8 Things to Know About Living in Johannesburg
Guys, I admit… I felt in love with this city the first time that I’ve been here. And I’ve never spoke to you about the reasons.
In 2013 when I’ve been for my first time in the United States it was a great trip and I’ve visited California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah… And left my heart in California… Such a lovely country, my favorite. And then I’ve tried everything in my hand to try to move there but it wasn’t so easy to get the visa, especially for a freelance…
I’ve been really discouraged and I had to try something different, and less than 1 year later I took a flight to South Africa after a friend suggestion. Honestly I had no idea what to expect from that country…
From the first time that we were moving to the highways in Johannesburg I thought “OMG this is completely different from my expectations” and it was in a good way.
After my visit to the States, I can compare Johannesburg to Los Angeles with this difference: Johannesburg is immersed into the green trees! It’s the largest city in the world with the biggest density of trees! When you’re driving in the highways with a big difference in level and you look in the side at the horizon seems to be in a forest… And if you pay more attention you can see a lot of houses, apartments, villas inside this “forest”. It’s hard to describe, don’t take the word “forest” literally please, it’s not jungle! 🙂
Back to Johannesburg, shortened by the local people as Joburg, it’s a huge town! Within the metropolitan area there are 12 million people… 120km from west to east and 60km from north to south. It’s very hard to visit as a tourist because like the other giant cities in the world, you can’t just take a car an “go somewhere”… That’s why I decided to give you those VERY helpful tips.
Please note that those tips are not bounced in my mind randomly. I lived in Johannesburg for almost 1 year and I’ve got some relatives and friend that live there. Before talking in advance asking “what are you saying Alex”, this is my REAL experience in Johannesburg after I talked with A LOT of people that live and are born in South Africa.
1- The weather. The weather??? YES! I think this is the best in the world! You’ve got summer from September to June and it’s not so hot and sultry during January and February and the winter could be with 20 degrees during the day and near to zero during the night. During some month in summer could rain 1 time a day, a quick thunderstorm 20 mins, 1 hour or more, and after that sun again. Great!
I love the sun, and so this is a crucial requirement for me. Passed!
2- Public Transportations. There’s not official public transportation here except Gautrain but it’s very limited to a few exclusive areas near Sandton suburb. The most common public transportation is the mini busses… There are nearly 1 million only in Johannesburg. But I don’t suggest you to use them, I’m not talking about you’d be the only white guy in one of them 🙂 and maybe if you’re not used, you could feel a little bit uncomfortable (all eyes on you!). I’m talking about there’s no timetables, you don’t know the path and where they stop. It’s random transportation. You can ask the driver where you’d like to go and pay the ticket. I don’t know how much is it, I think extremely cheap (probably less than 1€) because our friends haven’t ever used this service in their entire life. And so the car is the best way to move in Johannesburg. It’s required! Not a problem for me.
3- Roads and Highways. If you’re planning to move and work in Johannesburg you have to know that’s a really busy city. A lot of traffic, and you could be stuck in a traffic jam for hours. Every working day from 6 to 8:30 am and from 4:30 to 6:30 pm (and Friday from 3pm to 5;30pm) you’ve all the roads and highways blocked! Luckily for me I’m an entrepreneur and don’t even think to use my car during those hours… I’m free so, what’s the problem, I wake up early in the morning, have breakfast, start working and then after 9am I can use my car and the streets are clear! Ok, maybe not THAT clear (like where I’m living in Italy), but quite clear. Same in the afternoon. My friends are used to move after 9am for going to the office, and then come back before the rush hour in the afternoon. Only one note: be extremely careful when you see a minibus, they drive like crazy, and sometimes they don’t respect red signals, right of way… They’re dangerous!!!
4- A lot of cities inside the city. The metropolitan area of Johannesburg is huge, really huge, and you’ve some suburbs really poor, others extremely rich and a lot of them are mid-class. So you have to choose which kind of life you prefer. Obviously there’s a lot of crime in the poor area and the same in the richest areas. So the choice is yours! Anyway every area is different, it depends if you wanna live in an apartment, in a single house or in secure villas inside the complex with fences. Some of the best areas are Sandton, Bryanston, Rosebank, Fourways, LoneHill, Paulshof, Morningside… most of them in the North Area. In another post I’ll talk about my favorite suburb in Joburg!
5- It’s a multicultural city. There’s a lot of immigration here and there are two Chinatowns, an India town, Portuguese, Greek, and Italian enclaves. There’s a huge Italian community here, so if you’re from Italy you can feel at home sometimes! You should visit the Italian Club, more infos at their official website.
6- Enjoy every kind of food! heheheh that’s another thing because I love this town! Thanks to the multicultural people here, you can enjoy every kind of cuisine. A lot of good Italian restaurants, and really good ones I mean, I’m Italian and I know how’s the food :-). When you order a fish plate I suggest you to ask it without sauces!! Otherwise you could eat Calamari with a strange (and obscene cream sauce that covers all the flavor). And then you have every kind of Sushi and Japanese food (and some of them are really great), Indian restaurants (the best ones that I’ve ever tried in my life), Thai food (sorry not a big fan), Greek cuisine, amazing salads and much more. If you know me, then you’d know that here there’s the best meat that I’ve ever tried in the whole world, and you have (you must) go to The Meat Company (almost everywhere in Johannesburg) or at Gourmet Garage (only at Montecasino). Only one collateral damage: you could be addicted as me!
7- Great for Business. Johannesburg is the core business area of South Africa. Unlike Cape Town, where it’s relaxing and all the people think about drinking and going really slow during the day. Johannesburg is fast, considering African time… What??? European people call African Time because the african people in general work slower comparing other people in the world. No offense, it’s not me, everyone say that! The people here in Joburg think about business and doing business. So it’s very common to find people interested about what YOU’re doing! A great place for opportunities and create networking, there are a lot of corporate lunches, business evenings, dinner parties, business at golf clubs, music events, mostly every day except Sunday. Sunday is usually dedicated to the family! The people is social! When I’ve been there I found business opportunities everywhere talking with the people. Hardly happens in Italy. There’s a huge difference IMHO. And the best part is that you can do business everywhere, in some coffee shops, restaurants… It’s normal, most freelancers don’t have an office, just work from home and doing business meetings in some lovely pubs.
8- First-World inside a Third-World. You can find first quality material things and at the same time you can’t escape the poverty of the third world. This means that you can find beggars of all kind at every robot – “what is this?” You could say… It’s a strange way that South African people call the traffic lights. Sometimes the electric power goes off for hours… Same for the water… It’s normal here and the guys that live there say: ‘cmon Alex it’s Africa”! 🙂 Other examples: they use cheap asphalt and when the rain comes heavily after a few days the roads could be like a minefield full of giant potholes everywhere. I saw some of them really HUGE I mean 30 cm diameter and 10 deep! You can’t imagine how many tires my friends lost because of this!
I hope this post will help you to have an idea about what to expect visiting Johannesburg. You’ve got some pros and cons, same as everywhere. IMO I’ve found more pros here in Johannesburg, maybe thanks to my friends that helped me a lot to discover the city. You could drive hours without finding anything. Remember that google maps isn’t so perfect in South Africa, and the directions could be wrong sometimes. So please… Follow and read the street signs!!!
I admit: this is NOT an easy town, it’s huge, you don’t know what to do and what to see, and if you follow the classic tourist guides, you’ll see the classic things, forgetting some places that are really awesome. Don’t worry, we have time to talk about those.
Keep following me guys!