once I had replied with ‘Agh, shame’. The look I received from my colleagues was as if they had seen a ghost!

However, after several months of being around British people all day, you will soon learn to adjust to the vocabulary and it can be quite fun to learn a few new words and phrases! Don’t be surprised if your ‘ja’ changes to ‘yeah’, this sometimes happens subconsciously and more often than so you will find the accent of the English to rub off on you. If you’re worried about losing the ‘lekker Suid Afrikaanse taal’ – Fear not, this accent will never fade!

Public transport

At first, you may feel reluctant to use public transport due to the impression the South African service gave off. It is completely different here! The buses are punctual and will stop around every four minutes or so on average, depending which route you decide to take. The bus drivers are very helpful and the buses are clean and looked after. Some Metrobuses are even equipped with Wi-Fi! Fancy, eh?

Riding the train will take some getting used to as some routes require getting off at another station and finding the correct platform. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes quite an adventure as you can take a train to just about any town. Driving is not always the best choice especially when travelling in London, so taking the train is advantageous in terms of convenience. The only downside to this is that tickets can be quite pricey!

Service that makes you smile

I was quite surprised to arrive here and notice that the UK Postal System is still going strong. Maybe this was because I was used to the constant striking of the Post Office back home and so I had lost all hope for the envelope worldwide. The great thing about the service here is that when you are expecting a letter to arrive over a certain timescale, rest assured it will arrive and the same goes when sending a letter too.

It’s not just the postal system that is ‘royal’ class, but their online services are quite top notch too. I was able to apply for a bank account online the first day I arrived here. Then, all I had to do was take my passport to the bank so that they could make copies for their records and within a week I had my bank card sent to me via post! You can also manage all your bills online if you have an account set up and let’s not forget online shopping becomes your new best friend.

With society’s needs to increase the speed and versatility of a service, I can definitely say that the UK does have the upper hand when it comes to ease and efficiency of modern technology.

Making new friends and keeping in touch with the ones you left behind

Exploring the social scene is a great way to meet new people and learn more about others. If you have a hobby or play a sport, social clubs are good for meeting new people with the same interests as you so it may be a good idea to have a look for some! You may click with a person you meet straight away or you may find it difficult to mingle but this would depend entirely on the type of characters involved. I was in no hurry to make new friends as this wasn’t on top of my priorities, however, once you get more settled and relaxed you begin opening up to others and in turn, you begin building bonds.

I now have a very close friend whom I met from work and to me, it feels as if we have known one another for years. At this point in time, you begin to realise that it’s not important to have a bunch of friends, but rather a few real ones. Talking about real friends, you will begin to realise that you will no longer remain close to the people you left behind back home unless both sides put in the effort.

The people who you thought you would most likely keep in touch with may now feel like distant friendships but what is most important is to try and make time for the ones close to your heart. I have two best friends who I would never be able to lose contact with and I always try to make them aware that even though I am many miles away, that I am always there for them.

Luckily, in this day and age with so many public platforms and video calling technology, it is much easier to stay close to one another. This goes for family members too, if you have relocated without them.

Dealing with the emotions

This is a big point for me and I am sure many people can relate. If you have remained calm and focused throughout the whole immigration process, then I salute you. However, if the whole journey is/was a rollercoaster of emotions then just know you are not alone. You need to have the strength to commit to this decision, but strength does not mean you are not entitled to have fear or feel stressed. There are many things you have to consider to ensure you are doing correctly and let’s not forget – it is okay to miss the things that you do back home, such as Oros or petrol attendants!

You are allowed to feel the emptiness of moving away from the African culture. The true value of this journey is shown once you learn to override the negative emotions of immigrating and replace these with the joy, excitement and fulfilment of the adventures yet to come.

As long as you truthfully and undoubtedly know you have made the right decision, you are allowed to feel all that you do, it is what makes us human!

Don’t forget to explore!

Try not to get too wound up with all that you need to do in order to get settled. It will take some time to feel like you new place is ‘home’ and don’t feel impatient when everything has not gone as smooth as you would have hoped for it to be. My advice to you is: Take a day to explore your surroundings. Visit the next town or take a train to the beautiful countryside.

These days can often be reminders of how lucky you are to have a fresh start in a new country and culture and why you made the decision in the first place. Take advantage of the fact that you have the whole of Europe close by waiting to be explored (for now) and don’t forget to take pictures of your memories to look back on and to show the others back home.

In conclusion to my (very) long and first blog post, I would like to leave you in saying that everybody’s viewpoint will not necessarily reflect the same of my own and whilst I do enjoy a huge change like this, some people may not. With that being said, there are many forums and sites for people all going through the same change as what we are and so it helps to share what you are feeling with others.

There are many other factors I would have loved to have covered, but these are the ones that I get asked the most about and wanted to share my insight on these points with you. I would also love to hear your stories or opinions referring to this post so feel free to get in touch! Until then, embrace the change and be excited for this wonderful opportunity!

The original blog post can be read here.

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