I’m an Expat New to Johannesburg. Which Group Should I Join?

As one of the “veteran” Johannesburg bloggers, I am contacted often by people eager to find out more about the city they are in the process of moving to. Where should we live, how dangerous is it, how can we get our kids in the school of our choice? Those are among the most common questions, and I’m quite proficient at answering them.

The question that has stumped me in the past is the one about expat groups. I admit I never started one, and never belonged to one either, though I did meet plenty of expats. We were quite happy in our own little world around Dainfern Valley and Dainfern College, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

But I realize that for many newly arrived expats, finding a group to join is a big deal – especially if you have young children and won’t necessarily meet people through school. When you find yourself on a new continent without much of a clue of where to start, being able to make friends from around the world who’ve undergone a similar move and can help you with valuable tips and introductions is worth pure gold.

Trust me, the gatherings of Johannesburg expats I’ve attended were much more diverse-looking than this stock photo, but I was a bit pressed for time to find a better one:-)

One such group is Trailing Spouses Johannesburg, I’ve written about them before. It’s definitely worth joining and I’d encourage everyone to contact their Facebook group. However, it seems to be quite the busy group, and sometimes requests can go unanswered for quite some time. There is a reason for this, as they want to make sure it stays to its true mission of serving expat spouses instead of getting flooded by people simply trying to sell trinkets to expats. But when you’re eager to make connections, having to wait for weeks at a time can be trying.

This is why I was delighted when I discovered a new expat group in a recent discussion on the Joburg Expat Facebook page. It’s called Translating Me, and Hannah Pirnie, its founder, agreed to write a guest post about it. Enjoy!

Translating Me: A Platform for Expats to Explore and Experience Joburg

by Hannah Pirnie

When you tell people you are moving to Johannesburg, the response is rarely positive. And this is nothing in comparison to searching it out on the internet, where you will find plenty of admonishments like these:
Don’t stop at red traffic lights, don’t walk anywhere, and here are some tips on how not to get high-jacked… 
We are here to show you the other side of Joburg: The reasons why many expats never want to leave at the end of their assignments, the hidden gems of daily life, and the inspirational people you will find living here in the City of Gold.
I set up Translating Me because I was fed up with sitting at home without anything to do. I had unwittingly become a 1950s housewife, with anybody I met asking me ‘what does your husband do?’  This wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to explore and to learn more about this place I had come to call home. The problem, however, was that I was never too sure which activities were safe to do. So I found some likeminded friends and together we started exploring, creating amazing experiences within this dangerous” city we had found ourselves in. I finally had things to talk about at dinner parties other than what my husband does for a living.

Translating Me is an online platform that showcases the best of Johannesburg’s local life, culture, travel and style. Our aim is to inspire adventure and curiosity, and to help individuals make an impact during their time here, both personally and professionally. We also run an online personal branding course, the Identity Project, which has helped hundreds of expats all over the world.

If you are in Joburg as an expat, you may only have two to three years of time, so don’t waste any day of it! There is so much to see, explore, and experience.  Come and join us at our next event and we can help create your bucket list for you.
Every month we run two events:
  1. Welcome to Joburg – Particularly for those who have just arrived, this is an opportunity to meet other people and ask all those important questions like “Where do I get my Traffic Register Number,” “When is Just Now,” and most importantly “What is Impala Poop Spitting.”
  2. Unique Jozi Experiences   We organize events such as photography tours, cooking lessons, gumboot dancing, a Soweto art tour, career talks, or interior design evenings, just to name a few.

For more information on dates, check out the website here: www.translatingme.org/events. Aside from that, I love connecting and meeting new people, so if you find yourself in Joburg, please do get in touch – I would love to show you around this wonderful city!


Hannah moved from Great Britain to Joburg in 2010, leaving her dream job working for the London 2012 Olympic Games to follow her husband to Africa. Since then two boys, one girl, and a Ridgeback dog (in reverse order) have filled her heart and time with love and noise. She strives to balance this busy new life with her passion of providing useful strategies and training programmes for other expats to help them reinvent their personal brand and maximize their experience abroad.

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