Moving to London as a South African isn’t easy. It makes you grow up really fucking quickly. People refer to ‘adulting’. Well, let me tell you, nothing you learnt in school will help you move countries. Pythagoras theorem is going to do diddly squat when you need to open a foreign bank account with no proof of address. I can compare moving countries to going to an F45 class after completely neglecting your workout routine for the past 3 weeks. An absolutely painful and unpleasant process, however very rewarding.
Logistically, you’re going to need a decent amount of savings and preferably a good passport. Green mambas, I’m referring to you. Bless our beautiful South Africa, but we really got dealt the short straw when the powers that be decided the worth of our passports. I mean, we used to have a pretty solid deal with the UK however that got chucked out the window, along with our currency, a few years ago. Bringing me to my next point, have a solid pot of savings. Quit those almond milk coffees too. That will set you back a good R80 in London. But also, save your money back home. Go get a decent Cafetiere and make it at home. The money you would’ve spent at your local Vida? Chuck it in a savings account.
The blessing of moving to this side of the planet is the abundance of opportunities. And the pay that goes with it. There is actually such a thing as a living wage. Yes, someone realised that minimum wage can get you a carton of milk every 5 days and possibly a smile from the Tesco’s cashier when you’re buying your 3rd “reduced” meal of the week. I mean, if it only goes bad today, surely it’s fine by tomorrow, right? London is a big city which means there isn’t a shortage of jobs. However, there is a lot of small fish like us trying to swim in the big pond. Luckily, we’ve got some decent talent emerging out of South Africa (yes, you!) and can hold our own in a job interview. Plus, we speak English – even if it is our own version that converts ‘like’ to ‘laak’.
Emotionally, it’s not going to be easy. I’ve had a good cry in a good few public places. Bonus? No one knows me here. So, cry in public I will. People back home feel far away. This isn’t a hop and a skip to Jozi. It’s crossing continents. However, we’re on basically the same longitude so the time difference isn’t an issue (shoutout to grade 8 Geography, looks like I needed you once in my life).
I miss my friends. I miss paying for a bottle of wine at Yours Truly what I pay for a glass at a pub on the corner of a stinky street in Shoreditch. Do you know what’s worse? Passing the Tesco on the way home and seeing that same bottle sold for ⅓ of the price you just paid for a glass which then leads me to cry in public again. Welcome to the cycle of London life.
I’m only kidding, it’s not all thunderstorms and rain clouds (well- about 80% of the time it is but that’s the London charm, right?). I can’t put into words the thrill of a bustling city that’s bursting with chances. You can be sure in yourself and someone will believe it over here. Nothing is as good as change and humans thrive in foreign waters. We are quick to adapt and being out of our comfort zone is pretty damn cool. Things also work in London. The postal service works, getting a bank account (when you have a solid address) is easy, you can take public transport with ease and the government kind of has their shit together.
I luckily have an Italian passport even though the closest I get to the culture is knowing the requirements for an authentic Neapolitan pizza (sorry, Cape Town but it ain’t authentic unless it meets the requirements). So, it goes without saying it was pretty easy for me to up and go. However, Nick, bless his soul, is a Grobler. And that means, green mamba. The team at Breytenbachs attorneys helped us with everything from securing his residency as well as my Right to Remain (fuck, Brexit).
To round up everything I’ve said: get your ducks in a row, save some cash moola, sort out your visa and then just do it. You don’t have to hold yourself accountable either. If you get here, and you hate it, South Africa is always there for you. It’s not going anywhere (Table Mountain is pretty solid last I checked and Joburg loves itself too much).
From another South African in London, I definitely resonate with this! Thank god the green mamba days are over, as we have the British passport now!