British Expat Living in South Africa - Interview with Lucille

Published: 12 May at 10 AM
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Filed: Interviews,South Africa
Lucille has three nationalities and no home country, and as a result is slightly confused as to where exactly she is from. Born in England to Dutch and South African parents, Lucille has lived in five countries on three continents. She currently calls South Africa home (but not for long) and is raising two tri-national bilingual boys to be as nomadic as she is. There's a husband in the mix too, and it's all thanks to him that they are living the nomadic life. Lucille's expat blog is called Expitterpattica (see listing here)

My gorgeous boys and I in Greece
My gorgeous boys and I in Greece

Here's the interview with Lucille...

Where are you originally from?
Born and half raised in England. I've been free-range since then.

In which country and city are you living now?
We currently call Durban home. It's a laid back town on the east coast of South Africa. 320 sunshine days a year baby!!

How long have you lived in South Africa and how long are you planning to stay?
Apart from a brief few years as a teenager, we've lived in Durban for just over three years. We are due for a move this year.

Golden sandy beaches are just one of Durban's drawcards
Golden sandy beaches are just one of Durban's drawcards
Why did you move to South Africa and what do you do?
I'm a trailblazing spouse (as opposed to a trailing spouse), and we came here with my husband's company. Since moving to Durban I've started a successful decor webshop called Seek & Delight, launched my blog Expitterpattica, and been a full-time mum.

Did you bring family with you?
Two gorgeous boys aged 5 and 3.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I've been an expat since I was 24, moving on average every three years. Our first posting was to Saigon, Vietnam and it was fabulous. I was young, had no kids, was on a great adventure so the transition was seamless. Now we have kids moving is a little harder, but I adjust quickly because I have to. My boys are my priority, there's no time for me to feel unadjusted!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
There is not a huge expat community in Durban, but South Africans are so incredibly friendly, once I discovered where to go (baby groups etc) I made friends really easily.

The view from our house. The lifestyle and standard of living in Durban can't be beat!
The view from our house. The lifestyle and standard of living in Durban can't be beat!
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There is so much to do in Durban! Sandy white beaches that stretch on for miles, and did I mention 320 days of sunshine a year! There are game reserves a few hours away where you can see the Big 5 (leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino). The Drakensberg mountains are stunning and also a few hours away. There's the aquarium and Marine World at UShaka, there are loads of parks, child friendly coffee shops and great malls.

What do you enjoy most about living in South Africa?
I'll let you in on a little secret: Durban is the jackpot of expat postings! Everyone who gets posted here says so. We have an incredible lifestyle that I know cannot be found anywhere else. My kids are barefoot and outdoors all day, we have a gorgeous house with a pool and sea view. South Africans are very active and there are some great trail and road running groups to join. The food is great. Private schooling is world class. I really enjoy each and every day here because I'm going to miss it when we leave one day!

How does the cost of living in South Africa compare to home?
If you're coming from Europe or the US you have a great advantage because of the weak Rand. Eating out is much cheaper in SA, but supermarkets are starting to become expensive. Cars cost more, but property prices are affordable. For the price of a flat in London you can buy a mansion here! All in all the standard of living and quality of life in Durban cannot be emulated in Europe or the US unless you are seriously rich!

What negatives, if any, are there to living in South Africa?
Mention South Africa and the first thing people think of is crime. This tends to be blown out of proportion by scary stories and overly paranoid tourists. Yes, crime is an issue. Yes, you do need to be vigilant. Lock your car doors, don't walk around with your handbag hanging open, that sort of thing. In three and a half years we have not had one single incident. Not one. I feel safe, my kids feel safe. But of course, we stick to safe areas. I wouldn't drive through the city center with my windows down chatting on my mobile phone with my wallet lying on the seat next to me. That's asking for trouble. You just have to be smart. There are gated communities where most expats, and wealthy locals, choose to live. There is zero crime on these estates, and they are often on a golf course. Major bonus.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to South Africa, what would it be?
Stop thinking about it and do it! You absolutely will never regret moving to Durban. If you are put off at the thought of moving to 'Africa' then you should know that whilst South Africa is a third world country, the cities are definitely first world. Schools and hospitals are world class. And the lifestyle can't be beat. Just do it.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I guess there are always the usual ups and downs that come with moving around, but I guess the hardest part for me is when the honeymoon period is over and real life sets in. You realize you're here for the next few years, and nothing is familiar. Also, I find that the decision to accept a posting is always made on a wing and a prayer because you can never know beforehand if you will love your new location. You think you will, you hope you will, but you never really know until you go. And then it's too late to change your mind.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I never want to repatriate. And if we ever do I'll have to book a shrink in advance.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. You may be an 'expat' with a nice big financial package, but don't let this define your experience in your host country. Mix with the locals, learn the language, eat local food and don't believe you are better than anyone else. Being an expat is a privilege, but the privilege lies in learning about a new culture not remaining separate from it.
  2. Be vulnerable. There is power in vulnerability. But don't let it get the better of you so that you feel overwhelmed. Get up, show up, try new things and learn something every single day. Even if it's what type of bread to buy.
  3. Smile. Even if you don't feel like it. People respond better to a smiley lost expat rather than a grumpy lost expat.
  4. Say 'Yes' to everything. It's the only way to meet new people and find the things you like to do.
  5. Be humble. You are a guest in a foreign country. No-one owes you anything, so don't act like it.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Expitterpattica is about being an expat and traveling the world with two kids and a husband in tow. We move around so much and get to travel to such amazing places, but we also give up so much to be nomadic. I guess I wanted to share my experiences and also meet like minded people going through similar things. That's hard to do in real life sometimes! Articles on the blog deal with the expat experience, travel, and my travel photographs. I'm working on a lifestyle section too, so keep a look out for that!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via email, or through my Facebook page:

About the author

Expat Blog ListingLucille is a British expat living in South Africa. Blog description: Expat Mum. History Lover. Compulsive Traveller. I'm an expat mum raising two tri-national bilingual boys, and trying to make sense of it all.
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