The Expat Chronicles: Meet Matt

From time to time, we’ll be chatting to Expats from all over the world to find out how they adjusted and what they learnt through their move. These are real people, sharing their real experiences.

This month we chat to Matt, a South African living and working in London since 2007.

1C: Where did you move from?

Matt: Durbanville, Cape Town

1C: Where did you move to and when?

Matt: London, 14 January 2007

1C: What was your reason for leaving your home country?

Matt: To pay off my student loan as quick as possible, gain work experience and to obtain British

citizenship through my UK ancestry.

1C: Why did you choose the country you chose?

Matt: I thought it would be easiest to relocate to due to my ancestral ties with the UK and I also had

quite a few friends living in the UK at the time.

1C: What is the best thing about your new country?

Matt: It was the Pound but at the moment, the only thing that is still good is the beauty of the

countryside – nothing compares to it.

1C: What do you miss the most about your home country?

Matt: The lifestyle, the beach and the sun.

1C: Anything you struggled to get used to in your new country?

Matt: The cost of accomodation and in general, the English. They are incredibly difficult to read and

are in many ways reserved. One of the few ways you can actually get something out of an

Englishman is if they’ve had a few beers first. Also, the lack of customer service (in the private sector) and restaurant service in general, is

quite pathetic.

1C: Will you ever go back?

Matt: Yes, I definitely plan to, depending on the state of government affairs in South Africa, and the

job opportunities. There’s no place like home and South Africa will always be my home.

1C: Which country do you identify with most strongly now?

Matt: In terms of sport and my identity – South Africa.

In terms of everything else – UK

1C: Which country’s sports teams do you support?

Matt: Always South Africa!

1C: How does the food compare?

Matt: British food does not even compare. South African food is by far the best. SA meat is tasty and

tender, we have fantastic deli’s and bakeries, good butchers and great cuisine.

1C: Was it what you expected?

Matt: Not really. I came to the UK on holiday in 2006 and loved every minute of it. Coming to settle

was entirely different. It was the toughest time of my life. I was poor, in and out of jobs, trying

to settle, getting used to the lifestyle, the cost of decent and sizeable living space, the people

and the weather. It took me a good 18 months to start feeling comfortable.

1C: How has your life changed?

Drastically. I feel more knowledgeable of how the world works. I’m not so naïve anymore.

Coming to the UK made me realise how in many respects, South Africa is still stuck in a time

warp, particularly outside the major cities of JHB, CPT and Durbs. In all aspects of my life I’ve

realised to watch my back a little bit more. I’ve also realised that one cannot keep thinking that

the world owes us something. We cannot expect success to just fall into your lap. You have to

make an effort and work at it, no matter what. I’ve also become very liberal towards different cultures, religions, sexual preference and choices in general. I believe in South Africa, people in general are still quite conservative and not very tolerant towards other ideals.

1C: What advice would you give to others wanting to do the same?

Matt: You need to make sure you’re a tough cookie, well qualified, and can speak English well. If

you think you can simply come to the UK to save money and bag yourself a good, well-paid

job and quickly, think again! Since the recession, salaries and job security have gone down

and immigration is regularly being reviewed. The cost of living, in London particularly, is

extortionate. The overall sense of morale in the UK can be depressing, depending on how one

looks at it. But if you believe you can handle the above, you’ll have a great time in the UK. I’ve

had a tough time, and still do sometimes, but overall I’m very happy, live comfortably, have a

super job, and I’ve made good friends. London has become my temporary home.


The views expressed are those of the author and interviewee and are not necessarily shared by 1st Contact

  • andrew

    What an interesting article. It’s cool to compare the challenges expats face when relocating to another country. But it seems like the challenges greatly outweigh the opportunities for personal growth.