South African Expat: Lessons Learnt Moving to the UK

By Natalie from whatudidntknow

Emigrating from one country to another is a huge life changing decision upon which many people have pondered. Everyone has their reasons… whether it’s temporary or permanent – for a better life, to advance their career, to travel more or simply just to experience something new…

Today’s topic is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Personally, I think it’s good to take stock of one’s life every now and then to reflect on how you may have grown or changed as a person from your life’s experiences.

After chatting to a few friends I thought it would be good to share my thoughts and their’s on the lessons learnt moving to the UK from South Africa.

It was very interesting for me to hear my friends’ thoughts as some have been here longer than others. The opinions in this post are obviously specific to South Africans but these thoughts can be related to others who are thinking of leaving their home country too.

Conveniently I was able to categorize all our thoughts under the headings below. I have ended each thought with my friend’s initial in brackets.

Lessons Learnt Moving to the UK

1. Our Adoptive Country (the UK)

  • The world is your oyster. You are only limited by your choices and the opportunities you don’t take. (Me)
  • Accept that we have to be very aware that what is considered polite and acceptable in one country is not necessarily acceptable in another. (R)
  • Comparing the two different worlds is tiresome and not constructive. In order to move on – stop comparing currencies, weather, house size. Just enjoy the positives and stop looking back. (R)
  • I am capable of being on my own, living in a cold country with different cultures. (G)
  • I have an appreciation for good infrastructure. (G)
  • And an appreciation for the choices we have. (G)
  • Walk fast! Try to catch the early bus 😉 (N)
  • Put yourself out there in every possible way. (N)
  • See it as an adventure (play epic music at times if that helps to give things meaning). (N)
  • Meet people and find support. You’ll experience the weirdest kind of loneliness you’ll ever know, but most people here are feeling the same. You’re not alone in your loneliness, be kind when you can. (N)
  • People will take advantage of you if they can. Know your worth and believe in yourself. (N)
  • When you’re feeling depressed, walking around the city can inspire you. Try remind yourself why you’re doing this, keep the end in mind. (N)
  • Have a flexible plan – stick to the plan but adapt as you go. The things you want will change over time. (N)

2. The Motherland (South Africa)

  • Growing up in SA, you never lose your bad vibe/trust instinct and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to still be alert when in uncomfortable situations. (Me)
  • I’ve learnt to view my homeland more realistically. (R)
  • I appreciate South Africa and what it has to offer in terms of the climate and the food. (G)
  • The divergence between developed and developing world is not that wide, but it is easier in the developed world. (N)
  • I’ve grown more empathetic to the struggle of those in the developing world. (N)

3. The Weather

  • It won’t kill you to walk in the rain and if you always keep an umbrella at hand then you’re sorted 😉 (Me)
  • The weather is not everything and you have to appreciate the positives in both countries. (R)
  • The grass isn’t always greener, but sometimes it is… and it’s usually because it rains more! That means grey skies. There is a trade off between sunshine and green grass. (N)

4. People

  • Some relationships are not able to last the distance but that does not mean that they were not genuine before the disruption. (R)
  • And other relationships have to adjust to the longer periods of time apart, but are still strong and will endure. (R)
  • That despite the differences eg. culture, weather, politics etc, we are all human and trying to survive the rat race. (R)

My Biggest Lessons Learnt

The two biggest life lessons I have learnt from my experience of moving abroad is: to be resilient and adaptable to change, and that I am mentally stronger than I expected.

Being flexible and having lower expectations helps with overcoming disappointments. Also dealing with the unknown, encountering challenging situations and hardships makes you grow as a person. It prepares you to be better equipped for life.

Leaving your family and friends, a “comfortable” life, familiar routine and surroundings is an extremely tough decision…

Hopefully by sharing these lessons learnt you will now have an idea of the “struggles” that everyone has had to go through to adapt to a new way of life in a new country. And in turn it can help you mentally prepare should you decide to take this step too 😉

Please view the original post on Natalie’s blog  lifestyle blog about anticancer, life in the UK and this and that… republished here with Natalie’s kind permission.

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