close menu

The Expat Chronicles: Meet Matt

by 1st Contact | Jul 06, 2011
  • 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

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

    • people students dressed as different careers
      The 8 most popular jobs for international students in the UK
      Oct 31, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • UK flag in heart with medical symbol
      The NHS: How to use the UK’s healthcare service
      Oct 30, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • Property listings on tablet
      Common rental scams and how to avoid them
      Sep 26, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • illustration of London
      18 things that surprise South Africans moving to the UK
      Jul 15, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • kids with map
      10 reasons growing up abroad gives your children a head start in life
      Jun 06, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • across-globe-travel
      Tips for a successful start as an expat in the UK
      May 17, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • employment contract sign
      UK employment contract: Checklist
      Apr 18, 2019  |  by Leanne Shrosbree
    • Stoketoberfest
      Stoketoberfest is upon us
      Jul 28, 2017  |  by 1st Contact
    • London Christmas lights
      The best places to see Christmas lights in London
      Nov 21, 2016  |  by 1st Contact
    • Must-have apps
      Must-have apps for life in Australia
      Nov 09, 2016  |  by 1st Contact

    South Africa

    Cape Town

    Regent Square
    Doncaster Road
    Kenilworth 7708 +27 (0) 21 657 2120


    25 Richefond Circle
    Umhlanga 4320 +27 (0) 31 536 8843

    United Kingdom


    One Croydon
    12-16 Addiscombe Road
    Croydon CR0 0XT +44 (0) 20 7759 7514



    9 Yarra Street
    South Yarra
    VIC 3141 +613 (0) 8651 4500

    Sable International is a trading name of 1st Contact Money Limited (company number 07070528), registered in England and Wales. We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK (FCA no. 517570), the Financial Services Conduct Authority in South Africa (1st Contact Money [PTY] Ltd - FSP no. 41900) and hold an Australian Financial Services Licence issued by ASIC to deal in foreign exchange (1st Contact Group - AFS Licence number 335 126).

    We use cookies to provide the best website experience for you. Using this website means that you agree to this. How we use cookies.