-Where were you born?
Born and raised in Bavaria/Germany
-In which country and city are you living now?
Cape Town/South Africa
-Are you living alone or with your family?
With my family, that is my husband and two children
-How long have you been living in South Africa?
Since July 2005
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in South Africa?
We wanted to have a change again after five years of living in the UK. Before that we had lived in Singapore where our older son was born and were missing the various facets of living with other cultures and wanted to give our kids the chance to have an outdoors lifestyle and meet people of many other cultures and backgrounds. Luckily the company my husband is working for wanted to establish a subsidiary in South Africa, so we wanted to check out the living conditions for ourselves.
So we traveled to Cape Town on an orientation visit half a year before the move and liked it and decided to take the chance.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
We tried to arrange our visa during an orientation visit to Cape Town two months before our move, but were stuck nevertheless.
Our son whose study permit did not come through at the right time, was sent home from school after a couple of days as guest pupil and had to stay home until he could join his new friends at school only four weeks later when the permit came through.
Now three years later for the extension of our temporary visa we got "surprised" again with my husband being granted five years of residency and work permit and the kids and I with only three more years of residency permit. I am still trying to find the logic in this. And for your info: partners do not get work permits automatically with their residency permits. With BEE (black economic empowerment) laws in place, the chances for getting a job are slim if you are not sponsored by your company too. So you will start to get creative at home.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
We had our insurance already in place due to various placements overseas before. As private patients we pay cash for medical attention and get reimbursed by our provider in Germany. As doctors' fees are quite low here we never had problems with reimbursements.
-How do you make your living in South Africa? Do you have any type of income generated?
Due to strict laws regarding temporary residence I am not allowed to work in South Africa. But my kids and my info site keep me busy anyway.
-Do you speak the local language and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
In South Africa there are 11 official languages. Most of the Capetonians understand English and speak either English or Afrikaans, which is close to German and Dutch. As my English is now quite alright due to the many years of living abroad, I have no problem communicating with the locals. For now I understand a bit of Afrikaans, but this will definitely get better when I have to practice speaking Afrikaans, when my sons will learn it in school.
Many people also know some German or French. Xhosa is the language of the local black South Africans and fortunately is taught in some schools too. I think it sounds lovely with its click sounds and I definitely want to learn to speak this language too.
It is always appreciated when you greet people in the local language and speak a few basic words at least, but nowbody will expect you to speak any of the 11 official languages in South Africa besides English or Afrikaans.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Yes, I miss my family and friends at home. But as we lived in foreign places for many years now, we kind of got used to be away from them. However, when special occasions like weddings and birthdays occur it is always sad not to join the family and especially at Christmas and Easter times we miss everybody dearly.
As the school holidays differ greatly due to the different seasons, it is also hard to get to travel during European school holidays. As we have family and friends in many parts of the world it is getting harder and harder to meet everybody and travel distances are too big to meet regularly. But thankfully there is skype and email.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
We definitely want to stay here for longer. Africa is such a beautiful continent and there are so many places to explore. We only have been to some parts of South Africa, Namibia and Mauritius. And should we get a permanent residency permit I would love to work again as a teacher.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
When we moved here one thing on our list of priorities was to find a house with a big garden for the kids to run about, play ball and ride their bikes. After some struggling and moving four times we now found our home close to the beach and now even have got a pool! What more can I wish for?!
For renting a decent four-bedroom house in a safe Cape Town suburb you will have to calculate in R15,000 upwards.
-What is the cost of living in South Africa?
The living expenses vary widely. Local products like maize meal, white bread and vegetables are subsidized and therefore really cheap, but if you like pasta, hormone-free dairy products and good quality meat or fish you will have to fork out quite a bit of money.
The prices have risen a lot in the last year. During the last three years we have noticed however that the imports to South Africa have grown a lot and you can get most of the products you will know from home either at the supermarket or in local delis. But you will have to be prepared to pay the price.
Dining out is comparatively cheap and you can have a wonderful three-course dinner for two with a good bottle of wine for R500.
-What do you think about the locals?
The Capetonians are very friendly people. Everybody smiles a lot more than anywhere else and it is great to feel the warmth of the people. Africans in general are very helpful and I do feel safe here.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in South Africa?
- The climate, the landscape, the people…
- Since we live here we feel that - although other places we have been to were wonderful too - South Africa has so much to offer. Waking up in the morning looking at the blue sky and seeing the sun rising and illuminating Table Mountain is such a great view we never want to miss again. Well, at least until the next posting comes up. So we enjoy it while we can.
- Then there are good private schools for your kids and the children will be confronted with both sides of the medal as most of the schools are engaged with social projects.
- Crime figures always come up first, but I think if you take precautions you should be safe and you will feel safe too. Crime happens everywhere and we do not venture in areas where crime is a serious problem like in the townships.
- The seasons are the "wrong" way around. For us it is still strange to celebrate Christmas in summer with a braai (barbeque) or a picnic on the beach.
- Service delivery is usually very slow and you never should expect somebody to call you even when they promise. Do not take it as an offence and just stay put when you want to get things done.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in South Africa?
Cape Town is great for almost everybody.
It is a paradise for business people with many excellent business opportunities, convention and entertaining venues, great for pensioners with the mild climate, it is a surfers' paradise, outdoor lovers' hotspot, party lovers' heaven for its great night life and much more.
There are so many places to visit, great outings to do for families on weekends. You can drive to the Cape Winelands, walk on superb beaches and splash (even with penguins) in turquoise lagoons and kids can enjoy playing outdoors most days of the year.
Enjoy life and have fun. There are so many great things to explore and enjoy.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about South Africa?
- Expatcapetown.com: Read more about our experiences in Cape Town in my Expat Guide about living and working in Cape Town.
- Sagoodnews.co.za: Here you get the positive news about South Africa.