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From London to Cape Town: Expat-ish
19 January, 2012 10:27
I am Yvonne, a very muddled mixture of Polish, British, South African with a little Norwegian thrown in. My last place of residence was London, UK and I now live in Cape Town, South Africa.
1. Why did you move abroad?
We were living a perfectly OK life in London, UK. And then we were offered the opportunity to live a potentially excellent life in Cape Town, South Africa. We felt that Cape Town could offer us a better work/life balance and more family life. And, to the surprise of some, we felt it was a better place to bring up our two children (now 2.5 and 4.5). We had to at least try. So far, so good.
2. How do you make a living?
I am a former City lawyer and City law lecturer. I stopped working when my eldest daughter was born. Recently, I have set up a relocation agency with a friend, Vicky, specializing in people moving to Cape Town: Move Me To Cape Town (www.movemetocapetown.co.za). My youngest daughter starts preschool later this month so I have an existential crisis looming. I need to and want to be busy.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I’m not really certain where “home” is anymore but I communicate with family and friends by Skype, email. Whatssapp, SMS, Facebook, phone…whatever is at hand. I have family and friends all over the world and I in touch with someone every day.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Cape Town?
I try not to be an “expat” so much, I love living here, I love the city and I love the people and I am desperate to integrate! I suppose my favourite things are the natural beauty, the fact that you have big city, beach and wilderness all within a stone’s throw of each other and the chilled out, friendly vibe of the place. I love the food, the diversity, the fact it is a little old-fashioned compared to the UK.
It’s a country full of opportunities, it feels like it’s going somewhere, it’s not stagnant.
You can provide your children with an excellent education for a reasonable sum of money. You can have a nice life on less money than in many other places.
And it’s got a pretty good international airport.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Cape Town?
Coming from London, the relaxed “manana, manana” approach can be a little frustrating at times (that’s chilled going too far!). And the bureaucracy here can drive you absolutely mad. Coming from the very un-bureaucratic UK it’s been an unpleasant shock which can drive me to despair and rage.
6. What do you miss most?
I miss people most- my brother (who lives in Brussels), my grandparents (who live in Poland) and a few friends in the UK. A missive from any of them can make me very sad. Globalisation has many great sides but it does mean that people “leave” easily, but then they also “come” easily. Lots of hellos and goodbyes all the time.
On a more shallow note, there are a couple of clothes shops I miss and I miss how cheap books and CDs are in the UK.
I do miss London, it is a fabulous city although I am acutely aware that it is not the right place for us right now.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
It was very easy for us; we have met the most amazing people through my daughter’s school and met people through them. We have been very open to new friendships and meeting people. I know it hasn’t been as easy for others.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
It’s not terribly dissimilar to the UK as it is English speaking and the British were in here for a while. I wouldn’t say I found anything strange, especially. It is definitely more conservative though- in films on TV all swearing mention of God is bleeped out. Doesn’t bother me especially but it does mean that certain film are almost pointless to broadcast here!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That is unsafe, per se and that people are racists. Yes, there are unsafe parts but that cannot be applied as a blanket statement to South Africa or even Cape Town. There are racists everywhere in the world, in SA in included but it is not something that “defines” the people. Cape Town is a diverse, cosmopolitan city and, for -the most part- different cultures, ethnicities and religions live here peacefully and respectful of one another. Due to its history, Cape Town is an amazing melting pot of different peoples. It’s one of the reasons I love it. Having moved around a lot in my life, I love living somewhere where nobody especially cares that I am different, I sound different and so on- because everyone does!
10. What advice would you give other expats?
Cape Town has so much to offer, embrace it and enjoy it. Be cautious as you would be in any big city anywhere in the world, but don’t just swallow what the foreign media tell you about South Africa, there is such anti- South African bias, especially in the UK media. This is still a country of opportunity, take the opportunities.
Choose where you live by how much wind there is (or how much wind you can stand!). Your outdoor activities will be governed by the wind (trust me on this one).
11. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in August 2011, almost a year after we moved here. I have always loved writing, I always have an opinion and it seemed like a good “newsletter” for friends and family who wanted to know how we were getting on.
12. How has the blog been beneficial?
It’s been beneficial for me because I love writing and it gives me an outlet! It has ended up being part of my company which is great- a sort of insight into Cape Town. My friends and family really enjoy it (or so they say, maybe they’re just being very polite... ). All-in-all it’s a very positive thing.
Yvonne's blog, Expat-ish
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