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7 things that might surprise you as a SA expat in Europe

By March 27, 2018October 3rd, 2023FinGlobal

7 things that might surprise you as a SA expat in Europe

March 27, 2018


Moving abroad can take a lot of getting used to and if you are moving to a country with a new culture, language and cuisine, you’re bound to experience some sort of culture shock and even homesickness.

South Africans who move to Europe often have things in common with the countries they move to. Many South Africans descend from European settlers who chose South Africa as home. However, despite these commonalities, South Africans should prepare themselves for a few day-to-day differences they might not be expecting.

  1. Personal liberty

Coming from South Africa where democracy and the right to personal liberty and freedom has been an on-going battle for many years, South Africans may be surprised to discover that Europeans place less emphasis on personal freedom and democracy and more emphasis on the state’s role to ensure that every citizen is cared for and that no one is in need.

  1. Working hours

One of the reasons South Africans are so popular abroad is that they are regarded as a nation of hard workers who are prepared to work 40 hours a week and even longer if the job demands it. Europeans favour fewer working hours a week and employee-friendly labour laws are in place to ensure that employees enjoy a good work/life balance.

  1. Longer holidays

South Africans are used to 15 days holiday every year, but they’ll be delighted to discover that most European companies grant their employees a minimum of four weeks vacation. In addition, they are actively encouraged to take their vacation time as it is guaranteed by law!

  1. Lengthy lunches

Many South Africans just work right through lunch or grab a sandwich at their desk. If you fall into this category, you’ll be surprised to discover that lunch in Europe is regarded as an important meal. In many of the warmer European countries, lunch is taken over two hours and people often return home for their meals.

  1. Less driving

It can be difficult for a South African to imagine living without a car. However in many European countries, people can happily spend their life without owning one – and still get everywhere they want to go with a minimum of fuss. Most European countries have a comprehensive and affordable rail, tram and bus network. Instead of road rage and navigating through traffic jams, Europeans spend their commuter time relaxing, either reading, eating or catching up on a bit of work. South Africans who decide to purchase a car will be surprised to discover that unlike SA, where large 4x4s are common on the road, Europeans favour smaller cars which are easier to park in the urbanised cities – where parking is at a premium.

  1. Fresh food

Europeans favour fresh fruit and vegetables, often bought daily from the local market. Their meals also tend to be more varied with dishes and specialities being very region specific. Wine is an accompaniment to both lunch and supper – but drinking is rarely done in excess.

  1. Street style

Unlike South Africans who are quite happy to head out in a pair of shorts or sweatpants with a casual t-shirt, Europeans pride themselves on their sense of style and make an effort to dress up when they leave home.

If you are living and working in Europe or are thinking of doing so, contact us for expert, personalised advice concerning financial emigration, transferring proceeds of your South African retirement annuities and competitive foreign exchange rates.

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