The Joys of South African Bureaucracy

If you have never lived in South Africa, the very idea of a TV License might be a rather alien one. Why would you need a license to watch TV in your very own home? But you do, renewable annually. It's their way of collecting a tax for broadcast TV. Even though you will probably never be caught watching that, and even though you pay a much more handsome fee for cable via Multichoice.

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The Rose-Tinted Glasses of Hindsight

I had just gone through having to cancel Eskom, Telkom, and other utilities. But those were South African services and not American services. American services, I learned in about 12 minutes last week, are absolutely AWESOME to cancel. If you live in South Africa, you might want to stop reading right here, or you might suffer a severe case of customer service envy.

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The Expat Game in Reverse (Canceling Services)

Canceling services in South Africa isn't nearly as laborious as signing up. No one asks for passport copies or lease agreements, and most of it can be done over the phone or via email, even online. But even canceling things is not without its pitfalls here in South Africa. For instance, you could once again run into the problem that you're only the spouse and therefore not allowed to cancel.

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Tips on Selling a Car in South Africa

I'm pleased to report that I'm now qualified to write about the business of selling a car. Tips on Buying a Car in South Africa has by far been my most-Googled and most-read blog post, so I imagine the back-end of it might be interesting to some folks as well. It's a little less complicated, but requires some interesting paperwork nonetheless.

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I’m Only The Spouse

South Africa, you see, is "so 1950s" as one of my readers recently remarked. Nowhere else that I've ever lived have I been made to feel my housewife label so unforgivingly as here in South Africa. "Certainly Mam, we can upgrade your SMS bundle, if just the account holder could call us first to give his okay." The account holder, inevitably, is your spouse who is too busy making such calls.

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Not You Too, City of Joburg?

They must have sensed that there has been a six month lull on Joburg Expat with regards to utility service providers and their propensity to screw me over. Or maybe they thought that I wasn't being fair, extensively covering Eskom and Telkom with multiple "This is Africa" blog posts and ignoring the poor City of Joburg. Because here comes the City of Joburg with a vengeance.

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How to Watch Netflix in South Africa

*** Update September 2016: You now get Netflix in South Africa without the need for what’s described below, except for a streaming device such as Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or a SmartTV. All you need to do is create a Netflix account using your South African credit card, and you can ... 

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Just Two Flimsy Pieces of Paper, Yet All that Could Stand Between You and a Prison Cell

For all those of you moving to South Africa or simply taking a trip here, I thought I would share this cautionary tale. It’s actually a gem of a story I just happened to stumble upon last night, and ever on the hunt for writing material, I was practically already writing it while I heard it told.

We were all at a “girl’s night out” dinner, and the food by the way was fabulous. Then our hostess made us all play a game, in return for the fabulous food, and the game was “write something no one knows about you on a piece of paper and pull someone else’s paper from ... 

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Digging for the Water Meter

I’m making my way to another expat tip of mine, if you’ll just bear with me.

We recently had some repairs done to our irrigation system. I know you’ll accuse me of snobbery for daring to complain about such things as pools and irrigation systems, but it just reinforces my philosophy that material things don’t necessarily make you any happier. They mainly create more work. In my next life I want to be an irrigation system specialist. Oh how sweet would it be to just go out there and turn one of those sprinkler heads to point towards the lawn and not the road. Or the house. But it is strictly impossible to comprehend the workings of these pesky things. Whenever I can actually get someone to come out and take a look, I hover over them, at the risk of being drenched, to try and discern how in the world he turns that head so it’s pointing the right way. But invariably I lose track after he twists and turns and pushes down and turns again, and I have to admit to myself that I have no idea. The only thing I’ve ever succeeded in doing is ripping the head off completely, which then gives you a fountain in your yard where you really don’t want it. So we recently had some sprinkler heads replaced and some leaks repaired, and in order to do that, the repair guy had to turn off our water mains. I had no idea where that might be, and he somehow found it on his own. Later, as he was getting ready to leave when all the lawn cycles had been gone through and demonstrated to be working, he mentioned to me that “by the way, I had to dig sort of deep to actually get to the water mains, what with all the grass growing on top of it, and there is no way anyone has come and done an actual water meter reading in the last several years.” Hmmm. Now at least I know where the water meter is. Apparently, all the water meter readings we’ve been getting since moving here are pure estimates. We’ve been faithfully paying an entirely fictitious water bill. So for the expat tip: Find out where your water meter is, and do a reading as soon as you move into your new house, just so that you have an idea what the starting point is and if your monthly charges from then on out make any sense.
Successful excavation of our water meter. See the toad on the left? And meter on the right?
As for me? Out of curiosity, I trekked down to the road where the meter is hidden under a flap in the lawn and checked it out. I couldn’t find anything but a friendly toad and a bazillion ants, but a bit of digging indeed revealed a water meter. Do you think I should check it against our charges, ficticious as they might be? Seeing as our monthly City of Joburg bill seems reasonable (around R700 if you take out all the non-variables such as garbage and sewage fee), and considering I’ve spent a good part of last month on the phone with Eskom and Telkom and am not particularly keen to add yet another government agency to my calling list, and remembering that it took the City of Joburg only about three months to deliver a new trash can, I think I might well opt to let sleeping dogs lie. Read More ››