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    Hi all !!!
    My family and I are considering moving to Cape Town early 2005 and would welcome some views on whether this would be a good move or not as we visited family in Durban in august of this year and found it to be very 3rd world hence the choice of Cape Town. My wife is a south african citizen and originally from Durban, we have been living in the U.K. for the last twelve years and assume gaining residency should'nt be a problem after consulting S.A.Consular website. Having three young children, schooling and "good areas"(Not too expensive middle class) to live are important to us, can anyone recommend which areas of Cape Town are suitable and which are definately a NO GO!

  • #2
    Hey there and welcome to the site.

    I'm afraid that if you found Durban too third world, you won't have much more luck with Cape Town.

    This is the scene that will greet you immediately upon leaving the airport.

    Since your wife moved to the UK, South Africa has become a lot more "African". Things which the apartheid government kept suppressed, like racial intermingling, economic empowerment of black people, etc. are now encouraged. Expect a huge spill-over of the informal trading sector into the CBD, for instance. Expect minibus taxis driving like lunatics possessed on all the main roads. Expect live chickens being sold on the side of the road.

    Here is a map of Cape Town. As you can see, the main feature of the city is False Bay in the south. There are beautiful views on both sides of the bay, which have mountains, while the middle bit is incredibly flat and sprawled with low-income areas, like Khayelitsha the picture above, as well as slightly more formalised. These areas are refered to as "The Cape Flats", and should be avoided by novice residents and tourists, unless on a guided tour.

    The main central business district is located in the south west corner of the small bay to the north of the peninsula (with Robben Island opposite) -- you can see the feint blue lines of the Cape Town harbour. This is where you will be most likely to find employment, although there are smaller central business districts to the north east (Bellville) and south (Claremont).

    As a general rule, housing to the north is cheaper than housing to the south. The northern suburbs are more Afrikaans, while the southern suburbs (whose residents don't consider the northern suburbs to be part of Cape Town) are more English. There are some very nice, very expensive houses in Tygervalley/Tygerburg, however.

    Property in Cape Town is experiencing an even larger boom than property in the UK has been experiencing over the last five years. As a general rule, if you're a UK homeowner with more than 30% equity in a property, you should be set. However, if you're a UK property owner, you should very seriously consider holding onto your UK property, as you'll likely never be able to climb back onto the UK housing ladder again after a protracted spell in South Africa.

    There are some serious lifestyle considerations beyond housing. For instance, you will have to pay for schooling for your children. You will not have any access to something like "the dole". You will need medical aid (private health insurance) and it will most likely be mandatory with your job. Like NHS, expect it to cost 10% of your gross income. Programs like Discovery Health are expensive, but progressive. You get a wealth of discounts -- heavily discounted gym membership, heavily discounted movie tickets -- and also bonus points that can be used for tangible things if you say join a gym, quit smoking, etc. You are rewarded for improving your health because it makes the liklihood of your needing serious medical attention much less.

    If you have senior-school aged kids, you may want to consider the implications of them starting up in a vastly different school environment; one in which they will be required to study a second language for the entire length of their schooling. I recall many peers struggling through Afrikaans, which they had to pick up while the rest of the class was already conversationally fluent. Fortunately, these days Afrikaans is no longer mandatory, but I believe that elementary school children learn three languages (English, Afrikaans, the main African language in the region -- Xhosa in Cape Town) and get to choose two for high school, one as a first language, the other as a first or second language.

    Where to live is tricky. The city bowl is affordable and not a bad area -- though nothing near to the level of affluence of Finsbury Circus, Kensington or Neal's Yard. The "western seaboard" is where the money's at, so avoid it. Hout Bay is rapidly becoming very expensive, though fifteen years ago it was a sleepy almost rural area. (God bless those heedy Republic of Hout Bay years when the residents were protesting their lack of a local municipality!) Commutes via the western seaboard are much shorter than those from the east -- easy to see given that the majority of Cape Town lies to the east!

    The far-southern suburbs are cheaper and nice areas, but commutes will be in excess of an hour and closer to an hour and a half. They're noticably shorter via Chapman's Peak - which used to not be a journey for the feint hearted, but the road underwent extensive improvements and has re-opened as a toll road. I had a hand in the route cost calculations for the toll road (aimed at setting the toll) and can assure you that it is worthwhile going that way if you're a commuter. (Commuters should receive a discount rate, or at least that was the intention when I was working on the financial side of it!)

    The inner-northern suburbs used to be "poor white" areas, and aren't really recommended. Once you get to Edgemead or Tableview, however, you're doing okay. Of course, your journey won't be shorter than an hour unless they've added an extra lane to the N1 since I was last there.

    You may notice that I haven't mentioned public transport. (Other than minibus taxis, which I used to take all the time.) There isn't any. MetroRail makes Connex look like a reliable service, even in those horrid post-Hatfield days. Buses virtually don't exist, and you take your life into your hands when you step onto a minibus taxi (and if you do, always sit up front, even if it means waiting for the next one.)

    I seriously caution you against moving to Cape Town without first checking it out. There are limited online job search engines, but nothing beats reading the Weekend Argus classifieds and applying for a job or two to really see how things are.

    Without a university education, Affirmative Action will kick you in the teeth. And you won't get much sympathy from me. My aunt and uncle - both British - moved to Cape Town at the beginning of the year. They got visas because they brought a fair amount of money in with them and opened a daycare business, where they were also employing a small number of South Africans. Their daycare (in Hout Bay) is doing well. (They moved from Devizes, Wiltshire.)

    Even if you have a degree, don't think that this is the key to success. There are many degrees that won't be of much use at all. A BA ("bugger all") will not help much. A Computer Science degree with good experience in the IT industry, however, will help immensely.

    Don't for a minute think that relocating to Cape Town will be easy. Don't do it without a sizable chunk of spare change and don't do it without going on a LSD trip first. (Look, See & Decide.)

    Good luck.

    [Edited by ches on 11th November 2004 at 04:10]


    • #3
      Moving to Cape Town

      To the Gardeners
      I believe Ches has painted a clear picture of life in SA, here comes my two pence worth

      The country I grew up in, being SA, and the one I now visit anually, are light years apart, all my family live in fear, and they all live in the best parts

      Test the water first, before uprooting, leave your children here under the care of your closest family, and go and spend a few months there, then decide....

      I could never live there again, but I love to visit,
      ....only my opinion.....


      The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us,
      And I for one must be content to remain an agnostic
      ...Charles Darwin...


      • #4

        oh you bunch of sore losers!

        cape town is an amazing place and i'd recommend it to anyone.

        i grew up in durban, and moved to ct when i was 9 years old.
        spent 14 years there. ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT!!

        dunno how old you are, but for the young at heart, it has everything you can think of.

        amazing restaurants that are open until late!
        the most beautiful beaches in the world
        the most lovely women in the world (albeit they are a bit pretentious, but a bit of pretention never hurt anyone!)
        it has a nightlife of note!: i dj'd for 5 years in ct and i still think that there's nothing like the feeling of walking up long street in town at 2, 3am...its buzzing with people, food vendors on the streets, music reverberating of the walls from the various clubs...its awesome! i love it!

        it also has many areas where the older folk move to retire...lovely quiet areas near the beach like hout bay or other in land areas surrounded by mountains like somerset west...

        ct is an amazing place with. its the epitome of a cosmopolitan city with everything to offer.

        i'm not naive, it does have its bad elements, but show me one city in the world where there aren't poor areas, vagrants and crime...its everywhere.
        but if you gonna put up with those things, at least do it in a city like ct!


        • #5
          I'd like to make two points about the crime. Firstly, nobody can deny that South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the "first world". Violent crime is a much larger proportion of the crime than elsewhere. Furthermore, women not only have to worry about being raped, but they have to worry about being gang raped, and then getting AIDS.

          The second point is about living in fear. I believe that South Africans are some of the most highly stressed people in the world. First there was apartheid, when police with automatic rifles patroled our shopping centres and the government told us there was a war on and conscripted our boys to fight against our men, women and children, old and young, sick or well, hungry or illiterate. Once apartheid went, all the violent crime surfaced. Nobody got a break from it, they just barricaded themselves into their homes: gated communities, burgler bars, panic buttons in each room, etc. A lot of the fear comes from the stress. The crime rate may be subsiding (if you believe Thabo Mbeki), but people are under such stress that they barely notice it.

          The closest encounter I had while living there was being mugged by three men, one of whom claimed to have a gun, but never showed it. I am still plagued by the stress I was under while living there. Frequently, if I sleep alone, I get sleep paralysis - I never get it while my husband is in bed with me, and rarely when he's home but not in bed. I suffer irrational fears; if I come home and its dark and I'm alone, I'll open all the cupboard doors to check for intruders. Crime where I live now is extremely low (my husband was astounded when his laptop was stolen out the back of his car), but the fear prevails.


          • #6
            Seeing as everyone is throwing in there points of view here is mine.

            I left 10 years ago to travel, and I am returning home in 10 days. My dad passed away 4 years ago, and mom, in her 60's has been living alone since then. My sister and her family live in Durban too, and all of them, would never want to live anywhere else. Yes they have all been overseas various times, but love no other country like they love south africa.

            My mom, who was born in the UK, and moved out to SA with my father when she was about 21, still now a a widow, would never ever leave. She loves South Africa and Durban, and her way of life. I have countless friends who are the same.

            I think the difference with them is that they don’t think, what can south africa do for me, but more what they can do for south africa.

            All the negative points that people have made here are true to a degree, but you must realize that each person has a different experience and a different story to tell.

            In 10 years of traveling over seas, I cant think of anywhere I want to be more right now then back home. And yes I have been coming home often every couple years for between 1 and 3 months at a time, so I know how things are.

            I used to think home is where the heart is, now I think home is where your life has purpose.

            Please do heed everyone’s warnings, but also be open minded to the benefits. I would say for me, I would never dream of living in Johannesburg, no way at all.. ever! But for me Durban gets the thumbs up.

            It all depends on what you want. there are still many amazing places where you can have a good life in SA.