Africa Guide
Guide to Africa

Taking the Leap: Moving to South Africa

Written by InterNations GmbH (June 2013)

Traveling to South Africa as a tourist is one thing, but have you ever considered actually moving to South Africa? With its friendly and diverse people and varied climate, you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else quite like it.

South Africa is located at the southern tip of the African continent. The country is divided into nine provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and Western Cape. It can boast 11 official languages, and an estimated population of nearly 53 million people.

The climate varies by region, with the western coast enjoying a temperate, Mediterranean climate, and the northern and eastern sections experiencing a subtropical climate, with hot, humid summers and cooler, dry winters.

South Africa is characterized by stark economic disparity. The bulk of the country's GDP, which is made in sectors ranging from banking and services to IT and the automotive industry, is concentrated in a few urban centers, which unsurprisingly, are also known for being expat hotspots. These include Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and the Pretoria/Johannesburg metro area.

Unemployment is a major problem in South Africa, with about one-fourth of the labor force looking for work. Thus, to be able to work there as an expat, you must be able to prove that you have special qualifications which job-seeking South Africans do not possess.

Once you have found a job, it's time to choose where to live. A popular choice among expats in South Africa are the so-called "estates," gated communities which offer security services, shops and green spaces.

Expats who wish to integrate more with the locals may decide to live outside a gated community. In this case, it is important to work together with a real estate agent to gather information about different areas of the city before signing a contract. Make sure you get a feel for how safe a particular neighborhood is both at day and night, so that you can make an informed decision about where to live.

Extreme poverty runs rampant in many parts of South Africa, and people can be seen living in ramshackle huts on the outskirts of even the wealthiest cities. Especially in rural areas, many people live under the extreme poverty line, subsisting on less than $1.25 per day.

Being faced with such extreme poverty on a daily basis can be a very eye-opening experience, which can make some expats very uncomfortable, while others find it interesting and important to be confronted with life's unpleasant realities.

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