Life as an expat in Johannesburg is a very mesmerizing experience. I work in an IT company in Johannesburg South Africa. Before coming to South Africa, I was trying to get an idea about how the city is and watching videos about the city. I was literally scared and had a second thought of living in South Africa as an expat. Most of the videos and articles are only about the crime, robbery and murders in South Africa. Even, most of the websites list South African cities in the top most dangerous or criminal cities of the World. I would suggest stop watching the videos or read negative comments about it.
My observations: There are crimes all over the world, and even in all the major metropolitan cities in the world has some kind of issues. Johannesburg and Pretoria is a beautiful city and living and working in these two cities is an awesome experience. Like in all the metropolitan cities in the world, you have to be cautious and careful about your belongings. The general people are nice, and due to Apartheid, there are few racial tensions, but still, people live in harmony. Most of the buildings or apartments have tight security and electric fences. Don’t get scared because of the private securities and electric fences as this has been made a big private industry.
Expat life in Johannesburg is fun and have the very good multi-cultural environment. People start early in the morning and most of the offices close by 3-5 PM in the evening. People love to enjoy there evening hanging out somewhere with friends. Work culture and the environment in most of the companies are flexible and understanding. Personally, I think there is a very good work life balance in most of the companies. However, as an expat in Johannesburg or South Africa, the companies usually expect more from the expats because of your skills.
Where to live
If you are working around Johannesburg, living in areas such as Sandton, Sunning hill Rose bank and Killarney is a good option. These neighbourhoods are known for expats with the very good quality of living. If you are looking for cheaper options, then Midrand is the best option which is situated in the middle of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Centurion. Another option is to live in cottages in Kaylami, the area is a suburb of Johannesburg, but things are cheaper than the main areas. The areas are divided into various communities such as Nigerians you will find it in Noordwijk and Indians in Vorna Valley. There are some Chinese gated communities in Rivonia. But most of the areas are in mixed racial communities, and everyone is living peacefully.
Getting around South Africa
Transportation is a big issue if you don’t have a private vehicle in South Africa. People usually don’t walk or cycle around and prefer private vehicle as the only mode of transportation. If you are coming to South Africa for the first time as an expat, the recommendation is to get a private car.
Public Transportation in South Africa
Public transportation in Johannesburg and Pretoria is connected through Gautrain and the Gautrain buses. This is only the best public transportation you can opt as an expat in Johannesburg or South Africa. Initially, if you are planning to commute through public transportation, try to get your apartment near the Gautrain Bus so that you can access easily to other parts of the Gauteng.
Cost of Living
• Apartment Rent: 5000 Minimum (Studio) – 10000 Minimum (2 Bedroom)
• Beer and Alcohol: 20 rand pint at a bar
• Coffee (Starbucks): 35 rand
• Burger: 55 rand meal
• Restaurant: 600 rands for two people.
• Petrol: 16 rands per litre
• Fibre Network: R500 per month
• Cell Phone Bill: R200 per month
• Food: R3000 Home cooked healthy food
Where to buy Groceries or Fresh Produce?
South Africa has departmental store everywhere in Johannesburg and nearby in Gauteng province. The popular departmental store’s brands in South Africa are SPAR, PICK N PAY, Food Lovers Checkers (Cheapest) and Woolworth (Expensive). I always buy my fresh produce from the local markets such as JSMYN (Hartbeespoort) and Randburg Wholesale Market. These local markets are a little bit far from Johannesburg (40km), but I love the drive to these markets on weekends where I can buy fresh produce on a very low price.
In addition, Hartbeespoort you will also find fresh fish (Fisher Deck) and also I found that the produce of Jsmyn is fresh and organic. In terms of meat, I found Food Lovers market as the best options to buy any meat. But I prefer to buy everything from JSMYN to get all my monthly groceries from cheese to fresh vegetables and meat. There is a huge price difference between Johannesburg produce and Jsmyn produce. One broccoli in any supermarket in Johannesburg will cost around R25, but in Jasmyn it will cost around R5 to R10 per piece.
Where to buy a cheap item or China market in Johannesburg?
There are many china markets or china towns in Johannesburg and Pretoria area. In Johannesburg, Kokoro, Rivonia is a Korean grocery store where you will find Asian products, Indian stores are in Vorna Valley, Nagiah (situated near Bekker Street Midrand), Andaal Food (Vorna Valley). China Market (near Boulders Mall, Midrand), China Market in Rivonia. One good Chinese supermarket is YAM Supermarket in Menlyn Pretoria, Yat Kee Chinese Supermarket, and Zhong Kee Super Market in Rivonia.
Areas to avoid going?
There are some areas which as an expat should avoid going are Hillbrow, some township areas such as Alexandra and Tembisa where the crime rate is very high at night time. The CBD areas of Johannesburg and Pretoria is safe in the daytime areas but it gets dangerous during night time, and there are chances that you will get robbed during the night time.
Where to go fun things?
There are many fun places to visit in Johannesburg. Following are the list of things to do:
• Gold Reef City: It is one of the biggest amusement parks in Johannesburg. You can spend complete one day riding enjoying 4d shows. The tickets are approximately 220 rands per person.
• Montecasino: It is not only a casino but a complete day amusement.
• Apartheid Museum: It is one of the best museums to understand the history of South Africa and the history of racial discrimination.
• Aerial Cableway Hartbeespoort: This is one of the Hartbeespoort mountain cableways for
Where to buy the furniture?
Buying and setting up your home is a big investment, there are some areas where you can get cheap furniture and other household items for cheap. Cash Converter is the best options for buying used furniture and any household items. In most of the china town, you will find cheap furniture’s which are either imported from China or made locally. These shops are owned by Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis.
How to buy a used car in Johannesburg and Pretoria?
Buying a used car is a complicated thing for expats in Johannesburg or South Africa. You have to be very cautious about the person with whom you are dealing. Consider the following when buying any used cars in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
If you are dealing with a private buyer and buying through Gumtree or any website oriented buyers:
- Check for the ID and the car papers
- Check for the vehicle status on the car registration papers; it should be written Used. Sometimes people sell Built up Cars, which means the cars were in an accident or lost and was written off by the insurance company. These cars sell for very cheap, but you never know what you are getting.
- It is always recommended to buy any used cars from a dealer, at least you will know what you are getting, and most of the time the deals reveal everything for the mentioned car.
- Always ask for the service history, if the car doesn’t have any service history, then there is a problem with that car.
- Bring a friend with you while viewing the car or a mechanic to check if there is anything wrong with it.
- Ask the owner for multi check or Road Worthy Certificate. The roadworthy certificate is required for registration at any licencing authority. If there is an
Where to fix your car?
Fixing a used car is one of the major problems for the expats in Johannesburg or South Africa. Most of the advertised automotive fixing shops are very expensive and usually, they charge necessary fees. Find a local shop in your area or go to the CBD Johannesburg or Pretoria CBD for fixing your car. They charge you a reasonable amount. The best option is getting your parts from Autozone or Midas and get it fixed by any local mechanics.
What driving license works?
Most of the expat’s driving licence from their origin country work in South Africa. If it is In English, you are fine. However, if the driving licence is in another language, get it translated from the embassy and keep it in your car. For registering any car in South Africa, you will also need a “Traffic Register Number” to register your vehicle in your name. You can get traffic registration number from any Licencing department in Gauteng Province.
Nearby places to visit
There are many beautiful places which are a nearby drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria. The best places are Graskop, Sabie, Hazyview, Drakensburg (4 hours’ drive), Tzaneen (4 hours’ drive), Lion and Rhino Park, Lion Park, Pilannesburg.
Hiking near Johannesburg
There are many beautiful hiking places nearby Johannesburg and Pretoria. Following are the list of the hiking places in Johannesburg that is must for any expat in Johannesburg.
• Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, it is the best hike we did in Johannesburg with lush green surroundings and an easy walk.
• Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve: The reserve has three beautiful hikes in the outskirts of Johannesburg.
• Lonehill Municipal Nature Reserve
• Modderfontein Reserve
• Phaladingwe Hiking
• Groenkloof Nature Reserve
• Rietvlei Nature Reserve
• Wonderboom Nature Reserve
How much should you earn?
I work in the IT industry, and depending on my experience, I get around 45000 rands a month. After taxes, I make around R 33000 a month. Following are the breakdowns of my monthly expenditures-
• R6500 for the rent
• R1000 for Petrol
• R500 for Fibre Network
• R3000 for Home Cooked Food
• R1000 for Restaurants
• R2000 for Miscellaneous
I save around R 18000 a month after having all the expenditures.
South African Cuisines to Try
• South Africa has very amalgamation of cuisines around the world. If you want to try something local following are the recommendations:
• Nandos: Origin to South Africa, a Portuguese influenced grilled chicken with a unique flavour.
• Pap and Chicken: Pap is the common staple food of South Africa which is taken with any gravy such as mince and chicken etc.
• Bunny Chow: A square bread filled with Durban curry.
• Barbeque – SPUR
You will find almost every kind of restaurants and cusines in Johannesburg. If you want to try some
• Indian food, you can go to Taste of Punjab in Sunninghill or Saravana Bhavan in Rivonia
• Vietnamese Food – Saigon Restaurant in Rivonia
• Kungfu Kitchen in Menlyn
• Korean Restaurant – Seoul Garden in Menlyn and Banchan in Sandton
• Turkish Restaurant – Ottoman Palace and Turkish Restaurant
• Mexican Food – La Rosa Mexican Grille and Tequileria
Do’s and Don’t in South Africa or Johannesburg
• Respect other culture and traditions.
• Visit Cape Town, Garden Route, Coffee Bay, and the Drakensberg
• Avoid any conflicting areas or protests. Protests usually get violent.
• Don’t walk around in every place of South Africa. Certain places are not walking friendly.
• The greeting is very common in South Africa, and you must greet everyone you meet even unknowns.
• Tipping is a common culture, and usually, in restaurants, you tip 10% of the bill.
• Visiting an animal reserve is a must to see if you are an expat in Johannesburg or South Africa. There are many national reserves where you can take your own car and drive around the reserve. Lion and Rhino Park, Pilanesberg is the reserves that you can visit.
• Do not ask for HIV status for any person in South Africa