What is your name?
What country were you born in?
South Africa (SA)
What job did you have in your home country?
How long have you been living in your new country for?
Did you immigrate alone or with your family and kids?
Just married so only the two of us.
How are the schools in the new country?
The British school system is made up of state-funded schools, which are free to attend, and independent schools (otherwise known as ‘private’ schools), which are fee-paying. The state-funded schools in the UK are leagues ahead and exceptional when compared to their SA equivalent. If you live in a city with a large Muslim population like Birmingham or Leicester, you will find private Islamic Schools are a common sight.
In the UK, children start school (Reception) in the year they turn five years old. If you intend to go to university you will be in school for a total of fourteen years. Alternatively, you can leave school after twelve years.
What is your job in your new country?
What do you enjoy about your new country?
Firstly, with regards to the country, I enjoy the feeling of peace and safety and not needing to look over my shoulder. I enjoy being welcomed into the country and given the same the opportunities as a person born in this country. I like how people adhere to rules/laws/customs be it queueing for a bus or stopping when the traffic light turns red (robot is called traffic light in the UK). I enjoy the low prices. Competition in every sector (electricity supply, telecommunications, food, clothing, motor traders) means lower prices for consumers. I enjoy how things just work. If I want to change my electricity supplier, all I do is make a telephone call to the new supplier. They do all the backend stuff from contacting my current electricity provider, transferring the supply, contacting my bank etc.
Secondly, with regards to living in London, I enjoy the diversity of the people and the ability to experience new things even after 20 years of living in this beautiful city. There is so much to do and see in London. Love shopping, head to Oxford or Regent Street or to a shopping mall (Westfield London is my favourite). Looking for bargains, head to the London Designer Outlet or to Camden Town or Petticoat Lane. Shopping not your thing, then visit a museum. A web search shows there are 170 museums in London and the majority are government funded thus free to visit. Adrenaline junkie, head to one of the three theme parks in the city or visit the zip line in Victoria Park. None of the above take your fancy, then take a good book and relax by the lake in Hyde Park. Carry some seeds to feed the birds!
Finally, I love having four seasons in a year. (Sometimes we have four seasons in a day!)
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Except family, nothing. (Probably due to having spent half my life living outside the country).
What advice would you give someone that is contemplating to immigrate to the country you have immigrated to?
Just do it! (with a little research). Whether you are coming over for a few years or moving over permanently, the life experience, memories and values that you and your family gain will only better all of you.
When picking a location to move to, keep in mind the regional differences in the UK in terms of cost of living (housing and food), availability of public transport, choice of activities, demographic composition. London is loud, busy, open 24 hours, has a superb public transport system and hundreds of museums/activities to keep one busy. One can easily manage without a car. Birmingham (one hour by train or two hours drive from London) is cheaper and has a large Indian and Muslim population. Preston (three hours by train or five hours drive from London) is like living in a Muslim country. Muslims, mosques, halaal butchers and restaurants on every street. The cost of housing and food is half compared to London. A car is a must in Preston as it lacks a proper public transport system and you need to be a lover of reading books or watching Netflix as there is nothing to do in the city.
Your best sources of information are the internet and making contact with family, friends or other South Africans living in the UK. Local knowledge cannot be beaten.
My tip: Think twice about shipping a container from SA with your dining table, television, fridge, dishes, lounge suite, bookcase, beds etc. This is because (a) you can rent fully furnished flats or houses in the UK, (b) those same items can be bought in the UK at cheaper prices than in SA and (c) apartments are smaller in the UK. Obviously, if you are coming over after winning the lottery, you might as well pack the kitchen sink into the container! Use the internet and check the prices of furniture at https://www.ikea.com/gb/en/ and electrical appliances at https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/index.html .
What challenges, if any, would you advise them to anticipate based on your experiences when you first moved to your new country?
Winter is coming! Yes in Game of Thrones and usually starts around November in the UK. Prepare for cold dark days. Sunrise is at 6.30am and sunset at 3.30pm. Going to and from work in the dark is a shock to the system. The plus side is fasting in winter is a breeze albeit a cold breeze! (On the other side – many years from now – fasts in July are 21 hours long).
One challenge you won’t face is finding halal meat. In the 20 years living here, the times have changed for the better. Halal meat was usually only available in a few areas of London. Today, halal meat is readily available in every town in shops like Marks and Spencer, Asda, Tesco, Sainburys, Morrisons or delivery to your door from my favourite butcher (https://www.tariqhalalmeats.com/ ).
What advice would you give them to overcome those challenges based on how you overcame them?
The challenge one faces when immigrating is in the mind. In the last few days before leaving SA, when the butterflies hit, fill your mind with positive thoughts. Carry these positive thoughts to your new country because in the first few weeks after moving, you question your reason for moving, the decision you made, make comparisons to everything back in SA, convert everything to Rands, and wish you could turn back the clock. The challenge is not to get yourself down and focus on the positives.
There is no getting around the fact that any move is filled with trepidation, apprehensiveness, nervousness and hopefully lots of excitement. Give yourself time to settle in. There will be ups and downs. Go with the flow. On the first down, do not pack your bags and head home. Think positive. Keep yourself busy. Go out. Explore your new surroundings no matter what the weather.
When you are down, remind yourself why you made the move. When you are up, remind yourself that this is the life you moved for.
When I came over, the internet was in its infancy so I gathered the information I needed by posing questions to friends and work colleagues. Where do I buy this and that? Suggest you use this method in addition to using the internet to help you settle in.
How was the visa process for immigrating to your new country?
Simple and quick process as the UK company that offered me a job did the paperwork and provided a three-year work permit. When the work permit was nearing expiry, the company obtained another work permit. To obtain British citizenship, you need to be in the country for five years so this second work permit was just what the doctor ordered.
If you are contemplating immigrating to the UK today, there are a wide range of visas available. You can apply on your own, use an agent or let your future employer do it for you. These visas are described at the links below:
How is the cost of living in the new country compared to your home country?
This is not easy to quantify.
When you throw everything into the basket – food, shelter, transportation, energy, clothing, education, healthcare, entertainment, longevity, personal safety, infrastructure – my deduction is that the UK offers a superior overall package and excellent value for money.
Why immigrate to the UK
A few of the advantages of living in the UK:
The Language – No need to learn a new language as English is our mother tongue.
Rich history and culture – Historic churches, ancient architecture, castles, museums, and world-class tourist attractions “in your back yard”.
Access to free healthcare with the National Health Service (NHS) – The NHS also offers a variety of treatments that are more difficult to come by in SA.
High standard of free education – Children from overseas have the right to attend school in the UK and children cannot be refused education based on their immigration status or nationality.
If you’re looking to pursue a university education, many of the world’s top universities are in England and Scotland. Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London, University of St Andrews.
The world is a stone’s throw away – Getting to any other destination in the world becomes more affordable and whole lot easier. Europe for example can be reached by plane, bus, car, train, boat, cycle.
The job market – The UK has the third largest economy in Europe and the unemployment rate is just 4.1%. Once you’re earning, you immediately enjoy the increased disposable income at your fingertips.
Work environment, hours, and holidays – Working in the UK is guaranteed to be comfortable as employee rights are taken very seriously. Businesses are fair with the expected hours worked and the minimum wage is decent. To top it, we get more paid annual leave than South African employees.
The roads – Just like SA, the British drive on the left. Your South African photocard driving licence can be exchanged for a full UK licence. No extra theory or driving tests required.
Social life and relaxation – Living in the UK is not all about work, work, work. Locals like to be out and about experiencing their beautiful natural scenery. Got some free time? Go on a mountain hike, stroll through the countryside or meander along the coastline.
Anything else you would like to add, or any advice you would like to give to anyone that is contemplating moving to your new country?
It may seem daunting at first but once you are in the routine of work, going out, meeting up with friends, it gets a whole lot easier and feels like your home. Use your free time to explore your town/county/country. Don’t let the season dictate your plans especially in winter.
From an individual point of view, you will grow quickly, get out of your comfort zone and discover hidden strengths/talents. From a relationship point of view, the foundation and bond between the two of you (and children if applicable) will only get stronger.
If the move turns out not to be your kettle of fish, that is okay. You can return to SA and the family will welcome you with open arms. You will be wiser for giving it a crack and will not have that “what if” nagging thought hanging over you for the rest of your life.
Best wishes to anyone considering immigration to the UK or to any country. May the transition be an easy one and may you find all that your heart desires.
Sightseeing information for a few cities at https://sites.google.com/view/info4u/