22 September 2016

Natalie - Expat in England, United Kingdom

Natalie - Expat in England, United Kingdom

We’ve had the chance to talk to Natalie, a South African expat who has moved to England with her husband. Mrs. Natalie has been living there for nine years and counting.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: South Africa


Q: What made you move out of South Africa?

A: I wanted a change and also had enough of the crime in South Africa.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: UK. I probably chose the UK as the visa application process seemed a bit easier than for the US.


Q: How long have you been living in England?

A: Nine years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: Living with my husband and he has also adjusted well. He is happy living in the UK.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Of course I miss my family and friends. I have learnt to cope with homesickness by always having things to look forward to and not thinking about “what I’m missing out on in SA”.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I haven’t had any issues with the locals. We’ve actually met quite a few nice English people.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in England? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: At first it wasn’t easy as it does take time and effort to meet new people. Initially living in a house share helped with meeting people. We have made friends from all over the world, but we do also have a lot of friends from South Africa as it is obviously easier to get along with people that you have a lot in common with.


Q: How does the cost of living in England compare to your home?


  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: £2.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: £5-£7.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: £40-£50.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: £18+ for wine at a restaurant, £3.5+ for wine at a grocery store.

In my opinion, grocery shopping is cheaper in the UK but eating out and buying alcohol is cheaper in South Africa. When you’re starting out then, the cost of living in the UK may be more, but once you’re settled and earning a regular income, I think its relative. There is also more of a choice of service providers (Gas/electricity/mobiles/internet/insurance) in the UK, so you can switch to different providers offering better deals.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in England?

A: I used 1st Contact to help with opening a bank account and this made it really easy for me. I have heard recently that people can approach banks directly and open an account by themselves.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: The visa process was a long, tedious and at times stressful one but worth it in the end. There was a lot of paperwork that needed to be collected so keep all your bank statements, keep track of holiday dates, etc.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in England is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I would say that it is fairly reliable, but it does also depend on the area that you live in and the clinics/hospitals that are available. If you have health insurance, then you can get better healthcare.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in South Africa or England? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Yes I have got health insurance as I want the option to use clinics/hospitals of my choice should I need it.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to England? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I just arrived in the UK with one suitcase containing my clothes and essentials. Just keep your sentimental items and bring the important items. Furniture is relatively cheap here so I wouldn’t worry about moving furniture.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Learning to adapt to a new way of life, the weather and dealing with homesickness.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in England?

A: Positives – experiencing life in a first world country, experiencing the many travel opportunities here, meeting people from all over the world. Negatives – the miserable grey winter but then again if the weather were amazing then everyone would probably want to live here!


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: The UK offers so much to see, do and experience and in my opinion anything that your heart desires – the big city life, countryside living, history, architecture, arts, culture, etc.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No, I don’t have any plans to leave the UK at the moment.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Come here with an open heart and an open mind. Don’t compare life to the home. Make the most of the opportunities that come your way and embrace the new experience!


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about England?

A: Whatudidntknow.co.uk is a UK travel, health and lifestyle blog and saffahub.co.uk is a great resource site for South African expats in the UK.