Considering an expatriate assignment to South Africa?
You are considering moving to South Africa and trying to decide if it is a good idea. Naturally you Google South Africa and hit the information overload, positive and negative. Ideally I would say stop reading, take the leap and experience the country for yourself. But if you are not feeling quite so adventurous, here are my thoughts and ideas that may help you decide faster.
Yes, we the South Africans may not be happy about this but for an expatriate from abroad our weak currency can be a blessing. Try and negotiate that at least a portion if not all of your salary is paid in USD, Euro or Pounds and you will be enjoying the buying power our weak Rand gives you. Added to that is the fact that our food and housing (rent or buy) is generally cheaper than 1st world countries, giving you a lot more quality and purchasing power for your money.
South African climate
At first you may think that the climate cannot influence how you feel about a country, but I beg to differ. Nothing can beat sunshine most days of the year to raise your vitamin D levels and positive thoughts. Moderate climate, brief rain spells to refresh the air, no tornadoes or hurricanes and sunshine all year around make South Africa the best prescription for increase in your serotonin and dopamine levels to bring feelings of happiness and pleasure.
Our summer thunderstorms are so spectacular that they deserve to be mentioned as a stand-alone reason to live in South Africa. Mostly occurring at night, quick to come and go and followed by rain, you are not likely to witness such powerful and beautiful lightning and thunder elsewhere. A little safety tip: if you want to admire the lightning and thunder in the open, count the seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the sound of thunder. Each second in between means approximately 2 kilometers away from you. Make sure you are safe and indoors well before it is too close.
We socialize actively
South Africans love the outdoors. We use every opportunity to go out, lunch break in the office, early morning ride or jog, weekend activities. Everything revolves around being outdoors and breathing fresh air. If you are getting together with friends this is likely to happen outside on your patio around the braai (South African for barbeque), at a picnic spot, around the pool or at the golf course.
I remember when my European family first visited us in South Africa. They were amazed that the guests did not sit around the table for hours, talking and eating. We had invited around 30 people and everyone milled around, standing, playing darts, playing badminton, swimming, sitting at the table or in the garden and even taking short walks around the neighborhood. When the food was ready everyone ate either standing, sitting or on their laps. This “active outdoorsy socializing” was such a revelation for my folks that they promised to introduce it back home.
Sporty health conscious people
South Africans love sport, you will see runners, cyclists and gym goers at any time of the day. Group activities are very popular and newcomers are welcomed and supported. Healthy living and eating is not just trending now, it has been a way of life for South Africans for a long time. You can’t help but get hooked on the drive to make good choices. Join a sport club you enjoy and feel the pleasure of the vitality this lifestyle brings. You will definitely meet many new likeminded friends along the way and experience parts of the country that the regular couch potato may not have even heard of. Best of all is that each time you go home for a visit you will hear endless compliments about your good sun kissed looks.
South Africa is big and spacious. Our streets are wide, our homes are very spacious, open and airy. It is normal to have a garden and pool, separate bedroom for each child and a large patio for your outdoor socialising. If you are coming on an expat assignment you are likely to get a lot more space than what you are used to. Prepare to shop for more furniture and clothes because now you will even have a walk-in closet.
Our private schools are great. They promote balanced lifestyle and education including academics, art and sport. The kids will be well rounded and if you ensure they actively participate in the school activities, you are unlikely to hear the familiar “I am bored” refrain. The schools also have regular projects where parents are welcome to get involved helping you find friends and feel a part of your child’s life.
Excellent health system (private health that is)
We are paying quite a steep medical aid fee for this but on the positive side, you get to chose the doctor that you like and trust, you can go for as many opinions as you need and you do not have to rely on your allocated general practitioner to confirm whether you need to see a specialist or not. I have heard from many expatriates that they do their family planning with the aim to be in South Africa while pregnant and in the first few years of their kids’ lives because of the amazing health care system and options for pregnant mothers and babies.
Great food (this comes with a warning, portions can be huge, beware the creeping weight gain)
Nothing can beat the juicy succulent piece of rump steak you can get in South Africa. When I first tasted South African beef it did not taste like any beef I had eaten before in Europe. There are many reasons for this, the space the cows have to roam, the grass and herbs they eat. The same can be said for the local lamb and chicken and great tasting vegetables and fruit. The climate allows for seasonal produce all year around. Be warned though, South African restaurants compete not only on taste but also on portion size. Huge plates and portions together with the great taste can slowly make their way into your daily lifestyle and soon you will be wondering how the kilos managed to creep in despite all the sport.
Green, gardens, parks
South Africans love nature, gardens, plants, parks. The cities are full of green spaces, new developments even include parks and lakes in their designs. You will see trees and flowers everywhere and any time of the year. Even a multimillion population city such as Johannebsurg that was built far from natural water sources is boasting the biggest man made forest in the world, estimated 10 million trees planted by man.
Arts, markets, theater
South Africa is a young country relative to others and there is youth, excitement and vibrancy to the local art and culture scene. Visit 44 Stanley or Market On Main in Johannesburg, or The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, Cape Town; markets, art galleries, theatres, street art, concerts in the parks, jazz festivals, there is something new to do, see and experience every day of the week.
Child friendly country
We are obsessed with keeping kids entertained so you will find child friendly venues, restaurants and events everywhere. Kids are seldom scolded for running around and being kids, some venues even provide water features for the kids to get wet and dirty and have fun. Even sporting events are organized with the kids in mind and offer kids’ sized events and additional entertainment.
South Africa has oceans for amazing surfing, ocean views and holidays by the sea, large rivers and dams for river rafting, water sports and fishing, beautiful mountains to hike, stunning flowering planes and even deserts. There is a piece of nature for every taste. Even though you are unlikely to see snow you can go sand boarding on beautiful sand dunes. Not to forget the numerous large and well-kept nature reserves for photo safari where you can drive for days on end admiring the diversity of the local flora and fauna.
Respectful and non-judgmental people
I have now lived in South Africa for 20 years and at first I was bewildered by the local people’s reluctance to give me their honest opinion if it was going to be negative. Slowly however I came to appreciate the local people’s deep respect for each other’s choices, opinions and freedoms. People here dress in a variety of fashions, cook a huge variety of foods, build all sorts of houses, belong to all kinds of spiritual groups or religions and do not judge each other’s choices. My kids can go to the shops barefoot if they want to and no passer by will stop and shake their head in disapproval. Respect for each other’s freedom of expression is deeply imbedded in the local mindset giving you the opportunity to feel more empowered and make bolder choices every day.
South Africa is vibrant, interesting, busy and cosmopolitan. Open up your mind and self for meeting new people and new experiences and there will be no better place for your next expatriate assignment.
We at Expats On The Globe have been walking the journey of moving country with our expatriate clients for many years and understand what it takes to move your entire life across borders. Call us for a quote on immigration, relocation, intercultural training or personal goods removal.