I met a lady just yesterday, who is South African, but also lived in the U.S. for a while and her parents still live there. She made a comment to me that I think will stick with me for the rest of my life. She said “there is something about Africa that gets in your soul, in your blood. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. When you go home to the U.S. you will feel it and long for when you can visit Africa again”. I thought that was so profound and at that moment I realized I knew exactly what she was talking about. Another friend of mine posted a poem on Facebook once that had the same message. I am speaking for them, but I think my mom and aunt felt it, too, before they left. Africa is enchanting and as we travel throughout the continent and even just the country of South Africa, we feel it more and more. Africa is a part of us now, and I never want to forget the impact it has on us.
After speaking with my mom and aunt over the last week and remembering the questions we get asked about South Africa by other friends and family, I feel like we need to give you some insight into our day to day life here. The main question we got asked when we were home for the Christmas holiday was “do you live in an American compound?”… I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why this was the number one question we were asked. South Africa is not in some kind of war, it’s very developed where we live, despite being technically a third world country, and peoples’ lives are not much different day to day than any American. With all that said, I kept thinking “why are so many people asking me this??” It really boggled my mind until recently when I came to realize, I think the reason people ask us these questions about how we live, is because, they don’t know and don’t have anything of which to compare it. So it is good to ask questions. 🙂
Correct me if I am wrong, but to most Americans, me previously included, Africa is such a “far off land”. We only know what TV and documentaries choose to show us. Only a handful of people we know personally had ever been to Africa before we moved here, and as I am writing this I can only think of one person by name.
“There is something about Africa that gets in your soul, in your blood. It’s a feeling I can’t explain. When you go home to the U.S. you will feel it and long for when you can visit Africa again”
Even if you have visited South Africa, you can’t truly understand the lifestyle within a couple short weeks. And if you have visited any other African country, I would imagine the same. Yes, it is still great that you get the experiences and there are several interesting places in this vast continent that are what you see on the documentaries. But Africa is big. Huge. South Africa is big and has major international business ports and cities. And this is where we live.
We live in Johannesburg, as you might already know. Joburg, as the locals call it, is extremely large and is compromised of neighborhoods, kind of like in Houston how you have the “Quarters” around downtown, The Heights, Clear Lake, etc, but they are still “Houston”. Does that make sense?
No, we do not live in a compound, nor do those exist here. We live in a regular house on a regular street.
The things that are really different than in most places in the U.S. are the security measures taken for homes and neighborhoods. We live with a wall around our house and a gate, as does everyone else. We have 24 hour neighborhood patrol and they are currently working on gating off the entire neighborhood so the people who come and go can be more closely regulated. It’s nothing to be scared of, but Joburg is still a place you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. People like to rob houses, it’s just the way it is, so you need to be aware, and make sure you have security measures in place. And there are definitely places in the U.S. like this, so it really isn’t too much different to some people.
We have grocery stores like in America, with dry cleaning, pet stores, nail salons, etc in the same center, just like you do.
We have several malls here with the fancy stores like in the U.S. Everything here is in a mall, I think because it’s a good security for the stores. You have to pay a minimal fee to park, usually, but it’s not a big deal. Most grocery stores are in a mall, as well. The grocery store above happens to be it’s own center, but that’s rare.
This is the street I spend a lot of my time. It reminds me of my neighborhood back home – walkable shops and restaurants. We took my mom and aunt here and they found a lot of good souvenirs in a shop. Then we sat and had cool drinks at a cute little cafe. It’s a quaint, little neighborhood right in the middle of Joburg. In fact, I am sitting here now 🙂
Jamie works in the area of town called Sandton, in the Central Business District (Sandton CBD). Downtown Joburg also has a CBD.
For the most part, we live a life like you do. There is no cause for concern! Haha! Some eventually see a thin “veneer” to South Africa, as someone my mom was chatting to said, and I will agree. Once you’re over the few week honeymoon of moving abroad to live here, you see the differences and it can really make you long for home. But that is just a hump you have to get over and move on, embrace the country and the way of life. Because when you come right down to it, we are all the same. Living in a different country is definitely different. You have to figure out how to acclimate yourself to be happy and Jamie and I have done that. We are happy here and are enjoying our time in Africa.