Mental prep for moving to the UK

South Africa to the UK

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

Hot weather is big news
The hot weather is making the news!

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 πŸ˜‰ 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!

Summer weather
Yes it does get hot here (unfortunately I don’t have a more recent one)

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 πŸ˜‰

Personal space
Close encounters on the tube at night πŸ˜‰

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

Traffic light
It’s a traffic light not a robot!

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.

Small spaces
My braaimaster making the most of a small patio space

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 πŸ˜‰

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! πŸ™‚

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.


  1. 18th May 2016 / 1:24 PM

    Hahah! I would move there right now if I could. Not to mention that awesome accent. Lucky Packet, enjoy it for me

    • 18th May 2016 / 1:36 PM

      Hahahaha I love the English accent too…even though I do sometimes struggle to understand the heavier accent. I have a friend up north whom I’ve had conversations with where we’ve had to repeat words to each other a few times before we could understand each other! Lol!

      • 18th May 2016 / 2:53 PM

        hahaha! Have you seen the Accent tag videos on youtube? they crack me up & are really cool

        • 18th May 2016 / 2:55 PM

          Hahahaha no I haven’t. I’ll try to check them out sometime πŸ™‚

  2. leffune
    20th May 2016 / 9:46 AM

    Interesting read Nats, especially since we looking to moving abroad. Somethings one doesn’t necessary think of and i think this would apply to any country really.

    • 20th May 2016 / 9:48 AM

      Thank you! Yip totally agree. It’s your attitude that makes a difference to your experience πŸ˜‰

  3. 21st May 2016 / 6:47 PM

    I’ve lived in the UK for a short time a few years ago. I loved how everyone was so polite and helpful:) I didn’t like the grey winter though:)

    • 21st May 2016 / 6:59 PM

      Lol yes the winter does take some getting used to πŸ˜‰

  4. Melissa
    22nd May 2016 / 6:50 AM

    There are spot on! Everyone knows the weather is bad but the level of prep needed to walk out the door with the right clothes on could be a sport. You have to also make sure you wear layers because it could suddenly be warm and then cold again. When I go out with the right jacket and I’m not too hot or too cold it feels like I’ve won a metal.

    • Melissa
      22nd May 2016 / 6:50 AM


    • whatudidntknow
      22nd May 2016 / 7:00 AM

      Hi Melissa, hahahahaha yes you’re right about getting the layers right. I still struggle during the changeover seasons(Spring and Autumn) as you’re never quite sure of the exact temperature πŸ™‚ Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • Melissa
        22nd May 2016 / 7:05 AM

        Yeah it is seriously a skill that many don’t have or don’t care to hone. You’re welcome, it is nice to see how others perceive the UK from other countries.

  5. 23rd May 2016 / 9:24 AM

    Greetings! We moved to Ireland more than 15 years ago and I still struggle with the odd things. As you say, it’s attitude!
    We still call traffic lights robots… our grand-kids, who have never set foot in SA, refer to the braai and not bbq… we’re still passionate about SA cricket… man, when will they win something proper!
    I yearn for SA but it’s mostly for the great outdoors… which, I must confess, one can experience almost anywhere the sun shines! So… my latest dream is to retire somewhere in Portugal… πŸ˜‰

    • 23rd May 2016 / 10:05 AM

      Hi AJ, great to hear from someone from Ireland! I have to agree that retiring in Portugal definitely sounds like a great plan! πŸ˜‰ Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  6. Jessie
    31st May 2016 / 5:37 PM

    Interesting read! You are right, attitude is everything when it comes to how situations are handled.

    • 31st May 2016 / 6:29 PM

      Thanks for reading and for commenting! πŸ™‚

  7. 1st June 2016 / 9:54 AM

    Very informative. Moving to a new country is daunting! You seem to have embraced it well! πŸ‘ŒπŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ

    • 1st June 2016 / 10:00 AM

      Ah thanks, I’m sure you went through the same process moving to OZ but the awesome weather must’ve helped πŸ˜‰

      • 2nd June 2016 / 9:00 AM

        Yes it sure was hard but worth it I guess. How long have you been in the UK for?

        • 2nd June 2016 / 9:05 AM

          This year will be 9 years! I see you’ve been Oz for quite a long time too. Do you like it?

          • 2nd June 2016 / 10:13 AM

            Yes yes!!!you’ll get a bit more info re it soon. Stay tuned to THE BLOG TAG!!!

          • 3rd June 2016 / 1:43 PM

            I really enjoyed reading about you on the blog tag! I didn’t realize you were referring to the blogger interviews πŸ™‚

          • 4th June 2016 / 12:19 AM

            Lol I wasn’t sure if I could say until Sumarie published it! I’m glad we linked up too!

  8. 2nd June 2016 / 10:25 AM

    Hahahahah nice, I look forward to it! πŸ™‚ Planning for future posts πŸ˜‰

  9. 18th March 2017 / 7:52 AM

    We had a similar experience acclimatizing when we moved from the U.K. to Gibraltar. I can totally understand your issue with the weather- we now live in a place which gets a guaranteed summer and you can plan accordingly. If you want to set up a picnic with friends on the beach for the children next Wednesday you can because you know it will be dry and sunny. But my word if you thought the houses / gardens of England are small… the jump to apartment living is a big shock to the system here! Great post and interesting to see the point of view of someone arriving in my home country.

    • whatudidntknow
      18th March 2017 / 6:12 PM

      Hello, thanks for reading and commenting πŸ™‚ Interesting to hear your thoughts on adapting to life in Gibraltar! I definitely still need to visit the country even though I don’t know a lot about it.

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