Moving house is one of life’s most stressful events so moving to a new country is probably ten times more stressful. Finding a new job, living in a new house, understanding the way things work in a different country, dealing with many cultures and meeting new people are all part of getting used to a new environment.
Although I’ve now been living in the UK for over 8 years I can still remember the adjustment phase I had to go through. It took about a year and half to 2 years before I became truly settled and was happy with my decision to move. I always tell people that they need to give it some time before giving up on this life changing decision and deciding to return to their home country. This is a light hearted post about what to expect when you move to the UK.
7 things I didn’t know before moving to the UK
1. The weather
Coming from sunny South Africa and adjusting to the UK weather is probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face. I am a real sun lover and could often be found lazing on a lounger roasting for hours on each side. But till I moved to the UK I’ve never owned so many different types of jackets to suit all kinds of weather with different thicknesses and lengths – a light hooded rain jacket for spring and summer rains, casual jackets for early morning and evening chills for spring to summer, a windproof jacket for windy days, coats for autumn and a long thick hooded down jacket for cold winters! Ok ok, maybe that’s a bit over kill but at least I’m covered for every possible weather scenario 😉 The great thing though is that the houses are built for the cold, your body’s temperature gauge does acclimatise, Europe is just a short flight away and the long summer days (the sun rises before 5am and sets after 9pm) are great!
2. Public transport and personal space
As someone that used a car as my main form of transport in South Africa, I quickly needed to learn how to use the tube and getting on to the right bus on the right side of the road. I think in general South Africans are very aware of their own personal space so rubbing against strangers bodies during peak hour on the tube and having someone’s bum sitting on my back, or sniffing under someone’s armpit (as I’m short) are some of the daily public transport challenges I’ve had to learn to adapt to. Flexible working hours and working outside of London reduces these unpleasant encounters but I’m still grateful for the amazing public transport system as I’d rather put up with close body encounters than sit in a car stuck in traffic 😉
3. Loneliness and changing your attitude
Leaving behind family and friends in your home country is a tough decision. This is also understandably a major factor for many people returning. Beating the loneliness requires changing your attitude by getting out and about to do things and meeting new people. Find like minded people through social groups or hobbies and interests that you may have. Remember your reasons for moving. Having plans to look forward to, enjoying the present moments and not focussing on what you’re “missing out on” in South Africa also helps combat the loneliness.
4. Language barriers
Although South Africa and the UK have the English language in common you’ll be surprised at how confusing a conversation can still be. This may be from the phrases or words that we use to the way words are pronounced. This has provided many interesting and entertaining conversations for me. Some interesting words are: prestik = blue-tack, tomato sauce = ketchup, men’s underwear = pants, braai = barbeque, traffic circle = roundabout, chips = crisps, sneakers = tackies and so on.
5. Making the most of small spaces
Coming from a country where there is more space and big houses with big gardens it may take some adjusting to living in smaller places in the UK. If you’re someone that likes to hoard things then you might want to consider offloading on eBay, Freecycle or charity shops. If you’re thinking of shipping your furniture over from SA to the UK, you may want to reconsider that as the smaller houses might not be able to accommodate your big furniture. Furniture can easily be bought for fairly cheap in varying sizes to suit your needs.
6. Cultural differences and manners
This point is something that I unfortunately do still struggle with. Living and working in a city such as London where there’s a lot more people, you will encounter people that have different definitions of manners. I think the most important thing to remember is, don’t become like everyone else and don’t lose your own manners.
7. Socialising requires advance planning
I have no idea why but it seems like the pace of life is a lot faster here in London. One can get very busy and preoccupied with your own life if you have a busy job, a family, pets, travel plans, hobbies and interests. So when everyone is busy doing their own thing it’s not always possible to have many spontaneous catch ups with friends. Socialising now requires a bit more planning and organization. This is definitely a mind set change from South Africa where people do tend to live closer to each other and are often able to socialize more spontaneously so this is something that may take a little getting used to. For an organization freak like me planning in advance works well 😉
Ultimately it comes down to your attitude and how you choose to adapt to these changes and a new way of life. For me, the positives far outweigh the negatives so most of these points are not “issues” for me. I hope I haven’t put you off on your move to the UK and that you will find your new life exciting. May the force be with you! 🙂
I’d love to hear about the challenges you’ve faced moving to the UK. Please feel free share with me in the comments below.