My wife is a travel agent and judging by the enquiries she gets many South Africans have a desperate desire to emigrate. Australia is popular because many see it as SA without the social problems. New Zealand is popular because it isn’t full of Australians. However, by far the most desirable destination is the UK.
People’s reasons for leaving are varied, or that is what they will tell you, but deep down it is always about fear, fear of crime, fear that the country is a week away from becoming Zimbabwe, fear that their children won’t get a job; other countries look like the promised land compared to here.
True, South Africa has its issues, and who can say what will happen in the country in the future, however, take it from someone who knows- the grass is not always greener.
I grant you, some areas of South Africa are make you wonder why it is worth staying, but look around you; the Cape Point area is the land of milk and honey. For a start we are surrounded by natural beauty: everywhere you turn is another beautiful vista. Then there is the supposed high crime. True there is a lot of crime in the area, but here’s the dirty secret, all urban areas have high crime these days, the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town are no worse than anywhere else in that regard, in fact, they are a whole lot better than most areas of the UK.
The New Year is a time for reflection and planning and if you are sat nursing a drink and gloomily wondering how you can get on the big bird and fly to Blighty then here are ten reasons that may make you have a rethink
1 The weather- basically the weather in the UK is rubbish all year round. We had a pretty dodgy Christmas as far as weather goes, but look at what it was like in Europe. Forget about all those romantic notions about white Christmases, heavy snow fall is annoying, cold and dangerous, the kind of thing that is ok if you have nothing to do, or if you are watching it on TV, sat with a cold beer in a hot country.
2 The Cost of Living- things are getting more and more expensive, and money has to stretch more, however, the standard of living for anyone with a half decent income is infinitely better here than in the UK. Here you probably have a maid, pool, gardener or garden services, handyman on call, nice car, etc etc. Over there you will have to clean your own house (which won’t be a problem since it will be the size of a postage stamp, see number 3), cut your own grass (again, see number 3), do your own repairs, and you won’t have a pool because its too cold in the middle of summer and would need to have the ice broken in winter.
3 House Prices- If you own a big house in Noordhoek, on a couple of hectares of land, with all the mod cons, and don’t owe a cent on it, you may be able to afford a small house in the suburbs of a small city or town an area that no body wants to live in. Last time I checked the average house price in the UK was around R3million, and there are some pretty average houses in some pretty average estates.
4 The Tax Man- Her Majesty’s Collector Of Taxes will take most of what you earn. Not as honestly as taking it from your wages (although they will do plenty of that), in the UK what really cripples you is the hidden tax. Everything is taxed to the hilt, from fuel to booze- hence why the price of everything is so high. The levy on Fuel is something like 80%, which is why it is nearing R20 a litre.
5 The Welfare State- The main reason for all these high taxes is that the UK is traditionally a welfare state. If you are healthy and work you are paying for all the sick loafers. There are fit people of retirement age in the UK who have never done a days work in their lives, and yet they have a house, car, go on holiday twice a year, see a doctor when they want, have kids in university and are looking forward to ‘retirement’ so that they can work on their beer bellies. Who pays for that- you will.
6 National Health- The national health service is great if you have no money and a medical emergency, not so good if you could afford private medical insurance (like in SA) if you weren’t already handing over most of your income to pay for the National Health Service. Seeing a doctor here is just a case of picking up the phone. If you need to see one that day, you will. It can take over two weeks to see a national health doctor, by which time you are usually better- most of my trips to the doctors when I lived in the UK were to find out what had been wrong with me, rather than trying to put something right.
7 State Education- not what it once was. Some inner city schools are like dens of iniquity. Teachers are barely in control of their classrooms, and standards can be low. The whole thing is a post code lottery since that determines which school your children are eligible for. House prices can vary hugely in an area just on the relative quality of schools: your post code sends the kids to the worst school in Europe, next door goes to the best in the world!
8 Over-crowding- parts of England are massively over populated; unfortunately these are the areas that you are likely to want to live in for work. I lived in Brighton, on the South Coast of England for a number of years. Luckily I didn’t need to drive because parking was a nightmare. All the old houses have been converted into flats. Some of them are now made up of 20 or 30 flats, but only have one parking spot outside. Imagine what that is like!
9 Health and Safety- the list of stupid things that it is now illegal to do in the UK is growing by the day due to the Health and Safety executive.
10 Working conditions- if you are eligible to emigrate and do not have a UK passport the chances are that you have a trade that they want, possibly technology based, or medical in some way. Ask yourself though, why is a country like the UK short of such critical workers? They produce them, so where are they? I have personal experience of the medical profession and why they are all awol. My sister is a nurse, was educated and gained valuable experience in St James’ Hospital in Leeds (all paid for by the tax payer)- and where does she ply her trade now? Brisbane, Australia. Why? The health system in the UK is bursting at the seams, under funded and only partially works because of the hard work and dedication of its staff, and other countries will happily pay professionals more, and expect less from them. This is true of most professions in the UK, they like employees from places like SA because they can dangle wages that look highly attractive, compared to those over here, but when you consider the cost of living over there you are actually earning less in real terms than here.
So ask yourself, is what you have here worth giving up to avoid the things that you think might happen to you here, but not there. Take a look around you because even in the middle of summer the grass is not greener!