Have you ever wondered what life would be like in another country? Meet expat, Kavisha Pillay from South Africa, currently living in London. Here, she talks about her experience in moving to a new country with her husband, what life is like as a foreigner, and so much more!
Kavisha is a product manager that has a passion for delicious food, loves to cook and, writes about her restaurant experiences. She lives in London, one of her favourite cities, and enjoys exploring the city and surrounding areas – check out her Instagram profile @viewinglondon. She loves to read and spend time in nature.
SO, TELL US, WHERE ARE YOU ORIGINALLY FROM – WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
I’m from South Africa and was born in Pretoria.
IN WHICH COUNTRY AND CITY ARE YOU CURRENTLY LIVING IN NOW AND FOR HOW LONG?
I’m currently living in the London, UK and I’ve been here for almost 3 years.
WHAT WORK ARE YOU DOING IN THE UK?
I work as a Product Manager in media market research.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE MOVING AND HOW DID YOU FIND THE EXPERIENCE OF SETTLING IN AND MAKING IT HOME?
My husband and I came to London a couple times to find a place to live and rented a fully furnished apartment, so moving in were easier than expected. We also have friends in London, who helped us with our many questions. But it took some time to get used to not having a car for the first few months. London can also be lonely if you move here by yourself, so I was fortunate to move here with my partner.
TELL US ABOUT LIFE IN THE UK – WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE FOR FOREIGNERS?
I can’t speak for all of the UK, but London is a town filled with foreigners, and there are plenty of South Africans here, so you don’t feel out of place. I enjoy living in London because there’s so much to do and see. I’ve never been bored. And life here moves slightly faster than it does in South Africa.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE UK IN THREE WORDS?
Vibrant, cosmopolitan, and historic.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TOURISTY THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA YOU ARE LIVING IN; ANYTHING TO RECOMMEND TO FUTURE EXPATS?
I live in Central London, and there are many tourist things to do. Buckingham Palace is a short walk away and the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, Covent Garden, and St. Pau’s Cathedral. There’s plenty to do and see. That being said, you are always surrounded by tourists, which can be overwhelming.
My advice to future expats is to thoroughly research the area you’ll be living in. You want to feel comfortable and enjoy the area. Even though we’re surrounded by tourists, our apartment is in a quiet neighborhood that offers many services. So, if we don’t want to leave the apartment, we really don’t need to.
WHAT ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ADJUSTMENTS YOU HAD TO MAKE WHEN SETTLING INTO EXPAT LIFE IN THE UK?
South Africans are friendly people, whereas many Londoners aren’t. And it takes time to get used to not having people greet you back.
Winter is also something to adjust to, as the days are much shorter, and you can go a few days without seeing the sun.
DID YOU EXPERIENCE ANY PARTICULAR ELEMENTS OF CULTURE SHOCK? AND IF SO, WHAT WAS IT.
There are many South Africans in the UK, but many foreigners and some Brits don’t know that English is spoken in South Africa. Their idea of South Africa was very limited. I had to constantly educate people.
WAS IT EASY TO MAKE FRIENDS AND SOCIALIZE?
Londoners can come across as unfriendly, so it takes time to make friends. The best way is to join a club (sports, book, etc.) you’re interested in or make friends at work.
HOW DOES THE COST OF LIVING IN THE UK COMPARE TO SOUTH AFRICA?
London, in particular, is more expensive than South Africa. This is also true when compared to the rest of the UK.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ANYONE WANTING TO MOVE TO THE UK WITH THEIR FAMILY.
Do plenty of research before you relocate. And check if you know of someone (or if friends or family know someone) who is living in the UK or has lived here to provide advice.
DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OTHERS LOOKING FOR WORK IN THE UK, HOW DO YOU SUGGEST THEY GO ABOUT IT?
Finding work in London can take many months. I was fortunate to find work in two months, but some of my friends looked for almost six months (this seems to be the norm). I would suggest starting to look for work before you move to the UK. Also, have a good idea of what you’re looking for.