Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

The View Spring 2012

Out of South Africa

Aeroplane in the sky

South Africa has historically been a popular destination for British-born expatriates. Of all the white immigrant nationalities settled there, the British are the largest community. Today, South Africa remains a top ten destination for UK retirees and continues to attract more than half a million British tourists each year.

Despite these long-established links, there has been surprisingly little research into the lives and experiences of British people in South Africa. How have they adapted to the political change brought about by the end of the apartheid regime? What impact has this had on them socially and economically? And what contribution have the British expats made to this ‘Rainbow Nation’?

Alison Laing spoke to lecturer in politics, Dr Daniel Conway, whose research project is shedding new light on these important sociological questions.

Dr Daniel Conway Dr Daniel Conway

Loughborough’s Dr Daniel Conway and his colleague Dr Pauline Leonard (based at Southampton University), have spent two years researching British migrants in South Africa. Their unique project ‘The British in South Africa: Continuity or Change’, funded through a British Academy Research Grant, focuses on the British expat community and how they have evolved socially and politically in the post-apartheid era.

British expats were invited to take part in the project through a number of channels, including a timely article published in the Daily Telegraph during the FIFA World Cup football campaign in 2010. The response was overwhelming and resulted in more than 50 face-to-face interviews with British-born expatriates of all ages and backgrounds from across many regions, including Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Dr Conway said: “Some people were quite insistent that we spoke to them. They had made a life for themselves in South Africa and believed they had made a contribution to the country. But they felt ‘forgotten’ and wanted to be heard. We had clearly tapped into something important.

“We were interested in finding out how they lived their everyday lives and what this said about their identity and level of integration. So, where did they shop, what did they eat, where did they drive and walk and where did they avoid? Did the interior of their house look like a recreation of England, or a vision of Africa? Things like that are very revealing.”