If you’re planning to move to London from South Africa, then you’ll be following in the footsteps of many South Africans who’ve done the very same before you. There’s a huge community already established in London, meaning that while you’re moving to a place that’s very different from your homeland, it’s still possible to get a taste of all things familiar and enjoy the company of those from back home.
So with that in mind, here are our top 10 tips for South African expats living in London…
1. Decide where you want to live
Often easier said than done, we know, especially if you don’t know London. But one thing you may want to consider is whether you want to fully immerse yourself into London life with no safety net, or perhaps you’d feel more comfortable living in an area where there’s a good number of others from home.
2. Learn to live with the weather
Yep – the long sunny days that you’re used to will be replaced by what is one of the most changeable weather patterns on the planet. But actually, once you get used to carrying gear for all eventualities, it’s really quite fun!
And whilst it’s great to enjoy the summer sun (yes, the UK really does have nice summers), there’s something about the turning of the seasons that certainly keeps life interesting…
3. Keep in touch with home
4. Don’t forget the sports teams…
Just because you’re living abroad doesn’t mean you have to forgo cheering on your country’s teams. Join the Springbok Supporters Club and keep up with everything rugby. In addition, you’ll be able to attend members’ events and take advantage of various discounts on offer.
5. Buy SA products here in London
There are some great shops in London dedicated to selling all the things you crave for from home.
Try Snoggy’s, in Putney, for biltong and all your meat favs.
The Savanna sells biltong, boerwors, poitjie pots and everything South African from it’s many stores around London. You can find them in Wimbledon, Raynes Park, Southfields, London Bridge, Liverpool Street and the stations at Victoria, Paddington and Wimbledon.
The South African Shop is just like stepping into a store back home… They sell online and also have a shop at Embankment (called Randsavers) and Earlsfield (called Krugers Deli).
6. Get ready to learn some new words…
Because certain things are known differently in London. For example, what you call biltong, the Brits might know as jerky, or simply dried meat. A circle is a roundabout, a globe is a light bulb, a sosatie is a kebab and takkies are trainers.
Not only do Londoners have different words for familiar things, but you’ll also hear some that at first will be completely alien. The Tube is what most people refer to the underground train system. Run by Transport for London, along with the infamous London Buses, everyone (and we mean ‘everyone’) has a love-hate relationship with The Tube. On the one hand it’s a superb way to get about the city, and covers it so completely that there’s really no need to own a car. And on the other, when it goes wrong it can be a nightmare…
Oh yes, and don’t ever, ever, commit the cardinal sin of standing on the left hand side of the Tube escalators. This will earn you the wrath of many a commuter, as the right side is for those who want to stand still and let the machine take the strain, leaving the left side for those who want to walk (or run) up and down the moving staircase.
7. Make friends with people other than from South Africa
When moving to another country we all naturally gravitate towards what we know. But in some cases, this can have the effect of never really integrating, because you simply live in a bubble that’s cushioned by all things familiar. And you’ll be missing out on so many opportunities that are offered by widening your circle of friends.
So when you get that invite from the ‘German born-lived in China-moved to London’ guy at work to join everyone for an after-work jolly, go along. London is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world – so get out there and enjoy it.
8. Use a specialist agent to transfer money from SA to the UK
The banks give notoriously bad exchange rates when moving money from one currency to another. It’s far more economical to use a specialist agency like HiFx or 1st Contact Forex for a flat, low transfer fee. And once you’re set up with such a company, you can then use their online service to transfer money in just a few clicks whenever you wish.
9. Indulge yourself by listening to homegrown radio
There’s nothing quite like the sounds of home. And thanks to the power of the Internet, you can listen to some of your favourites right here in London. Think Kaya, KFM, JacarandaFM and 5FM to name but a few.
Whatever your reasons for moving to London from South Africa, be it work, study or moving to be closer to family, this is sure to be one of the most exciting times of your life. Of course you want to be true to your home roots, but don’t forget to get out there and enjoy all that London has to offer. We guarantee you’ll have a ball…