Moving to Jozi? Here are the 5 main challenges that await you!

Jozi's skyline at sunrise

Jozi’s skyline at sunrise

You fear the traffic jams, Hillbrow, or for your own safety? Well, fear again! Because here are the five main challenges you will face when settling in your new city!

1 – Never heard of load shedding? No? Well, that’s about to change! Load shedding, or rolling black-out as we also like to call it, is an unpopular measure taken by Eskom to tackle the energetic crisis the country is currently facing. Due to a severe lack of maintenance in some of the key generators and the collapse of one of its coal silos, the country is now not supplying enough power to face its own demand. Therefore, for the past few weeks, electricity has been cut from 18:00 to 22:00 in many parts of the city. Quite a challenge in such conditions to change your first-born’s diaper, cook the dinner or enjoy a bit of TV… And with the winter upon us, we’ve been told that load shedding is here to stay. Unfortunately!

A perfect night of load shedding!

A perfect night of load shedding!

2 – You’re not a morning person? Don’t worry, you’ll be! South Africa is said to be the country in the world were people wake up the earliest. And it is true. Gyms here open at 4:30 am, and you’ll find people sitting at their desk from 7:00 am, if not before. The reason: the traffic? the altitude? (Jo’burg sits at 1’800 meters above sea level) Nah! It’s because of the infamous hadada, a very common bird in South Africa that has the unpleasant and very disturbing habit of producing an extremely loud and distinctive call in the early hours of the morning, making it impossible for the whole household to sleep. You’ll have no other choice than to wake up and to go to bed early if you want to get some sleep, and will keep blaming the damn bird for forcing you to reconnect with Mother Nature!


The infamous hadada, foraging in my garden….

3 – Looking forward to a romantic dinner in a restaurant? You’d better keep looking! South Africans are warm, friendly, welcoming people. You’ll read that everywhere. And it’s true. They’d give their heart out to make you feel at home. You’ll love their liveliness from the moment you meet them. Because they are lively. Very lively. Extremely lively. To the point that when they speak, they actually shout. For us Europeans who love to go to the restaurants to enjoy a bit of intimacy while speaking from the tip of our tongues, a romantic dinner in Jozi can be a traumatic experience. Be prepared for a bit of screaming, a touch of yelling and a great deal of shouting! And as for the romanticism, don’t worry, the cold dinners in the candle light of your own home on the nights of load shedding are a perfect substitute.

4 – The South African handshake, your worst nightmare! You remember that awkward moment at school when all the kids in the block had learnt a new trick that you never managed to master, and that got you mocked at best, if not bullied or rejected. You thought that awkward moment was gone? Well, now it’s back in its full glory. When hanging out with young crowds, you’ll soon learn that people don’t just shake hands. No, that would be too simple! First they shake, then they slide, then they grip , then they slap the fingers. There might be other endings, but I usually give up at the grip part and never manage to find out. So just throw your pride away and enjoy the African handshake for what it is: a recognition that you’re part of the gang (and that you might actually look younger than you are)

Buccleuch Interchange, I guess

The famous Buccleuch interchange

5 – The traffic news, or “where on Earth is this place”? The traffic news per se are not a challenge. They are, on the contrary quite useful, and will surely help you to manoeuvre between the numerous traffic jams on your way to work. That is, if you manage to understand the Afrikaans names, (or the Afrikaans pronunciation of other names) mentioned in the announcements! Quite a challenge, believe me! So you’ll take baby steps, learning first to recognise “Gauteng” (/xˈtɛŋ/), the name of Johannesburg’s province, then the “Buccleuch”‘s interchange (one of the biggest in the city) and before you know it, you’ll be able to spell “Vereeniging” properly. That day, you’ll know that you have fully settled in your new country, and the challenges you feared the most before coming here were just the result of your own ignorance. The city is then left there for you to enjoy!…which lead me to the bonus:

6 – Watch out, or your might fall in love! For its people, its sunsets, its energy, you might sooner than you expect fall in love with this beautiful city. So be careful, because the main challenge is actually the one you expect the least: that you might never want to leave.

One of my favorite pics of this lovely city

One of my favorite pics of this lovely city

14 thoughts on “Moving to Jozi? Here are the 5 main challenges that await you!

  1. So many things wrong with this post.

    1. Gauteng is not an Afrikaans word – it means ‘Place of Gold’ in Sotho. Lots of the names of places in Gauteng or Joburg are not Afrikaans but rather native African words.

    2. I don’t know where you live but a HADEDA (maybe learn to spell the bird’s name correctly before complaining about it) hasn’t woken me up in Joburg in three years. They don’t live everywhere. They are super annoying but maybe don’t list this as a blanket issue when it’s not.

    3. What you said about not being able to have a romantic dinner in Joburg is just offensive! I have been on romantic dates with my boyfriend on many occasions. No shouting from those hooligans you seem to be referring to. Where are you going to dinner – down at the pub?

    I understand that you love Joburg but this was poorly written and came across as a wishy washy list that true Joburgers would know is a bunch of nonesense. Maybe you were trying to be funny? If so, you failed.

    Welcome to Joburg – where we hate foreigners telling us what’s wrong with our city.


  2. Dear Angry Joburger,
    Thank you for sharing so openly your opinion about the post. It seems we started on the wrong foot, so let’s try to clarify a few misunderstandings here.

    1 – Gauteng is indeed not Afrikaans. And by the way, neither is Buccleuch (it is actually Scottish) which is why I had taken the liberty to add into brackets “or the Afrikaans pronunciation of other names”. But the whole sentence may be misleading, I fully agree, and I’m sorry for that. I didn’t know it would generate such strong reactions.

    2 – If you bother to google “hadada”, you’ll see appearing as a first result a link to a wikipedia webpage that mentions that both hadada ibis and hadeda ibis are actually two correct spellings for the same bird (“The hadada or hadeda ibis (Bostrychia hagedash), is an ibis found in Sub-Saharan Africa.”).

    3 – Lastly, I must say that I’m in a very fulfilled relationship, which leads me to spend a lot of time on romantic dinner in Jo’burg, so I’ve had my share of experience of dinning out in the city. Again, please note that I clearly defined my standpoint here (“For us Europeans…”), which actually subtly (…maybe too subtly…) introduced a criticism towards my own culture where everything has to be controlled and where a lot of attention is paid to appearances.

    Last but not least, the whole idea of this post was to play on the irony between what foreigners fear the most before coming to the city (the insecurity, the traffic, etc.) and what they will actually experience. You’ll see that the items listed here are actually small inconveniences (ok, maybe except for the load shedding part) that people will surely face when coming to Jozi. Which is by the way part of the fun of any relocation. And which is where the irony start.

    So again, I’m sorry to see that we haven’t understood each other. And believe me, if you scroll through the blog, you’ll see that I’m a fierce advocate of the city. Too bad you missed that part!


  3. What a great read – and what a pity that some readers are so uptight that they can’t enjoy someone else’s unique, if not somewhat tongue in cheek, experience of the city.

    Who cares if it’s factually correct or incorrect? This was not an insert for Carte Blanche, Angry Joburger, calm down.


  4. Great article. We live in the Eastern Cape now – past 20 years – but we miss Jozi every day – okay maybe a few times a year:-)


  5. Welcome to South Africa! I wasn’t born in Jozi, but I have lived there on and off over the years. I spent a total of about 10 years there in my 20s and 30s. It is indeed a unique place, but in my 40s and 50s I opted for a quieter lifestyle, closer to my family. However, I’m glad you are enjoying it, and hope that you both continue to do so. I look forward to following your blog.


    • Thanks Susan for your kind words! Indeed, we’re having a wonderful time in South Africa and for sure, we’ll keep on posting regularly on our new adventures. Stay blessed, and good luck with your move!


  6. quite shocking about this is how conveniently you leave out violent crime. Sandton alone ( africa’s Most expensice Square meter) had 288 Home invasions in 2014. You live behind gates, electric fences ,and booms and whilst expats living outside of johannesburg ( Dainfern) will tell you nothing is wrong, you get robbed or live in fear of it) . No better way to bond with SA , being held up is the best way to integrate as you will actually understand the local mindset and people will finally tell you their story. Never had any joburgers shout louder than the average Italian in a restaurant, traffic is much worse in Belgium and you get up early because the sun does. I too feel slightly like this is some naive humor and leaving out the reason for a massive exodus is irresponsible to say the least.


    • Thanks Sofie for your feedback. This may look as some naive humour indeed, but it is also a glimpse of my life in the city. Indeed, I’m not stuck in traffic jams in the morning nor do I fear for my life every time I go out in the street. I also heard my share of horrendous stories about Jo’burg, but fortunately for me, none of them is close to what I’ve experienced so far. So yes, people being louder than in my home country and hadedas (or hadadas, whichever you prefer) are the biggest inconveniences so far, which gives you an idea of the challenges I’m facing: they are next to none. This is why I’m glad I didn’t listen to what people had told me about the place before making up my mind and moving to the city, or I would have missed one of the most enriching experiences in my life.


  7. Very entertaining read. Really liked it and thanks for sharing. If I may ask: where in Europe are you from? No offense but going to a restaurant in Italy can be a very different sound experience than let’s say Copenhagen 😉 Best, Sabina | Oceanblue Style


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s