Your bags are packed, your tickets are booked, and your passports/work visas are stowed in a safe place – your UK adventure is about to begin! Whether you are emigrating alone or with a family, the promise of a whole new life and great things yet to come can be both exciting and overwhelming. If you have travelled to the UK before, you will know that England and South Africa are like chalk and cheese. At first, you might not know what to do in London, England, to start feeling like a local, but don’t worry…you will find your place in no time at all.
For South African expats seeking out a new life in the United Kingdom; this one’s for you!
What to do in London, England, to Quickly Become a Local
When you first arrive in the UK, you will undoubtedly seek out all the touristy-type activities in London. That’s great – get the tourist mentality out of your system early on. If you take a look at the online London travel guide websites, you will find extensive lists of tourist attractions, activities, and things to see and do. What is there to do in London? Consider doing the UK favourites; many of which you have undoubtedly heard of back home in SA. These include:
- Big Ben
- London Eye
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- Buckingham Palace
- West Minster Abbey
- Trafalgar Square
- Piccadilly Circus
- Regent Park
- Madam Tussaud’s
- London Dungeons
- Churchill War Rooms
Once you’ve seen all the sights and participated in all the activities in London that tickle your fancy, it’s time to start finding your place in the local community. Things are done a little differently in the UK, so prepare yourself for a complete change of scenery and every-day services. For instance, your mail will be brought right to your door, roads are actually closed down during repairs, there’s traffic circles everywhere, grocery stores are massive and jam-packed with so many options that your eyes will boggle, shopping trollies require money to unlock, and of course, you can buy a loaf of bread and litre of milk from the very same place that you can send a package back home to your loved ones. You can walk almost everywhere you need to be, and public transport is readily available in the form of buses, trains, and taxis. Don’t worry; you’ll get it all figured out in time.
5 Tips to Get You Settled and Off to a Good Start to a Life in the UK
To make sure that your first few days and weeks as a local run smoothly, here are a few tips to settling in and making a good start of it in the UK.
1. Get a British Bank Account
Nothing says “I’m a local” more than having your finances running through a local bank account. You will need a bank account to pay for your rent, services, groceries, and of course if you need financial emigration of any funds you may have back home in South Africa. You can look into the fees and packages of a variety of banks including:
- Lloyds TSB
You will of course need your paperwork to prove that you can live and work in the UK. Opening a bank account in the UK is free.
2. Get an Oyster Card
No, this doesn’t entitle to you to oysters! An Oyster card is what Britons call their public transport cards. When you buy an Oyster card and a Railcard, you can hop on and off transport services without having to pay for individual trips each time. This is particularly useful when using the underground as you won’t have to join a queue. Simply tap your Oyster card on the entrance gate and it will swing open and let you through. Oyster cards are important if you are living and working in busy areas like London. They can also be quite convenient if you want to make your way to some of the activities in London. If you are staying outside of the busy areas and won’t be using the underground or train services, you won’t have too much need for one. You can check out Oyster card options here.
3. Get a British SIM Card
When wondering what to do in London, England, getting a SIM card should be a priority! Now that you have arrived, it’s time to relinquish your South African SIM card and put it into retirement. If you want to be a local, you must have a local number for people to contact you on. You also want to enjoy the affordable data and call rates that are available in the UK. If you plan to call back home to South Africa often, get a mobile package that includes international call rate specials. Some of the main mobile phone service providers in the UK include:
4. Get on Facebook & Join Local Groups
Part of fitting into a community is about connecting with people and striking up friendships early on. Facebook is a great place to start connecting with people in your area. For instance, if you are staying in the Basingstoke area in Hampshire, browse Facebook for community groups in that particular area and apply to join them. Reach out, ask for help, ask for advice – soon you will be one of the gang.
5. Get a National Insurance Number
When you live and work in the UK, it is important to get an NI number. To get one, you will need to book an appointment – this is typically done via job centres, but you can go direct too. This stands to protect your retirement fund and other benefits you might be entitled to. You will need to take the following with you when you apply:
- A valid passport
- An ID card
- Marriage of civil partnership certificate
- Residence permit (or work visa) that includes biometric immigration residency documents
Financial Emigration from South Africa to the UK: FinGlobal
At FinGlobal, we understand that your new UK adventure has got your pre-occupied. With all the things you have to do to get settled in your new community, you probably aren’t giving your tax emigration or financial emigration much thought right now. That’s where we come in. We offer premier financial and emigration advice and guidance. With our assistance, your financial emigration won’t be another chore to complete. Instead, it will be a seamless transition. For assistance with your expat financial needs, contact us today. You can send us an email or give us a call and one of our dedicated consultants will help you further.