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7 things only South African expats understand

By April 19, 2018October 17th, 2023FinGlobal

7 things only South African expats understand

April 19, 2018


Becoming an expat changes you forever. It changes your outlook on life, it changes your personality, it opens you up to possibilities and it presents you with challenges and opportunities you would never have faced if you stayed in your home country. Although every South African expat goes through a unique set of circumstances, there are some commonalities that they will all agree on:

Emigrating is not easy

The whole emigration process is complicated – especially if you are emigrating from South Africa and need to secure visas and work permits. These can take months to secure and during this time your life is very much on hold as you wait to see if you have been accepted by your country of choice. The paperwork involved can be overwhelming and so can the costs. However, once you have received that golden stamp of approval, all the time and effort is instantly worth it and you feel a sense of achievement that only expats understand.

Your diet changes

If you start your morning with a rusk and pop some biltong into your lunch box every day, expect your diet to change radically. Many South African treats are not found overseas – and invariably your favourite food will be impossible to find. Despite this, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities and before you know it, you will have discovered many new ‘favourites’ that you just can’t live without – even if you sneak off every now and again to your local South African shop for a quick binge on Zoo biscuits.

Grocery shopping becomes a challenge

South African residents are fortunate in that they often have help packing their goods and even loading them into the car. Grocery shopping abroad is a whole new experience. Most tellers don’t help pack your groceries, which means you have to both unload and pack them yourself – a feat of speed and endurance if you have a full trolley load. Finally, once you have crammed everything into five bags, you have to figure out how to carry them home on public transport – as the locals do. Once you have mastered the challenges of grocery shopping, you know you have arrived!

You value things differently

South Africa’s wide-open spaces and sunny blue skies are often taken for granted by locals. It is only when you have woken up to your fifth week of non-stop rain, European grey skies and packed public transport that you suddenly appreciate the things you took for granted back home. Even if you are living in a sunny climate – most South African expats agree: South Africa’s skies are a unique shade of blue.

Good healthcare is essential

Wherever you are living in the world, good health care is essential – and something many South Africans take for granted. Getting ill abroad can be a lot more complicated than back home. For example the NHS in the UK has far longer waiting periods than many of South Africa’s state hospitals and if you are living in Australia and need to see a specialist, you can’t just pick up a phone and make an appointment. Instead you have to make an appointment with a GP who will then refer you to a specialist – and this whole process can take up to a month or two, no matter whether you are on private or public medical aid.

If you are a South African living abroad and would like to know more about how you can manage and maximise your expat wealth through financial emigration, accessing your South African retirement annuity and need tailor-made tax solutions, contact FinGlobal today.

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