An Expat in Cape Town

An Expat in South Africa

I’ve always enjoyed travelling – in fact, after I left school it was pretty much the only thing I was interested in doing with my life. I wasn’t bothered about uni or further study, and I certainly didn’t fancy knuckling down to a full time job. I had a fantastic few years travelling around the world visiting Australasia, Asia, Europe, North & South America and North Africa. Eventually, I realised I would need to settle down at some point and find a career – but after a few long years back in England, I had itchy feet again.

Relocating abroad seemed like the perfect solution - all the excitement and challenges of travel but still enabling me to earn a living and fund it all. Africa was the one continent I felt I’d not seen enough of yet, so that’s how I ended up down here in Cape Town.

I don’t really miss much from the UK – other than friends and family of course. Making connections in an unfamiliar place can be tricky - but there are plenty of ways to become a part of the community and guarantee your expatriation isn’t a lonely experience. I love the variety that Cape Town offers – I can spend the morning up a mountain, the afternoon at the beach and the evening in a fantastic city centre restaurant. I really enjoy being a tourist in everyday life and slowly discovering my new hometown and the surrounding areas. I also love Cape Town for its location - I’m passionate about seeing as much of Southern Africa as I can, and living here means I’m well placed to be able to do that.

When you become an expat, you’re bound to face a few challenges – visas, permits and bureaucracy can make expat life a real headache from time to time. I’ve been in South Africa for 2.5 years now, and I’m still waiting on my temporary residence to be approved. There have been times where I’ve been close to giving up and going home – normally after a horrendous day of queueing at Home Affairs – but I’m really glad I haven’t given up. I’ll get there eventually!

Of course, being an expat does make my professional life harder in some ways, and has certainly presented me with some unique challenges. Things that have kept me from working include (but aren’t limited to) power cuts, theft, venomous snakes and rioting - not things I experienced too often in the UK! However, there are some huge benefits though as well. As I work from home, I can work on the balcony in the sunshine and take a dip in the pool on my break – which is one perk I especially enjoy.

Making a big move abroad is a big decision - and if you’re thinking about taking the leap, do your research! When I originally made the move, I had a job offer in Johannesburg so I spent the first 6 months living there. I knew absolutely nothing about the place before I turned up and started work - and, as it turned out, it just wasn’t the right city for me. Having said that, nothing is permanent - and a wrong decision is not the end of the world. In the long run, moving to Jozi was the best thing I ever did. Although it wasn’t quite right for me at that time, through that move I discovered (and fell in love with) Cape Town.

By Kate Haywood, a content creator currently living and working in Cape Town.