Where in the UK do South Africans really live?

Do you want to move to Europe but don’t want to leave the familiarity of boerewors and biltong behind, then just head to a Saffa-friendly neighbourhood in the UK. Or if you’re already living in the UK and are missing home then visit one of these hoods


I like to think of myself as an Anglo-African. I’m busy writing this, ensconced in my little office in my home in Fulham. “Typical!” you might say, but as it happens, I am in a rather forgotten part of Fulham – neither Fulham Broadway nor Fulham High Road and pretty far from both.

My area has become part of the encroaching overflow of French immigrants who can no longer fit into, or afford to buy in South Kensington where the French embassy, the Institute Francais and the French Cinema can be found.

At last count we have four French families on our street and Dutch, German and Chinese neighbours. Sorry, no South Africans. Needless to say, I am learning French.

Which of these categories do you fall into? 

1. You’re the only South African where you live and you hardly ever hear another South African accent.

2. You live in an area where – if you didn’t pinch yourself – you’d forget you are in the UK.

3. You’re not South African, but sometimes wonder if you’re becoming one because you’re surrounded by them.

South West London

Also known as mini-SA, South West London is most popular and stretches from along the Waterloo to Woking line with a large expat community.

If you are reading this from your sofa in Cape Town, busy planning your move to London and just can’t bear to be parted with your chommies, you probably want to move to specific areas in the South West like: Southfields, Wimbledon, Surbiton, Wandsworth, Raynes Park, Clapham or Earlsfield. Or slighly further afield to Twickenham, Esher or Woking – we’ve all heard of the boereworse corridor, right?

These areas will guarantee your dose of South African accents, shops that sell biltong, oumas and flings. There will be Afrikaans speakers chatting too loudly on the District Line thinking no-one understands them, and a neighbour with a story about how their son or daughter has a South African teacher at their local school.

“We live in Colliers Wood,” says Hamish Clarke. “We moved because a mate from school did. He lived in the same block as a mutual friend. Upstairs was a girl who also went to Stirling High School and her brother from Selborne College in East London. Before that we lived in Wandsworth. Our next door neighbours were from Port Elizabeth. All of their mates are Saffas and are now our mates, mainly from the Eastern Cape. A guy that interviewed for a job with me in Cape Town ran the pub we used to frequent. There were literally hundreds of us in Southfields at one stage.”

Saffa statistics in the UK to London

However, the British Isles have far more to offer than just London.

According to a recent publication by the Office of National Statistics, though the majority of South Africans have settled in Greater London and the South East – some 56 thousand. But there are South Africans is almost every ‘corner’ of the great United Kingdom. 25000 South Africans live in the East of England, 15000 South Africans and 6000 Zimbabweans live in the North West. Approximately 10000 have made their home in Yorkshire, and the East and West Midlands respectively. Some have ventured as far as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Almost wherever you choose to settle in the UK you have a good chance being made to feel welcome.

Southern England

Heading closer to the shoreline and further away from bustling London, Southern England offers the beautiful, historic counties of Somerset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Surrey and cities of Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol and Dorset.

History buffs may be interested in the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, whose ancient medieval Cathedral is the home to the oldest clock in the UK, and one of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta. You will also find the famous and mysterious Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain.

Hampshire is full of seaside resorts, has two national parks, quaint villages and scenic walks, quite suitable for those who grew up running barefoot in the South African countryside, while Dorset features those breath-taking, white chalk downs.

“I live, Lindford in Hampshire,” reveals Zimbabwean-born, Capetonian, Katie Cooper. “I do believe there are other Saffas around as the BP station 2.5 miles away stocks a very small amount of biltong & droerworse. Two South Africans I know play for the same hockey club as I do – Aldershot and Farnham hockey club. I work in Farnborough and there are three of us Saffas in the same department and about a dozen on the rest of campus. Quite a few colleagues have worked or visited South Africa in the past on business or assignment. I feel my heritage puts me in good standing as I have travelled and have experience of cultural diversity, which is sought after in business today.”

Belinda Andrews’ family lives in the beautiful countryside of Farnham in Surrey.

“There are a few South Africans around. I have met a couple of lifelong SA friends in the area, but we are certainly not surrounded. My South African fix happens at least 3 times a year where we get together and have a good laugh and connect which is important when we live so far away from our families! Lets face it without that connection life wouldn’t be the same. We have a local SA shop in Guildford, which makes us feel right at home,” says Belinda.

South East England

If you love South African wine and want to be near some vineyards, Surrey or Sussex could really be the place for you. With the same geographical make up as the French Champagne area, the Surrey hills boast some English sparkling wines which are beginning to make their mark in the UK.

Bristol is the United Kingdom’s eighth most populous city. It’s a short drive to the good surfing beaches of Devon and Cornwall, has a sizeable harbour and is close to the Severn bridge crossing to Wales.

Perhaps Suffolk and Norfolk can tempt you?

“We live in the quiet countryside of Suffolk,” explains David Brous. “There are a few South Africans and Zimbabweans around us and it is very much a countryside way of life. At every turn we meet Saffas and are constantly being introduced to them. My accent has stayed fairly strong as I teach with 6 other Southern Africans. There is a joke going around that we are ‘recolonizing’ the UK.”

Christie Bryant Reed and her husband are both South Africans now living in Hong Kong.

“My best friend, her parents, sister-in-law and my parents live within a three mile radius of one another in Norfolk,” explains Christie. “They have a little community and attend a South African church where the service is split into half English and half Afrikaans. There is also an SA shop nearby. We spend every summer there. We love that it’s near the city, near the coast, is fairly rural and there is a small SA community.”

If you are a little arty, perhaps a journalist, producer, media researcher or actor and you’re hoping to star in the next BBC drama, the metropolitan cities of the more centrally-located Birmingham, Manchester, Salford or even Liverpool on the west coast (the home of the Beatles and great football) may suit you better.

The BBC has left London and has relocated further north to Salford, so you will be nicely situated near ‘Media City’ and just a few competitive auditions away from your next big break.
Birmingham is the second biggest city after London. It’s nightlife; culture and diversity will keep you on your toes. If you get tired of the city, Central England is beautifully placed for a weekend break to the Lake District, Peak District and Yorkshire.

East Anglia

But the weather in the UK is awful, you say? If you are looking for the area in the UK with the best weather then East Anglia is where you want to be. The cities of Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich boast the sunniest skies and statistically the least amount of rain.

Or choose an area that’s close to the airport

In terms of easy travel, the UK has a number of international airports and busy train stations scattered all across the country. Heathrow is well known to South Africans and is the home to both British Airways and South African Airways, but don’t underestimate the possibilities of living near Gatwick.

Gatwick is UK hub for many of the smaller airlines and most of the American airlines. It’s perfect for flights to city breaks in Europe and the USA. The towns and countryside near Gatwick are less crowded and you will find affordable homes with more space, gardens and good views and the odd South African. The fast trains will take you to London’s West End in under an hour to see the latest shows, so don’t think you will miss out by being further out.

Scotland and Ireland

We have really hardly touched on the rest of the UK – Scotland boasts the beautiful Highlands and lochs, Ireland a rich culture of music, dancing and Guinness and Wales with its beautiful countryside and language is exquisite.

These must be explored at the very least, but maybe you want to be different and set up your own little South African colony complete with a South African shop and home-made biltong?


In which case, I am led to believe that there are no South Africans in the Welsh town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. It translates as “The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St Tysilio’s of the red cave”. It is believed to be the longest place name in the world. If you are thinking of becoming the first South African pioneer, this would be the place for you.