RSA to the UK – Our Journey

In mid-August of 2020, my family & I emigrated from South Africa to the UK. Milton Keynes in England to be exact!

Having never even been to England prior to our move on 15 August 2020, it was a leap of blind faith, to say the least. The decision to emigrate from the country of my birth (and that of my children too), was a surprising one. It surprised me more than anyone as it had never crossed my mind to leave there permanently until the day that it did… 23 December 2019!

Why do I remember the exact date? Well, probably because it was so sudden! I was on my way home after dropping my brother-in-law and nephew off at their accommodation for their last night in South Africa. They had just had an early Christmas dinner at our house and were leaving for the UK in the morning to join my sister and niece, who had left to settle there a few months earlier. My sister got a teaching post at a school in Milton Keynes, UK and basically made her mind up to accept it, thus completing her move in August 2019 within 10 weeks of making that decision. Her children & husband stayed behind to finish off their preparations & tie off all loose ends before joining her. You see, the public schooling system in South Africa is deteriorating and teachers are not paid very well, so the choice for her was quite simple. Along with the fact that the opportunities for the “previously advantaged” community are almost non-existent in the corporate world of employment in South Africa because of a “little” term called BEE (which developed into BBBEE)!

It is not my intention to get into the politics of it all, but it is a relevant fact to make mention of as it is a major reason for the huge exodus that is currently going on from South Africa at this stage (and for the past decade, at least). Please look up what BEE / BBBEE is if you’d like to know more, because as I said, I am not going down a political wormhole in this post.

Back to my story: fast forward a couple of weeks into January 2020 and we started getting the ball rolling for our move… we put our home on the market, started looking into the options available to sell my business and the shared business I was running with my wife… making further plans about the other assets that needed to be sold and ultimately making decisions about how we wanted to get this done and by when! Initially, our plans were based on the pre-Covid-19 situation, when the world was still “normal”, or at least as we knew it. We had the considerations of getting our 2 boys into schools so that their education didn’t suffer. We also had to consider my wife’s employment options and situation. We also had to keep the whole idea and all the plans we were making a secret to avoid any panic amongst my clients and staff, as this could have a dramatic effect on the potential value of the businesses we had to take care of! It was a juggling act for sure.

The universe definitely seems to work in mysterious ways and I believe that everything does happen for a reason and in its own time, when it has to. We may not always understand or agree with it, but faith in the necessary outcome must be kept. Things started happening… we had an offer on the house. This in itself was surprising, as it wasn’t really a seller’s market. I had a potential investor in my main business, which was a family start-up back in the 1980’s and which I was fully involved in since 1998. This was at a time that was make or break for it too, since it wasn’t going to survive much longer in the economic environment that we found ourselves in. I suspect that had this happened any later, I would have had to close down and the staff would have been “out on the street”, so I am eternally thankful for the lifeline that was provided by the new owners.

Timing from their perspective was probably not ideal! Queue, Covid-19 and international lockdowns! This was a shock to everyone, but in hindsight, the Universe doing its thing again! Although initially a very difficult time for the new owners, it couldn’t have been timed any better to prepare them for their futures either, since the corporate shake-up that occurred later in the year rocked their foundations too. I think that having a business, although struggling, that was already operating helped keep the momentum and future potential for growth going. The staff that would have otherwise been affected, thankfully kept their work and livelihoods so that they could also live to fight another day!

The period from March to July was tumultuous, to say the least! Handing over my main business, working remotely (from home), planning our future, selling our house, looking for suitable homes for our pets (probably the most emotional part of the journey), informing our staff, clients and friends, looking for a buyer of our shared business, selling off all our things, keeping the boys motivated and trying to ensure everything was timed to perfection, was strenuous and emotionally draining. At the same time, the excitement (although drawn out over months) gave us the energy to remain focused and ensure success.

Without going in to all the painful details, we got it just about spot on with everything. We sold our joint business (a CrossFit box) with 2 weeks to spare. We moved out of our home and sold almost everything we had by the end of July. My wife also worked her notice in at her job at the same time. The boys finished writing their exams and completed at least the third term of their school year and most importantly, we found homes for our beloved pets with only a day or two before leaving our home! Talk about timing!

Taking all of this into consideration, we still had to get out of the country and to the UK, during a lockdown! There was only one option we had and we took it… REPATRIATION! Since my wife was born in the UK (she moved back to South Africa with her folks when she was just 3 months old), she was a British Citizen by birth. Because of when she was born, our sons qualified for their British Citizenship as well and I managed to regain my German (EU) Citizenship a week prior to lock down after having let my previous German passport expire 19 years earlier! We managed to get a flight out, but still had to have Covid-19 tests done prior to the flight, which couldn’t be older than 96 hours. So literally just 3 days before our scheduled flight, with everything on the line, we had to have the tests done and await the outcome before we knew for sure whether we would be getting on the plane! The results were in our favour and we were set to go…. Still any non-believers out there? EVERYTHING was happening at the right time…

To ensure that the experience was one that would be remembered and that a story could be told to all our friends and family all around the world, I started a vlog about our experiences from around mid-July 2020. This is an ongoing series of events that can be found on my YouTube channel, so if anyone is interested in the details of our journey, please click the following link and remember to like & subscribe to be kept up to date on the ongoing saga which is “RSA to the UK — Our Journey“.

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