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What is it like to live in South Africa?

There are a number of things that South Africans take for granted that may come as a bit of a shock to the newcomer.

While safety can become an obsession with the expat at first, locking doors, keeping possessions out of sight, and general precautions like staying away from certain areas, are more of a way of life to those who have lived there for a longer period. Although the country is known for its high crime rates, the government is trying to tackle the problem. Safety levels vary between areas, and for those who want to take the worry out of everyday life, a gated community or secure development is the answer.

Spend too much time concentrating on the country’s safety issues, and you will miss the rich diversity of cultures, cuisines, art and architecture as well as the stunning scenery and unique wildlife. With 11 official languages, the country is home to a wealth of backgrounds and it is no wonder that it is known as the Rainbow Nation.

The newcomer may also find it difficult to come to terms with the apparent disparity between rich and poor. The country is recovering from a troubled history, and while the rights, responsibilities and freedoms of every citizen are now enshrined in law, the everyday lives of many people remain at a standard well below what they should be. Despite over 80% of South Africans identifying as black (2011 census), this group is still the most underprivileged, but with a whole host of government initiatives underway (on national as well as local level) change is slow but steady. You will no doubt experience the effects of this for yourself, and if you want to make a difference, the advice is to get involved with and financially support registered charities that can direct resources in the most effective way.


With a climate that’s well suited to outdoor pursuits, a magnificent landscape to explore and a beautiful coastline, it’s no wonder that South Africa is an inviting place for those who love to get out and have fun. Even in more urban areas, there are plenty of parks and gardens, offering a safe environment to enjoy the country’s vibrant natural colours.

South Africans are largely a friendly and welcoming people, so don't be surprised if you're invited to a ‘braai', not unlike a barbeque, where you can enjoy a few drinks, some charcoal-cooked food and good company in the open air.

Sport is also an important part of South African life. Whether it's cricket, rugby, or football (soccer), many South Africans have a passion for games played at a local level and by their national teams.

An alternative view of time

Be prepared for a different attitude to time, where punctuality and strict timekeeping are less of a priority than many are used to. ‘Now' can mean in the next 20 minutes or so, ‘just now' sometime today, and ‘now-now' sometime this year. That said, don’t make the mistake of assuming that this applies everywhere. South Africans are also hard working professionals who respect politeness and decency. If it’s up to you, make sure you’re on time. If someone else keeps you waiting, be patient.

You will enjoy living in South Africa even more if you feel totally confident in the health care provision you have in place. Call our team today for a comprehensive round up of what you and your family will need to make sure your move is a happy and healthy one.

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