Ever dreamed about moving abroad but don’t have the foggiest where to start?
With so many countries to explore, considering a move abroad can be overwhelming. From visa requirements and researching new job markets to finding friends and housing, upping sticks can seem pretty intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.
That’s where Gazing Girl comes in.
In a series of short interviews with guys and girls like us who have moved abroad to France, Spain, Singapore, Australia and beyond, we hope to give you the push to follow your dreams.
Next stop, South Africa. Over to you, Natasha…
Can You Tell Us A Bit About You?
I grew up in the UK but moved to South Africa after I finished school and spent almost a decade between Cape Town and Luanda (Angola). During my time in Africa, I completed my University studies at UCT (University of Cape Town), spent 3 years working in the recruitment world before deciding to become a full time yoga teacher! I now live in Chamonix and I’m a Yoga Alliance qualified teacher and a MYYO Practitioner. I currently run Viva Yoga Chamonix and I’m really enjoying my new alpine-based life!
What Inspired You To Move Abroad?
Through-out my school days I dreamt of moving abroad. I was born into a family with an insatiable thirst for sunshine and warm climates so I spent a lot of time chasing the sun as a child! I remember one occasion when we were on holiday in Vasiliki, Greece and we woke up on our first day to overcast skies. After checking the forecast my mother hired a car and drove us 50 kilometres to the other end of the peninsula just to catch some rays.
So after a trip to sunny South Africa in my gap year, the draw of university life in Sheffield of Bristol sort of lost its’ appeal!
What Are The Vital Statistics Of South Africa?
The biggest city is Johannesburg and the capitals are Cape Town, Pretoria and Blomfontein. This is because the government is based in Pretoria, the parliament is in Cape Town and the Supreme Court is Bloemfontein.
The 11 national languages include Afrikaans, English and Zulu and perhaps the most well-known South African is Nelson Mandela – the president from 1994 until 1999. The current president is Jacob Zuma.
How Did You Manage The Change?
I was 19 at the time so making friends and adapting to a new life was easy for me. South Africa is full of warm, friendly people so settling into Cape Town life was not too challenging. I made an effort to enjoy the outdoors because South Africa is spectacular in that respect.
What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?
There are too many to single out just one – the beaches, the wildness, the parties, the people, the lifestyle!
What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?
Distance from family was hard. Although Cape Town is on more-or-less the same time zone as the UK, it’s still an expensive trip home and a long journey so I only saw my family once or twice a year.
What Has Surprised You Most About The Country?
The diversity. I had very little idea about South Africa’s intricate history, the controversy of Apartheid and everything that stemmed from it. Considering how recent a democracy South Africa is (only since 1994), the country has remained in a relatively peaceful state of unity…
What’s Your Favourite Aspect Of The Country?
The diversity – South Africa really is the “Rainbow Nation”.
What’s Your Least Favourite Aspect Of The Country?
The extreme inequality and the juxtaposition of rich and poor. It is quite a shock the first time you fly into Cape Town, for example, and you fly over the luxurious estates and huge houses in the wealthy suburbs and then as you approach closer you see an endless sprawl of shacks as far as the eye-can-see (“The Cape Flats”).
What’s The Biggest Difference To The UK?
Colour. South Africa is an immensely colourful country and somehow the UK seems so black and white in comparison… excuse the obvious play on words.
Did You Have A Stereotype Of The People In Your Mind And How Did Reality Reflect This?
I really had no idea what the expect. At 19 I hadn’t really met a lot of South Africans before so I didn’t go in with any particular pre-conceived idea of what to expect. However I didn’t realise the extent of the damage of Apartheid on race relations in the country.
What Is The Foreign Job Market Like?
Quite a challenge and a little bit complicated. If you are moving with a big global company then they will work out your visa related issues for you. If you are looking to work for a smaller company or to start up something as a foreigner in South Africa then the challenges are substantial. The government are trying to ensure that South Africans receive jobs first so you, as a non South African citizen, need to prove that you have skills over-and-above that of a South African citizen relevant to the particular job. For instance, being able to speak multiple languages or experience dealing with a very specific issue.
How Hard Is It To Get A Visa?
Visa’s are quite tricky. A study visa is relatively straight forward to acquire but work visas are a long and paperwork heavy process. My application took 9 months to be issued even with the help of a private Visa expert.
What Would You Do Differently Looking Back?
I would have travelled more within South Africa. I explored the Western Cape extensively as well as Mpumalanga but I would have definitely liked to have explored the East Coast a bit more. I went up the Garden Route a few times which is spectacular but I never went up as far as Durban. The Drakensberg mountains nearer central South Africa are incredible and I would definitely like to head back and explore them some day.
What’s Next For You?
Continuing on my yoga adventure with my company, Viva Yoga Chamonix! It’s hard to find more peaceful surrounds than the Mont-Blanc Valley. And while it’s quite a change from life in South Africa, it was time to move on after almost a decade living at the most southern point of Africa.
How Can We Contact You?
What’s Your Favourite Quote?
“Love is all we are, the rest amounts to nothing” Anon.
And My Favourite Yogi Quote For Good Measure…
“Every tomorrow is determined by every today” - Paramahansa Yogananda.