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!
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!
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)
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” (/xaʊˈtɛŋ/), 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.