Tuesday, March 09, 2010


If I were allowed to move, to England that is, I’ve become particularly and astutely aware of what will terrify me and what I’d love about the place. If I get to go there, I want to be prepared; rose-coloured shades are pants.

I’m terrified at the prospect of being torn from a comfort zone, but also desperately yearning for the challenge of a new place.

Here’s my list. If I ever get there, it’ll be interesting to see if any of my predictions are right.
This said, I never said immigrating would be easy. Adapting takes months, if not years.

I’ve spent enough time on Blighty over the last two years to make estimated decisions on what to expect. I fly to London on Friday for two weeks again. For a lot of hard work.

Things Guaranteed To Piss Me Off At Some Time Or Another (In descending order of annoyance):

1) The darkness.

The cold, the grey, the rain = all irritating. But bearable. British Winters are notoriously shite. The fact that in winter it gets dark – not twilight dark, midnight inky black dark – at 2pm, is going to be rough to deal with.
In December I made a pub announcement in the office at 3pm because I thought it was 7pm. My colleagues there may think I’m a functioning alcoholic, but really, the truth is that I thought it was almost bed time. Fuck.

2) Tubes during rush hour.

Won’t be able to sing long loudly to myself like I do in my car; in my own bubble. People don’t look at each other on trains, nevermind talk. So singing out loud will be considered Freak O’ Nature. Sharing armpit space with sweaty chavs and/or bankers will take some adapting to. Also lugging my Sainsbury's groceries bags around, up stairs, escalators, platforms, standing with them.

3) Wind with rain.

The horizontal rain that hits you at 90 degrees in your face, and your brolly has turned inside out, and you’re far away from home and a hot shower. That might be a bit miserable.

4) Living with someone again.

I’ve got very used to my own space over the last 2 years. I come home and my little castle is as exactly as I left it. No rotting dishes, total control of the remote, walking around naked, my own toilet. This will take adapting to – because in London, you can’t afford to live on your own unless you’re farking coining it.

5) Dare I say it….Rugby jersey-wearing South Africans in London.

The types who braai in the rain, visit the Puzzle/Walkabout/White Horse/Slut & Legless and talk constantly about how great home is, while waving a flag about.

The Top 5 Things That I’d Love About London

1) It’s London.

One of the world’s great cities, with mounds of cultural and fun shit to do, amazing architecture, general grandness, high streets, The Queen. Red buses. Selfridges. Parks, pints, curries, cobbles.

2) The crisp air.

No seriously, for some reason, my skin glows in cold climates. The place is also prepared for cold climates. Indoor heating, 8000 types of coats to choose from at Top Shop, cozy pubs.

3) The feeling that I’m a small fish in a big pond.

I feel like I know everyone in Johannesburg. Not that it’s bad, but I wouldn’t mind starting a new chapter, finding some new interesting friends, being anonymous, and being normal. Normal in that at almost 30, I’m not married or expecting childbirth. In London it’s normal to be like that. Thank God.

4) The Brits.

Unless I’m attacked – verbally or otherwise – by a chav, I tend to find them fucking amusing. Chavs aside even, I love the Brits. Their humour, their cheery yet very dry and plain-talking approach to life, their eccentricities. Their lingo. I find many of them wildly eccentric, not to mention extremely funny.

5) Nothing is really far away.

On a general scale, it’s a small island. And Europe is a hop, skip jump away. Did I mention that I have a two year Schengen visa? And that I cried tears of joy when it was handed to me? It’s meant to BE. I can go to….Sweden. And, and, Estonia. Or ‘Hey guys, let’s go to…Latvia for the weekend.’ Generally, getting around is not a problem. What with all that fantastic public transport.

Things I Won’t Miss About Home

1) The expense and time I spend on weddings. Other people’s.

I’m a sucker for love, and I am honoured to be involved in their joy. In their commitment. I just don’t feel like I fit in with all the change going on around me; mainly because I don’t.

2) Taxis.

Hiace, Toyota brand of death. I don’t think I need to elaborate. Or else I’ll get road rage just typing this.

3) Scared every time a guy walks up to my car.

Similarly, beggars on every corner. Like everyone, I’m tired of being paranoidly aware, on edge and feeling guilty and shit every time I stop at a robot. Being scared of crime in general.

4) General incompetence.

This is generalised – but Home Affairs, people printing fake passports and therefore fucking up our chances to get visas overseas, that slow sort of approach and uncaring attitude in any service industry. That said, I have to expect it’s probably like this in all bureaucratic offices across the globe. Right?

5) Feeling bored with surroundings.

I am. I don’t even bother to explore or date anymore. Haven’t in years. Hugely unbalanced. I see it as work, the concept itself is exhausting. So taht's mostly what I do: work. That’s not really living, is it.

Things I Will Miss About Home

1) Sun and reasonable daylight hours.

See ‘Darkness’ in first London list. Will invest in a Vitamin D lamp like people in Seattle use, and possibly sleep under it. I fear seasonal depression.

2) My family and friends.

Of course I’ll miss them terribly. And hope I get to see them at least once a year.

3) Biltong.

Yes, even if there are Saffa shops there, I won’t make an out-of-the-way trip to go and buy biltong. Dad used to send me biltong when I lived in France. Maybe I’ll get him to send packages this time too.

4) The Rand/our cost of living versus London cost of living.

I’ll be spending half my salary on rent, for a place half the size of what I have now. And will have to share with someone else. I’ll miss the space we have here. Besides the rent, I’ll also be paying for council tax, indoor heating and public transport. It’s not cheap.

5) The friendliness of South Africans.

We are a very friendly, open nation, in general. I find we’re more rambunctious than Brits on the odd occasion. (I’m not including football fans after 8000 pints at a Man U/Arsenal match in this benchmark). Saffas are sunny people, at least in sunny countries.


Secret said...

You can always come to Cape Town this winter to get used to the wind and the rain simultaneously. Mind you, even after 24 years Im not used to it, and I like it no more than you do :(

Peas on Toast said...

Secret - as tempting as it sounds.....no :) Cape Town, and I'm ducking as I say this, doesn't do anything for me. I might be the only person on the planet that thinks like this - and probably - but I don't want to live there right now. Maybe one day when I'm old and grey :)

I lived there as a student, it was good times, but then I could choose to skip lectures if it was howling with wind and raining....won't be able to do that now...

The Chantal said...

omg the exact same things are running through my head, ALL the time, it's stressful. My move would be to Germany so it's alot of the same, I'm worried about the long winters, the rain (thank god no jersey wearing S.Africans - one reason I dont think I'll ever visit Australia). And I'm also looking forward to the crisp air, lol my skin also literally glows in winter - it's awesome, and my hair is so silky and perfect.

Also happy to be a 1 to 2 hour plane ride to so many amazing places, Germany is so central, and if I need the sun its a short trip to Spain. And of course the food which I think is much better than here.

The main thing I will miss is the sun, I love the heat :/ and also people packing your groceries for you, and putting petrol in for you (but thats small stuff), but I really, really won't miss car guards and driving to work at 4am because the alarm has gone off, and worrying about people's safety etc. And if I have kids I look forward to them having alot of freedom.

Overall I think it's a good idea to go, with all the corruption, social grants, and huge loans that have to paid for, I think things will decline here quite a bit, and in 5 to 10 years time it'll be a watered down version of Zimbabwe, maybe, I dunno, people say that it'll go downhill fast but I dont think it will degenerate so much that it is unbearable to live here, but I know I feel like my future is somewhere else. It is difficult to make a big move and imagine finding out you're not so happy there either, so scary, but also like an adventure and something to conquer I guess.

For me the only thing is the fricken weather, but its a big part of life, it seems so dumb that that's what is making me nervous. Oh ya and finding a job!

Argh it just sucks thinking about it so much.

Cool post yesterday, it was really interesting to contemplate what the world would be like after humans die out. Sorry I missed that documentary.

Good luck with your big move! It'll be cool to read mushy peas posts regarding life in London etc.

tucj7 said...

London has some charms, but once you've lived there, if not great at all.

Life is just plain old tough. It's hard to do anything without money. Holiday trips are cool, but initially all you can afford are package trips to Faliraki with 12-year-old Brit porn stars.

People are rude and arrogant, and, public transport, as pervasive as it is, is just horribly uncomfortable.

Added to this, if you're scared of beggars in Joburg you'll shit yourself when you see groups of 3 or more kids walking in the street. Here, in SA, you know who's dodgy and who's not. In London, anyone is a potential yob who'll stab you for merely wearing the wrong soccer top.

So, go there with a balanced view, don't put London on a pedestal, there are far better big cities.

Anyway, that said, I wish you luck... However, after living there, I couldn't be happier than when I'm here in SA.

Anonymous said...

Worry not.
1. Oh, it's not that dark. Or cold. The dark and cold in November and December is really quite charming, because it heralds the Christmas season, and that means sparkly lights in people's windows and, more importantly, lots of fabulous Christmas parties. (Plus, Londoners are WAY nicer around Christmas. Mostly because they're drunk.) January and February are kind of a drag, but trust me, the long nights are worth it for the lovely long days in summer. Sitting by the Thames with a glass of wine and realising it's still light after 9pm is pretty cool. When it happens, summer in London is something special.
2. Tubes suck, but you get used to them and zone out pretty quickly. Plus, lots of opportunity to read.
3. Ok, I have no response to this one. It blows. (Dreadful pun not intended.)
4. Living with other people isn't so bad, in that 1) they help to cover the cost of council tax and 2) it's a good way to meet people. Two of my best mates are people I've lived with here. Plus, it will give you plenty of blog fodder.
5. All of these people went home or moved to Aus in 2009. Or had babies and moved to Purley. Although I guarantee that at some point, after you've had to listen to the British commentary on a rugby game (and sports coverage in general), you too will don your Springbok jersey. Just not at the Walkabout.
Seriously though, after 8 years feel I'm qualified to say it's pretty good. Expensive, yes. Hectic - yes, but only so much in central London. And not having to deal with South Africans asking why you're not settled down yet is 100% worth it!

Champers said...

From my sister's perspective:

5) You say that now but just wait. Just wait till you find yourself singing shosholoza on a pavement and hugging people you don’t know just cos they’re also south african.

The Brits: Some of them are great. But many of them are small-minded, rulesy rulesy, colour inside the line, step back from the yellow line cos that’s the rule, push a 7 year old child around in a push chair instead of letting the little brat walk, beurocratic poms.

You’ll be surprised how many of your good friends are in london if you sit back and count it out. And after 2 years those people are family to you and then leaving London is harder than leaving SA!

Actually living HERE is not cheap. In London you can get home internet, cell phone, land line and satalite TV all for less than R500 a month! Food is debatably more expensive here, and needing your own car is more expensive than tubes. So actually the only thing that holds true is that rents are expensive in London and homes are small. But salaries there are higher so I think its easier to live there than here.

5) South Africans overseas are even friendlier and you bump into them everwhere.

ElleSwain said...

Peas! Read your blog all the time, and been following your nightmarish pursuit of the sacred English visa. Moved to England a year ago, and documenting the process here if you're keen to while away the hours. http://haylerstravels.wordpress.com
Here's hoping our shiny-headed president impressed the queen enough to convince her to let a few more of us primitives through.

Ferret said...

Ex Capetonian now in London

1) You'll spend a lot more money on the weddings that matter and you'll have to turn down some that you really really want to attend.

2) Living in London sounds more expensive but you actually have so much more disposable income left at the end of every month. Yes, I spend more on housing and transport than I did at home, but I'm still saving almost half my salary every month while not living like a miser.

3) Listening to saffers who want to go home but never will and won't friggin shut up about how awesome it is back home even thought it's totally different to the place they left 10 years ago.

4) Paying through the nose for visa renewals and The Passport (when you get there) and having to endure the constant changing of rules regarding the visas. (If you do make it over - read the rules regarding the length of time that you are allowed out of the country).

5) Having to deal with locals who hate foreigners and think we're here to steal their jobs.

6) Week after Christmas sale. (OMW!! Sale REALLY means sale here!)

7) Realising that the 'entitlement mindset' is just as bad over here.

8) Being able to go for an epic run by myself without having to worry that I'm going to get mugged or worse.

Last point) Most important point - the realisation that the personal problems you had at home and the same problems you have when you move. If you're not happy with you - then changing cities isn't going to help.

But that said - enjoying the move and deciding if I'll stay for the passport. Still think I'll be home before that but we'll see...

po said...

Hey Peas, its so funny, I am composing a similar list but in reverse. After 7 years in the UK all I wanna do is come home so badly I can taste it.

Oh ja I get the seasonal depression thing. It took a few years to set in but its quite bad now. I think the lamp will protect you, good idea!

Lil said...

After living in 13 different cities across the globe - two of which where on mud island - I must say the years in London made my top draw.

Life may become rather vexatious at the most trying of times (under that chavs armpit when its 36 degrees on the 'Circle Line' and you in your most prize Jimmy Choo's on your way to meet Richard Hammond) But it's all so worth it.

The Secrets of London - only a story a Londoner can tell - now become yours to take.

I wish you all the luck in the world and guarentee you with all the grey miserable people over there - you will find a new reason every day to love the city so much more.

Peas on Toast said...

Hey guys!

Thanks for all your comments and input and advice - all of your comments and experiences are sound knowledge by the looks of things, and it makes me aware of what I might face. It's daunting. I wonder whether I'll get there at all, but if not, hey, reading these comments, it feels like I am! :)
Thanks chaps xxx

zuzula said...

oh just hurry up and get over here will you? ;) x

Champers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Natalie said...

hey there,

as a saffer who spent 8 years in ldn, altho now working in sydney after a mammothe asia trip...........cost of living is not as bad as people make out. you will invairably be earning more than SA, and yeah the internet/phone/sky deals are great - plus free healthcare and food is actually cheaper than it is here in oz, and in cape town (As i remember) - also, i never got a tube for the last 3 years i was there! live in south london on a train line, over ground trains way better. never got stabbed mugged, any of those unpleasant things - and walked home on my own in the dark plenty of times. the weather does get you down. plan trips back to SA in jan, that helps!! after a year in sydney - the sun is great, but i do miss the excitement/variety and first worldness of london. there are so many bands/shows/gallleries you will be overwhelmed. good luck!