Some time ago I received the following reader comment:
I am astonished to read that people want to move to SA.
Are they blind on both ears?
Anatomical issues aside, I was bothered by this comment. It is the typical reaction of people who know nothing about South Africa and yet feel compelled to make some kind of judgment about its fitness as a place to live.
Perhaps the best answer is to just shrug and say, “suit yourself.” One less grouchy person to contend with. Let them miss out on what could be a beautiful life experience.
But I’ve never been one to just shrug it off. And the thing is, the other side of the coin needs to be represented, as a counterweight to the doomsday-sayers crowding the expat forums. These are the people who perpetuate the myth that South Africa is a cesspool of crime and corruption. They want to tell you that you’re better off living somewhere in Europe where you’re always safe and where governments are beyond reproach.
I hope you caught the sarcasm in that last sentence. The point is, no place is completely safe, and no government beyond reproach. Some places are safer than others, I grant you that, but they might have other factors counting against them, such as the weather. Or the gloomy faces put on display by the majority of the population. Or any number of other things that play a role in making you happy, day to day and also in the long term.
So why would you want to move to South Africa? Here are three reasons:
1. South Africa is a beautiful country
|Sodwana Bay, just south of the Mozambique border|
|Franschhoek, South Africa’s fabled wine region|
|Johannesburg street with blooming jacarandas|
|Sunset near Kruger Park|
|Nelson Mandela Bridge in downtown Joburg|
|Giraffes in Madikwe Game Reserve|
|The Southern tip of Africa near Cape Town|
|Elephants near the border to Botswana|
|Cape Town waterfront with Table Mountain in the background|
|Aerial view of the Magaliesberg near the Cradle of Humankind|
2. South Africa offers an incredible lifestyle
Perhaps I’m a simple mind, but for me, lifestyle starts with the weather. When the sun is shining, I’m happy. And by God the sun shines in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg and the surrounding highveld. It shines in the summer and it shines in the winter, and yet temperatures almost never get oppressively hot. This fosters a lifestyle full of outdoors activities. The kids run around outside, and half their school day seems to take place out of doors. Shopping and infrastructure are there when you need them, but the wildest Africa is always within easy reach if you want to get away. The quality of fresh food is amazing, eating out and evening entertainment is very affordable, and you can indulge the luxury of live-in domestic help. To top it all off, South Africans are some of the friendliest people on Earth. If you’re not invited to a braai at someone’s home for some Boerewors and a glass of Chardonnay within a few weeks after arrival, I’d say you accidentally stepped into a wormhole and have landed in some faraway galaxy instead of South Africa.
3. People who HAVE moved to South Africa don’t want to leave
There is no better way to judge what people think of a place than to see how they’re voting with their feet. I don’t claim to have done a double-blind study on this, so if you’re now opening your mouth to accuse me of anecdotal writing, you are absolutely right; I have nothing but anecdotes. However, as the founder of one of the most-read expat blogs about South Africa – 1.6 million pageviews strong as of this month – I have many such anecdotes. Very few expats end up in Joburg without first having read my blog, and many of those end up contacting me personally to ask questions. And between all these people as well as my extensive network of friends, I haven’t met a single one who has voiced unhappiness about their life in South Africa.
Yes, we all know that blogs and Twitter and Facebook pages are echo chambers. Perhaps only those of us who share the same views are talking to each other. I’m sure there are expats who’ve tried South Africa, didn’t like it or had a bad experience, and have returned home. But I do know that there is a huge number of expats living a happy life in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and many places in between, who have their eyes (and ears) wide open and see a beautiful country. Their biggest fear? That the day they’ll be transferred back home is coming too soon.
Granted, expats are not locals. Many South Africans do vote with their feet and leave the country. They fear financial insecurity, a job market with few opportunities for them or their children, a government that might take over private enterprises, and yes, crime. Leaving their home and building a new life elsewhere is often their ticket to what they crave most, a second passport, their security blanket, just in case. As an expat moving TO South Africa, you already carry that passport with you, meaning the problems driving South Africans away aren’t necessarily your problems. You get the upside of weather and lifestyle without much of a downside.
Still not convinced?
Several years ago I wrote Top 10 Reasons You Should Move to Johannesburg Despite the Crime Rate for ExpatsBlog, an article that was somewhat tongue in cheek but touched the same points. It received many wonderful comments from people who shared more reasons why they thought life in Johannesburg was or had been a wonderful experience. Be sure to check it out if you’re still on the fence on whether you should move to South Africa or not.