The United Kingdom has been a top immigration destination for South Africans for decades. While our intertwined cultures and histories make it one of the easiest countries to settle in, it’s the country’s rich natural beauty, relatively stable politics and the power of the pound that remain the popular drawcards.
Here are 11 great reasons to consider relocating to the United Kingdom.
1. The Economy
The United Kingdom’s economy is massive. Actually, it’s the sixth largest in the world and it has enjoyed steady economic growth over the last few decades. South Africans who immigrate to the UK usually find work within a few months and, once they start earning UK salaries, immediately enjoy the increased disposable income at their fingertips.
Take a look at our article on the UK’s CV conventions to make sure you find employment as soon as possible.
2. The History
There are so many ancient buildings, artefacts and legendary events linked to the UK that history buffs will soon be overcome by a general haze of euphoria as they explore the region. A move to the UK allows history junkies the opportunity to live out the rest of their days exploring, learning and feasting on the relics of the past since pretty much everywhere you look, you’ll be surrounded by thousands of years of history.
A simple stroll down the street can turn into a spontaneous history lesson as you pass notable churches, homes, and even castles.
3. The Culture
As well as having the UK’s remarkable history at your fingertips, upon moving to the UK you’ll be on the doorstep of some of the world’ top museums, best shows, and even some of the greatest sports teams in the world.
With its global appeal the UK is also a well-known melting pot of immigrants, cultures and foods, which makes for an exceptional and exhilarating place to visit.
Once you become a legal resident of the UK, you’ll have access to the National Health Service (NHS) and free healthcare (well, you’re taxed for it) – a mostly successful program not many other countries can emulate. Many South African expats report preferring having their babies in the UK, as the NHS offers a variety of birthing options that are more difficult to come by in South Africa.
The UK’s post-partum healthcare is excellent too: health workers are dispatched to visit new mums at home to assist with looking after the new baby, offering advice and helping with household chores where necessary.
Britain is also a world leader when it comes to medicine and research, boasting some of the best hospitals you can find.
5. Centre of the World
With 24 commercial international airports, travel to and from the UK is a cinch. Because of its location it’s a geographic hub, making trips elsewhere in Europe – as well as overseas travel – a piece of cake.
For South Africans missing friends and family they’ve left behind, a trip home is a mere 12-hour flight away.
The idea of higher education originated in the UK, making it no surprise that they still have some of the best schools and universities on the planet. If you’re looking to pursue a university education, or you’re thinking about your children’s future education options, you’d be hard pressed to find universities better than those offered in the UK – such as Cambridge and Oxford.
A bonus for South Africans is that standard UK schooling is covered by your taxes. You can research schools in your area to find out which ones produce the best academic results by visiting the UK government website.
7. Natural Beauty
Nature lovers will be right at home with all the beautiful countryside Great Britain has to offer. You’ll be able to hike mountains, stroll through the fabled countrysides, and enjoy an exquisite coastline.
Some of the popular areas to visit in England include the Cotswolds, the Lake District, Cornwall and the Peak District, while Ireland, Scotland and Wales are known for their expanses of rugged coastline and green hills.
That’s plenty of natural beauty to keep you enthralled!
8. Eating In, Eating Out
South Africans will be pleased to hear that the cost of buying groceries in the UK is surprisingly neck and neck with prices back home.
Shopping at Waitrose, Sainsbury’s or Marks and Spencer costs about the same as shopping at Woolworths in South Africa.
You’re even likely to find some beautiful South African fruit and vegetable exports at your local supermarket, and occasionally your favourite local products like Mrs Balls Chutney, Nik Naks and rooibos tea.
If you fancy eating out, cities like Edinburgh and London are on the cutting edge of the culinary scene, hosting some of the best restaurants in the world. If a low-key atmosphere is your thing, the pub culture in the UK is pretty legendary, with great food, sporting events, pub quizzes and ales and ciders on tap!
9. The Holidays
If you work a full-time job in the UK, you will enjoy the 28 paid days off per year that are mandated by law. They also have nine unpaid bank holidays and continue the custom to close up shop over the Christmas to New Year holiday, which means you’ll have plenty of time to travel to all those sunny places that are so close by and the chance to get a healthy dose of vitamin D.
10. The Language
If you don’t speak the local language, you’ll find yourself at a huge disadvantage in your new home. If English is your mother tongue, however, you’re already all set (once you’ve got the accents down, that is).
You can also look forward to learning some colloquialisms like saying “trousers” instead of “pants” (that means underwear in the UK); “uni” instead of “varsity” when talking about tertiary education; and “traffic lights” instead of “robots” (you can imagine their confusion).
However, don’t assume no one understands Afrikaans – with so many South African expats living in the UK, there’s bound to be someone on the bus or the train who will understand everything you’re saying in your not-so-secret language.
11. The People
Whether they’re from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, or England, the people of the UK are known for their sense of humour. The famed dry wit with a heavy dose of sarcasm is ever present, from the TV shows to the pubs, but it’s the big-hearted nature of its people that really shines through.