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Costly mistakes South Africans make when moving overseas



Published Feb 18, 2019


With a combined experience of 35 years in moving our families across the globe multiple times, and helping other South Africans to settle in Australia for the last 10 years, we see the same mistakes being made by South African’s time and time again.  Here is our list of the top FIVE mistakes that cost time, money and whole lot of stress.

Thinking you can just transplant your life

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There is a very big world out there and most of it is very different from South Africa.  Not only are the processes different, but the people you will engage with, your new friends, your work life, the way you get to the office, what you might do on the weekend, not everything is  “same-same.” Many South Africans move to a country where they can count their friends on the palm of one hand, so thinking you will have the same social life straight off the bat, is unlikely.  It is this reality that many South Africans don’t even consider while they are still in their comfort zone. Many South Africans want the large home with an expansive entertaining area, but remember, it is not going to be the same, not for a few years.  Downsize, reduce and prepare for different.

South Africans move too much stuff

South Africans have some of the biggest houses on the planet! Their home is their castle and it is a status symbol to be admired in South Africa. In other countries, especially Australia and New Zealand, this is not the case. Labour is not cheap in first world countries and house cleaning services are expensive. By bringing all those dust attracting ornaments, or having the biggest house on the street, will only result in more housework for yourself. We often see South Africans bring large beds that can’t get up the staircases, or an abundance of kitchen appliances so they can entertain the masses!  

Knowing what takes up space in your container is the first step to culling what you have in your home. A good example is a bookcase –they take up space in your container because they are not load bearing. They are cheap to replace in your adopted country. The second step is obviously bringing ONLY what you need to get started, and don’t be in the mindset that you must buy lavish items when you first arrive! Cheap and cheerful will get you by which could be replaced over time with more durable items.  

Engaging cheap removalists, then crying over the hidden costs

Social media posts are peppered with questions like “Who’s the cheapest removalist?”, “Recommendations for good, cheap removalists please.” Or, even “How can I make sure my goods don’t get broken during transit?”  

The key here is to understand removalist company quotes and be able to compare apples with apples. Know what questions to ask, how to negotiate and how to identify what is missing (hidden) in quotes. Once a removals company have your goods loaded, you don’t have much choice but hand over the credit card for additional costs. Rather go with a trusted and accredited removalist that you can negotiate with, than choose a cheap removalist, give them your worldly goods and hope for the best!

Many don’t budget effectively

This is a tricky one for most South Africans because once the decision has been made to leave, and the visa is approved, there can be very little time. Very few people commit to the process for more than 2 years in advance – which leaves no time to budget or save for everything you need to undertake and complete the move effectively. This lack of savings will already place you on the back foot when you arrive. If your budget is not effective, it immediately puts pressure and restraints on a relocation. Know all the relocations costs involved before you start the visa application process, save accordingly (and fast!) otherwise, you will be leaving too much to chance.

Asking for advice on Social Media and Online Forums

Every relocation is different and every family has a different dynamic. Asking the masses can often send you on wildgoose chases, or leaving felling like you’ve played an online game of  Chinese whispers as people pick up other comments and go off on a tangent! What works for one family, is unlikely to be your family’s ultimate solution. Not knowing the person or the basis on which they have given you random information online, will still leave you in doubt as to their advice. Get expert advice, that is relevant to you and your family otherwise you will just keep guessing, wasting time and wasting even more money.

Hendrika Jooste and Robyn Vogels are South Africans Australians living in Melbourne. Their book, Moving your Sh!t to Australia, was born out of a need to help South African families who don’t prepare for the physical or emotional stress of their move. Launched in December 2018, the book provides practical, step by step process for each stage of the relocation. It is available on


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