The Expat Chronicles – Meet Rory

This month we spoke to Rory, who moved his family from South Africa to London a year and a half ago. While he’s earning a great salary and his family enjoys the shopping, they’re missing the perks they were used to back in SA, so they are already planning their move back.

Where did you move from?

We moved from Paulshof, Johannesburg, South Africa

Where did you move to and when?

My family and I moved to London in February of 2011.

How did your move come about?

I had wanted to make the move for years, but kept putting it off because of the mission. When my twins turned 3, my wife and I felt we had the strength to do this thing and I spoke to my CEO about a transfer. We had discussed it before, so it wasn’t a new thing and he and I started to put the wheels in motion. Eventually everything came together and we made the move at the beginning of last year.

Why did you choose the country you chose?

In one word: money. Our plan was to get there, get settled and eventually get our citizenship. I thought this would be a good way to get lots of money in the bank and then eventually go back to South Africa in 10 or 15 years’ time with a very healthy bank balance.

What is the best thing about your new country?

I am earning a fantastic salary, so life is good in that department. I am managing to save money every month, whereas in SA it was pretty much hand-to-mouth for us. I also enjoy lots of things about London itself. Public transport is amazing compared to South Africa and my wife loves the shops.

But to be honest, we are not having a lekker time and it looks like our big hopes of becoming UK citizens are going to grind to a halt. None of us are particularly happy.- not my wife, not me, not our young twins and definitely not our 12-year old son!

What do you miss the most about your home country?

We miss just about everything. At the top of the list are our friends and family. We also miss the weather, the holidays, the people, the food. I miss the fun vibe at work. I miss my 4×4 weekends. We miss Cape Town, where we holidayed often…

Ja, we miss everything about South Africa. So we are actually starting the whole entire process again to move back to SA, but to Cape Town this time. And again, I am transferring through work, who have been very understanding.

Anything you struggled to get used to in your new country?

Yes, quite a few things. We had been to the UK five times, so we thought we knew what to expect, but being outdoors people, campers and people who enjoy fishing and stuff like that, it has been a big adjustment. The weather is probably the biggest one.

Will you ever go back?

Yes. We hope to be back for good by October!

Which country do you identify with most strongly now?

South Africa!

How does the food compare?

With work, I have eaten at some very fancy restaurants and had some incredible meals, I have to say. My wife still cooks, so we’ve eaten well and the pub lunches are always great. I really miss my butcher in Rivonia, though.

Was it what you expected?

Unfortunately not. I expected that the adventure aspect would keep us all happy, but not so…

How has your life changed?

We are miserable and home-sick and spend way more time indoors than we are used to. My 12-year old hasn’t smiled in months – literally!

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

Think long and hard before you make such a big decision. Do your homework and also make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. We have met lots of South Africans (and Aussies) who have moved here and settled nicely and are very happy, but if I’m honest I know my gut told me to stay put. We were doing it for money and money alone, and we’ve learned a big lesson here.

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If you’d like to give life in a foreign country a try, visit or call 0808 141 5508 (UK free phone), 0800 003 163 (SA free phone), 1800 039 300 (free phone within Aus), or 0800 224 322 (free phone within NZ).

  • kurt johnson

    Such a pity that a family that had so much opportunity available to them has decided not to take it. In a few short years’ time all their kids would have been British citizens, and for me that is the greatest reward of all. Just because the 12 year old son isn’t smiling now, doesn’t mean his not going to be smiling for the rest of his life… and I think I once the son grows up, and wants to start travelling (like he eventually will), he is going to wish mommy and daddy took the opportunity to become British Citizen.

    The children would have had the chance to study anywhere in Europe, and then work anywhere in Europe… not to mention live anywhere… I love SA too, and I am from Cape Town, so I know what I am missing and what it’s like to live in Cape Town. Just because you decide to live in the UK doesn’t mean you can never go back home. My wife and I always intend to go back home in a few years’ time… but in the meantime we are enjoying everything that London and Europe has too offer.

    The UK government is making it as difficult as they possibly can for SA’s to come over and experience the UK and Europe… such a pity that this family has decided to throw in the towel so soon… I know of many people who would love this chance… and I know of many other people who left the UK because their visa had expired, even tho they would have LOVED to have stayed.

    You can’t changed the weather pal… live with it!!

  • Aries

    Kurt, you are right, life is all about choices. What is right for you and your wife though might not be the right thing for Rory and his family so don’t judge. I am a South African too which does not like London living everyday, but I do not have children to think of, so even tough I can pack-up-and-go whenever I want to, I choose to stay. Will say I have not smiled for months either.

    To Rory and his family, I understand how you feel about the weather and making friends (apart from fellow South Africans) is a nightmare. You will see the change in yourself and children as soon as you arrive back in South Africa. As they say, the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence, but there is no better place than “home”.


    Rory -w e did the same thing and arrived back in SA in October last year. Best decision we ever made. There really is no place like home. I would far rather have less money in my pocket and be surrounded by family and friends. The weather is fabulous and my two sons are having a wonderful time reaquainting with their cousins and grandparents. Do whats right for you and the family. DONT listen to everyone else. Life is too short to be unhappy!

  • Cheronny

    My family are somewhat unhappy living in the UK…no the grass is certainly not greener where your emotional wellbeing is concerned. These people can never be genuine friends for life, it’s almost like we differ in many aspects. The part that gets me is not knowing your neighbour, they can’t be arsed to make your acquaintance and people generally just don’t want to know. Eye contact is taboo and giving a stranger a friendly smile will make you feel like a lunatic as everyone seems to wear blinkers and frenetically march to their destinations. We also don’t appreciate the aggressive yobs/chavs that frequent most areas of the city. Don’t talk about the incredible cost of raising a family…you will never have savings when you have to foot all the bills and see to other aspects of living in a shockingly expensive city of London! I guess this city is suited more to a single person in any event. I could go on and on but you get the picture…