As Joburg Expat is nearing its 600th blog post and its 1 millionth page view, I can’t help but feel that I’ve already shared everything there is to know about life in South Africa.
All you have to do is start at the beginning of my blog and read. And read and read. Believe it or not, there are actually people who do just that, and who then shoot me a gushing email on how grateful they are for the help. This always warms my heart and I do appreciate the feedback.
However, not everyone has the time to slog through my blog one entry at the time, or even zero in on certain topics by using the tabs across the top (which, I do have to mention, I am insanely proud of as they required quite a bit of HTML programming at the time).
Thus, the idea of giving expats a top-10 list of must-read articles from my blog (and from other websites I’ve written for) was born. A reading list covering every main topic from finding a school, renting a house, registering a car, finding a bank, and so on, up until the very important matter of booking a safari once the container is unpacked. It was really hard to pick just ten items, but I think I’ve come up with a good list of essentials. Also, some of this is specific to Johannesburg, but I think that you’ll find almost all of it useful no matter where in South Africa you choose to settle.
Without further ado, here it is:
Expat Moving to South Africa? Start HERE
1. TO MOVE OR NOT TO MOVE:
At the beginning of any expat move comes the decision. It’s never easy, but it becomes a little easier when you are able to throttle fear and worry and instead allow yourself to become excited about the place you might soon call your home. Read Top 10 Reasons to Move to Johannesburg Despite the Crime Rate, even if your destination is another South African city – most of it will apply there too.
I didn’t use to have this at the very top of the list, but space in both private and international schools in Johannesburg (and from what I’ve heard, even more so in Cape Town) has become extremely limited in the last few years, and so researching and selecting a school for your children is the number one priority. Read all about South African Schools and link from there to the list of private schools in Johannesburg.
You’ve got the job lined up (or so I presume, it being the reason you’re likely moving to South Africa), and you’ve found a school and hopefully reserved a spot or put your child on the waitlist, so now the third piece of the puzzle in the triumvirate of location is where to live. Reading Finding a House in Johannesburg: Part 1 is the best place to start, linking to Part 2 and other topics from there. If you’re moving to Cape Town, follow the link to Expat Arrivals in the housing article.
4. DOMESTIC HELP:
Hiring a maid may not be at the top of your list or even on your radar, but like every expat you will end up hiring a domestic worker and loving the lifestyle it brings with it. So you might as well read up on Hiring Domestic Help early and be prepared for when that first knock comes at your door, the very day you’ve moved in, with someone asking for a job.
Once you’ve arrived in South Africa, the first order of business is to find a car. Most South African cities, and Johannesburg most of all, do not distinguish themselves with their public transport system. In fact, they don’t have much of one. You will need a car, and there is some bureaucracy attached to owning one. Start with How to Register a Car in South Africa, and link to the other car-related posts from the list in the sidebar.
There is such a flurry of things you must do upon arrival that it’s hard to decide which one to pick first, but Opening a Bank Account in South Africa is one of the first things you’ll need to do. Some expats somehow manage without a local bank account, but this has always sounded cumbersome to me.
Hopefully, you don’t need a doctor on the very first day of your expat stay, but you will want to go ahead and find a general practitioner, dentist, orthodontist, and hospital of choice, as well as select a health insurance plan and make yourself familiar with all the emergency numbers. Read Going to the Doctor in South Africa for all this and more.
Read TV, Internet, and Phone Service in South Africa to get these crucial services set up as soon as possible. Regarding internet, sign up for an uncapped plan, otherwise you (or, if not you, then your kids) will be frustrated by the low data cap, especially if you’re planning on using a service like UnoTelly to stream channels from abroad. Be forewarned though that data speeds in South Africa are mostly slow.
I’m not so much talking about pleasure shopping here, that will come later. But right after moving to South Africa, especially if coming from the United States, you will need to acquire new appliances and perhaps TVs as well, and most likely adapter plugs and extension cords. And, horrors, there won’t be any Amazon.com to order from. Read Where Can I Find an Alarm Clock? for a list of places to start looking.
It’s finally time to play! At some point in time, you have to stop wanting the perfect house and waiting around for “just now” calls from service providers that, frankly, will never come, and embark on adventure instead. South Africa and surroundings is full of it, and your days there as an expat are numbered. But there are so many options, you say. Read Help! Which Safari Lodge? to get started, and link to What to Do in Joburg from there.
There is, of course, a lot more you’ll need to know, from visa issues to pet relocation, pool maintenance, gardening, grocery stores, traffic, sports, corruption, language, recycling, bureaucracy, and utilities, and I’ve written about all of those and more (I probably have 35 blog posts on Eskom, the power company, alone). But I think the above will give you an excellent start with your new life.