Unsuitable Home

Moving to Johannesburg anytime soon? If you are, you are probably looking for a house. This can be more difficult than you think. When Noisette and I, the accompanying spouse – who later became the Glamorous ExpatWife –  had gone all the way to South Africa on a house-hunting boondoggle one September some years ago, and looked at a bazillion homes, one more beautiful and bigger than the other, we settled on our first choice after much hand ringing and hemming and hawing. A letter of intent was signed, earnest money changed hands, and plans were made. However, and this is a note of caution to you prospective expats out there: South African sellers and landlords are prone to change their minds. In our case, it transpired that the house so beautifully suited to our needs, or so we thought, was no longer going to be leased, because the wife, who had somehow not actually been informed by her own husband of the pending plans to rent out her house, was up in arms about it and then decided she’d rather sell it. Maybe we should have known not to go with the house with the two yapping poodles at the front gate. Over the three years that we lived in that same neighborhood, the house was never sold nor leased, as evidenced by the poodles remaining firmly in place. But it was shown to potential buyers as well as renters all the same, as we learned from friends of ours who were looking to buy a house. So, back to square one before our relocation, a second house was looked at, this time by Noisette solo because no one was flying the spouse over there a second time, glamorous or otherwise, and another letter of intent was signed, after much emailing back and forth so that I could at least see a ton of pictures to help make a decision. It was another lovely house. Alas, its owners also didn’t feel compelled to stick too literally to the “intent” part of the letter, and so this home slipped through our hands as well. We ended up with the third house. Which, frankly, I never actually looked at, because by that time I had resigned myself to probably living in a tent somewhere upon arrival. That prospect seemed preferably to wasting any more time on houses that wouldn’t work out anyway. Noisette quietly looked at it, signed a lease, and the first time I set eyes on Number Three was when I stepped over its threshold a few months later, exhausted kids in tow (who immediately proceeded to fight over who would get which room). And perhaps it was a good thing. It was the perfect house for us. Not one to fall in love with at first sight, but the only one within walking distance of the school, which turned out to be a huge bonus, and also the only North-facing one, which, in the Southern hemisphere with no heat and bad insulation is a must during winter. So you see, this all helped us make a more rational decision rather than me picking the prettiest kitchen. To find out what else might be important in choosing the right home in Johannesburg, read the following guest post by Barbara Bruhwiler. An Unsuitable Home by Barbara Bruhwiler Some people are car people. They spend most of their money on cars. Some people are clothes people. Do you remember the Sex and the City episode where Carry Bradshaw muses about where the money from her bestselling books disappeared to? And her friend points out that it ended up in her shoe closet – and in Manolo Blahnik’s account. Carry is clearly a clothes type. Then there are house people who like to spend their money on houses. But even if you are not a house type of person – if you pick an unsuitable home in Johannesburg, your whole expat experience can turn sour.
“The Balinese”. Photo by Barbara Bruhwiler

Finding a House in Johannesburg: Part 2

Joburg is a BIG city. There are lots and lots of areas and neighborhoods, and finding the right one for you can be intimidating, to say the least. It’s hard to know where to start.   As promised previously in Finding a House in Johannesburg: Part 1, I will now give you a list of suburbs to choose from. But first, have a look at this map. I would have loved to see a simple map like this before moving here, as it will go a long way towards giving you an idea where things are, not just for house-hunting but all sorts of other purposes. Like finding out where in the world your daughter’s netball match will be (even if you have no idea WHAT in the world netball is). Just remember that the map isn’t everything, because it doesn’t show TRAFFIC. What looks close isn’t necessarily so.  
Map courtesy of privateproperty.co.za
  Ok, getting to the actual suburbs: The following is what I wrote for the website Expat Arrivals about Areas and Suburbs in Johannesburg, listing them all going from North to South. (You should definitely visit Expat Arrivals as it is an excellent resource for expats getting their bearings in South Africa.)

Including Waterfall, Kyalami
Technically Midrand might not count as a Johannesburg suburb as it is so far removed, but especially in the last few years it has become a popular area to live, offering affordable housing set in wide open ...  Continue Reading

Finding a House in Johannesburg: Part 1

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I’ve already posted several times about living in the Dainfern area, which it is probably safe to say is one of the prime expat locations in Johannesburg.

But writing a more comprehensive guide to living in Joburg that compares the different suburbs in a less biased way had been on my agenda for quite some time. Except I mostly procrastinated writing it, because I felt I didn’t know enough about Joburg. Writing your own blog is great, but meeting deadlines is not one thing you’ll get good at, because, well, there aren’t any deadlines. I got the much-needed kick in the pants to finally deliver my “guide to accommodations in Joburg” from the folks at another website, Expat Arrivals, for whom I’d written several articles before, and what you’ll now read here is an adapted version of what was published on their website a few weeks back. To read the original article, please visit Expat Arrivals. In this first post of this two-part series, let’s focus on the =&0=& as you prepare to find a place to live in Johannesburg (or anywhere in South Africa, for that matter). Tomorrow I’ll elaborate on the actual suburbs of Johannesburg. Size

What size house will you be looking for? Are you expecting plenty of ...  Continue Reading

Living Under the $#!&pipe

I’m only so wholesome as to disguise my spelling because I can’t remember if I signed away my rights to foul language under whatever agreement I must have entered with Blogger, and I don’t want to be reprimanded. I hate to be reprimanded. Or banned, that would be even worse, as my ...  Continue Reading

Gardening in South Africa

One of the most annoying things about becoming an expat is having to learn certain things from scratch. Like what kind of fish to buy. Which cut of meat you need when you’re looking for flank steak. And the names of the plants around you.

I thought this being spring would be a good time to tell ...  Continue Reading