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South Africa

(30 Posts)
becs1973 Mon 08-Oct-12 04:43:11

Hi, am after some advice/other peoples thoughts/experiences and am also writing this down as a way to clarify my own thinking. I'm originally from the UK, my husband is south african but has not lived there since 1997. We have 3 young children (aged from 5 months to 4 years old). We are currently in a bit of a quandary as to where to live.

At the moment we live in Malaysia but it's not an option for us to stay here in the long term. We are in the process of applying for Australian perm residency visas and we all have UK passports so also have the option of moving back to the UK. The main issue I have with Oz is that we will be so far away from family back in europe and SA. It was never really a consideration for me prior to having kids but now I would really like them to grow up knowing other family members. Both our sets of parents are getting old and the trip to Oz would be a huge undertaking for them. I would love to move back to the UK but my husband would not have a great work/life balance in London and also we'd like to be somewhere the climate is a little more friendly to an outdoor lifestyle. So now we are also considering a move to South Africa.

Are we wrong to think he might have work/life balance were we to move to South Africa? His feeling is the lifestyle would be more laid back than London was.

Next question and this is the BIG reason why I'm hesitating on a move to South Africa and it is of course the crime issue. Don't want this to turn into an SA bashing thread at all, because I love the country, but it would be unrealistic to say it doesn't have a crime problem. However, how bad is it in reality on a day to day basis for someone not living in the townships? If you have moved there from the UK do you feel crime/fear of crime severely impacts you day to day life in SA? We lived in London in the UK so I do understand the need to be careful, equally where we are currently there is minimal violent crime but petty crime is an issue. My partners parents live in rural SA so there is no real crime issue where they are. It's difficult to get a clear idea of just how bad it is and how much it impacts on day to day life. We would probably have to live in Joburg or Pretoria (sadly not Cape Town smile.

So there you go, sorry for the ramble. Any thoughts or advice? Would proximity to family trump the issue of crime in SA? Grateful for any advice you might have, thank you!

KnickersNotPanties Mon 08-Oct-12 05:13:49

Becs, I hope I can help.

My DH is South African, I am English (but was raised in South Africa until I moved back to the UK in my late teens).

We lived in the UK for 12 years - during which time we had our children. After having kids (2 boys) we decided that work life balance in the UK wasn't working for us so we decided to move back to South Africa (Cape Town).

We knew, the minute we left the airport when we arrived in South Africa that we'd made a huge mistake. Cape Town is a stunning place to have a holiday but the reality of living there is a COMPLETELY different kettle of fish.

Here's why (for us anyways).

1. The crime - it is rife. It does affect everybody at sometime or another. Personally, we were lucky and never found ourselves in trouble, but - our uncle was shot, our best friend was stabbed and her dad was shot and stabbed - all in different incidents. These are serious crimes and you may escape them - lesser crime (house/car robbery) are just to be expected. They happen all the time. We lived in Cape Town - which is considered "safer" than Joburg or Pretoria.
2. Unemployment/poverty - this was the biggest thing for me. I couldn't make peace with the fact that 80% of the population live on the breadline. True poverty which affects children, with no way out. Unfortunately, to live in South Africa you have to be somewhat desensitised to extreme poverty and hard luck stories - I didn't want to raise my children this way. I want them to always look at a starving hungry homeless child and feel nothing but empathy for them.
3. Disease - HIV is rife. It's a fact of life and something you need to consider when employing home help. The wonderful woman who worked for us had an HIV positive husband. Obviously, we didn't terminate her employment, but we had to be mindful of accidents etc, given that there was a strong likelihood that she could contract the disease. Tuberculosis is also rife, English children aren't vaccinated routinely - which is a problem. We arrived when DS1 was 3 years old, past the cutoff for the vaccination, so it was always a worry that he would contract it.
5. Corruption and no state subsidy - the South African government is as corrupt as they come. There are few standards - as we know them in the UK. State hospitals are horrendous and under-resourced, there is no social services per se.
6. Cost of living - this has soared in recent years. South Africa is no longer the cheap destination it used to be.
7. Lack of prospects, given Affirmative Action policies in South Africa, employment prospects for young people aren't great - probably no worse than in the UK at present though.

After three years in South Africa, we moved to Australia and have never looked back. I am sad to leave the place I was raised, despite all it's issues, it's still an incredibly beautiful, diverse country. The people, are on the whole, wonderful and warm.

I hope you don't think I am bashing SA, because I am truly not. I just thought a balanced view of the issues you will face, will be useful.

Good luck smile

GupX Mon 08-Oct-12 05:22:49

A close friend of my family live in SA and I won't even go to visit with our DS's.

They have friends who have been robbed in their own homes at knifepoint, whose kids where threatened with rape by the burglars.

They have a house surrounded by an electric fence. A maid who left her own young family for days at a time to look after their children.

Not a lifestyle I could even consider.

KnickersNotPanties Mon 08-Oct-12 05:26:23

Yup Gup - My DH agrees. He's South African to his core but he won't even consider taking the children there on holiday. He says he'd never forgive himself if something happened.

He worries most about road safety - more than 1500 people die on the roads there over the xmas period alone each year.

Salbertina Tue 09-Oct-12 08:21:49

Gosh, surprised to find myself defending SA as am also rather critical for reasons already mentioned...

Life here is one of extremes in my opinion, v good and v bad, little inbetween . Yes, we have electric fence, armed response but you do get used to it especially when it surrounds your own lovely pool! I dont mean to sound insensitive but that's an obvious perk of living here esp in the climate.

I think its good for my kids in many ways- they've seen real poverty and ask about it, they attend school - and are unthinkingly friends - with township kids as well as entrepreneurs' kids. They run around barefoot in summer and do sport on the beach. It is easy to get directly involved with helping people- v hands on literacy programs or creche support.

It is v v expensive now, totally agree.

Re crime, I've had a few (not most) neighbours and dcs' school friends suffer armed robbery but only 1 of these caused actual harm. Several friends had petty theft from cars, house etc but that is it, no worse.

Meid Tue 09-Oct-12 11:29:52

We've been living in Joburg for over 3 years now - I am from London, DH from SA.

We have found the work/life balance extremely better than in London. Life is less rushed here. We somehow have more family time. The kids are also less pressured in the schooling system here and spend their lunchtimes running around barefeet and climbing trees - they are very happy. We always have a chuckle with each other whenever we hear people moaning about how stressful life is in Joburg - they have no idea!

As far as the crime goes we have never been affected. Yes we have an electric fence, burgular bars and alarms on our property but you don't really notice it to be honest (or choose not to notice it). And as said above we just enjoy our garden and pool, the climate in Joburg is stunning. We do of course know people who have been affected by the crime so we could never say it won't happen.

The only two negative things that really bother me are two things already mentioned: the state of the roads and drivers and the cost of living.

It does of course help that there are other options. We all have UK passports and a property in the UK... we could go back at any time.

But generally we have no regrets over moving here - Johannesburg is a beautiful city.

Good luck with your decision.

wildcake Tue 09-Oct-12 15:46:19

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

becs1973 Wed 10-Oct-12 03:26:42

Hi everyone, sorry for the delayed response, been a bit busy with the kids the last couple of days. Just wanted to say thank you for your replies, it's all certainly food for thought and I guess nothing I'd not expected to hear, but it is also nice to hear a few positive posts too smile As it turns out Oz is out of contention, so it's UK or SA....we shall see. We are out there for a few weeks over Christmas so will give it some thought whilst we are there. Thanks again for your input.

notmydog Wed 10-Oct-12 12:21:13

Hi Becs, it was interesting reading everyones responses. DH and I are both dual SA/British passport holders. We've both grown up in SA and have lived in the UK for about 6 years (where DD was born) before we moved back to SA in 2007. We are now on our way back to England, hopefully by March next year.
It's been a very hard decision to make, especially as we will be leaving family behind. Overall, we do feel that the UK is the better option for us at this point in time. I love SA very very much. But in the 5 years we have been back I have grown very apprehensive about the future here. I don't want to repeat what Knickers have already said, but I pretty much agree with everything she's written.

We live in the Garden Route, to me the most beautiful place on earth. We have an idyllic life. But financially we have been going backwards since we've arrived and we can't make it work for much longer. SA has become extremely expensive. I'm about to cancel my hospital plan, because I simply cannot afford it any more. DH has an IT training business, which has now simply stopped generating any income. He can earn £200 per day doing the same job in London. I just don't see a future for us here anymore.

I feel as if everything in SA is balanced on a tight rope, and the it can all come tumbling down at any minute. Not trying to sound melodramatic. I've always been the most optimistic person wrt SA's future. I've also always been very politically aware, as it was my study field. I've always been able to look at things objectively. I've worked very closely with young people of all races for the first 3 years after our return and I've gained so much, they were incredible to deal with, positive, vibrant. But the current mob behaviour scares me. I feel that something has changed. For the first time I am scared. Not only of crime, but of political unstability. As much as I think the currently government is a currupt bunch of idiots, I'm scared of the alternatives. I'd rather get out now, while I can. My DD is 7. I understand that things in the UK are not brilliant. I'm not looking at the UK through rose tinted glasses. But overall I just feel so much better about our decision to move back.

Good luck with your decision, it is so very hard to know what to do.

Salbertina Wed 10-Oct-12 14:55:14

Am with you on much of that especially financial aspect- many downplay or are hugely outofdate on just how very expensive SA has become without the ability to earn a compensatory income or the job options of say London; plus there are significant additional costs- state school fees of £1,000s, healthcare & need to be a 2 -car family due to lack of alternatives.
If we weren't here already, i doubt we would come had we realised sad . Now we've been here a while, got a life to unravel and new Uk jobs to get so will all take time.
Good luck!

Salbertina Wed 10-Oct-12 14:58:23

All these strikes and the social unrest around them are also making me wonder about short-term stability here sad
Hard to know, its high stakes, a developing , v young country and all in the balance! I think its longterm future is good, just might be a brutal path to get there sad

GreyElephant Wed 10-Oct-12 20:04:21

SA will always be the better option until you are that victim of crime. Then it may well be the worst decision you have ever made. I think you just have to decide what the chances are that you will become that victim of crime.

My concern is that the severity of crimes is increasing. Burglary is with weapons, sometimes they are used, and horrific threats are made which are sometimes carried out.

I am biased: My uncle's brother was shot dead in a raid on his farm, it seems that rural areas are not so safe anymore. And my cousin's husband was beaten severely in front of their children in a burglary at their home. Their house was heavily guarded too.

When was the last time you were in the UK? We went back to the UK recently and i was surprised just how good it was. London was so clean and seemed so safe and the people so friendly and happy. Huge improvement on 5 years ago.

When we lived in London we worked hard but we slept safely in our beds at night. I am not sure i could sleep soundly in SA so we made the decision never to return. I know i have biased opinions, so apologies, i do love SA and a part of my heart will always remain there, i'm just not going back.

UB40fan Wed 10-Oct-12 20:48:58


Another South African here. I left South Africa in 1990. Have been back 4 times since. One of those times was to get married. Last time was 14 years ago. I am lucky in that none of my immediate family live there anymore. Even my cousins and some uncles and aunts have also left. I admit that as much as I would like to go back (just to visit,never to live) I am scared after such a long time of not having been in South Africa. However after all this time I still sometimes get an overwhelming feeling of sadness that I have not been back for so long. I have lived in a few countries now and for me the place I want to settle in one day is England. We were last there on holiday in 2010. When there we stayed in Eltham, London. We had a wonderful holiday and everyone there and in London were very friendly and chatty. You do not get that level of chattiness in other countries. Oh , we also found people very polite.

UB40fan Wed 10-Oct-12 21:10:07

Sorry,meant to add that none of my immediate family live in the same country as me. This makes things harder. It also makes it easier to not go back and live there. If I could drive(very important in SA) and did not have children, I and my husband(who is not SA) could be tempted to go and live there. I am always amazed when I read/hear of non South Africans going to live there.However a lot of them could be/are expats who are only there for a few years.

UB40fan Wed 10-Oct-12 21:50:19

Just thought of another thing to say. Nothing like emptying the dishwasher to focus your mind! Because I have lived in now my 4th country in 22 years(i know, not the wort case senario) I now feel that I do not belong anywhere. I do most definitely not feel SA or Dutch(despite living there for a long time and having a father who came from there. Mind you, he hinself was taken to SA by his parents at age 13 and he never spoke to us in Dutch.

becs1973 Fri 12-Oct-12 07:28:21

Hi again, it's an interesting discussion and some good points raised. My dh worries that we go there and then something terrible happens and he says he would never be able to forgive himself sad

I've not been back to the UK since 2009, would be interesting to see how things have changed in the last couple of years. It was quite in the doldrums when we left - shops starting to close down, boarded up places on the high street etc etc. Difficult to get an unbiased opinion living overseas, expat brits can be a moany old lot about UK ;-) (in fact, Brits generally moan about the UK but it's really not a bad option as a place to live in this world, I honestly believe that, we do ourselves down a lot in my opinion). The political instability and what the future holds in SA are hard to predict - doesn't necessarily look good at the moment. And you are right GreyElephant - it's the severity and cruelty of the violence which is startling in SA. So whilst people here in KL are always complaining about the house break-ins or the smash and grabs at traffic lights etc there is just not the same level of savagery involved, that's what scares me I guess, it's not the crime that can happen anywhere really but the complete disregard for human life in SA

Salbertina Fri 12-Oct-12 10:28:50

Agree, so many expats vastly outofdate about Uk having not lived there or even visited for years and get all their news from Mail online
Classics I've heard include:
"I couldn't live anywhere outside London as its all chavy"
"Restaurant food is always with a side order of chips"
"You cant get decent food in the Uk"
"NHS is so crap, you have to wait years for any operation"
angry and grin and sad

Salbertina Fri 12-Oct-12 10:32:20

Becs, something awful could happen anywhere... which is not to say that SA isn't more risky place to live/drive than uk ...
Would you regret it forever if you didn't come or would you just get on with your lives without regret??? Worth discussing that.

Nix01 Fri 12-Oct-12 17:58:42

Hi Becs,

I'm English, living in SA, married to a South African.

I was pretty much brought up here and have been in SA since I was 9 years old. My husband and I have two little boys.

For the future of our kids, we've decided to leave SA. Yes, we have a cushy life here, but if we were attacked, we'd be lucky to escape with our lives. We have an emergency evacuation plan that our 5 year son knows!

It's a ridiculous way to live. We are permanently on edge and "waiting" for something to happen. Alot of the crime doesn't even get reported on anymore.

I think we're currently rated 6 (out of 8) for threat of genocide.

And then the services are inconsistent. There is no public transport, so you'd need two cars. We frequently have electricity and water outages, despite paying over the top for these services. You'd need private healthcare, another expense, and very possibly private school education.

Feel free to pm me if you'd like more information.

Salbertina Fri 12-Oct-12 23:25:25

Sitting here listening to all the sirens, beams on and thinking i agree..sad
Beautiful starry night yet too damn scary to sit out at night angry

Salbertina Fri 12-Oct-12 23:26:19

Though am packing my dog, best security of all!

notmydog Sat 13-Oct-12 08:36:09

Nix your post has saddened me so much. We're going back to the UK but I'm leaving my entire family behind.

I so wanted to make it work here. We came back to this country with dreams of helping people and making a difference to peoples lives. I so wish it could have worked out for us, but sadly it didn't. BEE has been our big enemy over the past 5 years. Despite being the only SETA accredited IT training facility in George, we still get brushed aside when it comes to local government and other big firm contracts. They'd rather get their people trained by a backyard setup with the correct BEE credentials than by my accredited DH who's face is far too pale for consideration. I do understand and agree that these changes have to come, the injustices of the past need to be corrected, but it is very hard if you it affects you directly and makes you walk into walls and closed doors all the time. Just cannot do this anymore.

Salbertina Sat 13-Oct-12 08:41:05

Not - really sorry to hear that sad
This is not my home country so easier for me to move away.

Nix01 Sat 13-Oct-12 09:07:00

NMD, so sorry to hear how it's affecting your family.

I think if the tendering process were free and fair, I'd be more supportive, but it really does seem to be a case of who you know.

Corruption is rife.

When are you leaving? We're hoping for April 2013.

My parents are British, but live here. I don't think financially they'll be able to afford similar lifestyles. It's sad, but hopefully we'll be able to offer them somewhere to come to.

notmydog Sat 13-Oct-12 09:58:29

Yes Nix, we're also hoping for March/April 2013. I have a job I can continue doing from home and my boss wants to open a small office in the UK, but my dh will have to find work, which is a major worry of course. His best chance is in London, so we're heading for the South East. Also hoping to be able to sell our business here. We've been lucky to sell our house in England in August 2007, just before prices dropped, and we made a nice profit. That all went into our business here, which we are now not even certain we would be able to sell, and even if we sell it will really only cover our moving costs. DH will start looking for work in the new year and he will probably go ahead before DD and I.

Good luck to you as well! Lots of things to arrange, I really hope this is the last time I'm having to do this!!

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