It isn’t entirely possible for a person to be “fully prepared” for the changes that come with moving to a new country, but that doesn’t mean that you should not try! South Africa is probably very different from your country of origin, so you should anticipate and accept the inevitable culture shock and the emotional upheaval that you will face after you move. Try to eliminate unnecessary worry and stress by taking a few precautionary steps to make your transition as seamless as possible. Here are 5 things that every expat should know before moving to South Africa.
The South African Department of Home Affairs is known for what many describe as bureaucratic incompetence, which is characterized by widespread institutional failure and dysfunctionalities.Sort out your visa and work permit well before you need to move to South Africa, or else you will join the ranks of other expats who are forced to spend months trying to get their paperwork processed. The simplest way to reduce the amount of time you would need to spend getting your paperwork in order is to approach the embassy in your home country. You are then more likely to get your visa within a reasonable time frame.
Safety is one of the key factors when deciding to move to a new country, and South Africa is often a topic of hot debate here. While there are many who claim that it is extremely unsafe, there are others who state that this is merely hype and based on hearsay. The fact is that there are definitely some safety concerns in South Africa, but there are also many ways to deal with these issues. The country’s murder rate has halved in the last 20 years or so, but the rate of opportunistic crimes, petty theft, armed robberies and hijackings has remained high. The police’s slow response rate is one of the contributing factors to the elevated crime rate, and in response to this there is now an abundance of private security companies. These companies provide a host of security services including alarm systems, perimeter walls, guard dogs and even electric fencing as per the client’s requirements. To be fair, most of the crime occurs in low-income areas that are not close to expat-preferred areas, and these crimes are generally carried out by people known to the victims. It is best to opt for a home in an enclosed neighbourhood or an apartment with gated security.
The healthcare system in South Africa has seen an ever increasing gap between the private and the public sectors. The public healthcare system caters to the needs of about 80% of the population but is far from adequate, as there is a lack of resources and funding. Fees are charged according to the patient’s income and their number of dependants. The private sector, on the other hand, has a standard of treatment that is on par with that of Europe! The problem is that private healthcare in South Africa can cost 5 to 8 times more than that of the public sector, so you should take out private health insurance to cover the costs of emergency care or repeat consultations. As an expat, you have recourse to a wide assortment of local and international health insurance companies. Local providers will charge you a monthly premium based on your income and the package you have chosen.
4. TV License
According to South African law, if a person wants to buy a TV, he/she needs to obtain a TV License that has to be renewed annually at the local Post Office. Even if you do not wish to sign up for cable, you will still need to get a TV license. The simplest choice for cable is probably Multichoice – you simply have to visit their office and buy a PVR, and they will send an installer who will come to your place to put up the antenna and get the wiring done. You will get a wide variety of channels to choose from, including familiar international names ESPN and CNN, and your cable bill would work out to approximately ZAR650 per month. If you prefer to use your internet to watch TV, you will need a DNS subscription service that will allow you to watch overseas channels like Netflix for a fee of $3 to $5 per month.
5. Internet and phone
Where your internet connection is concerned, it would be best to go for an uncapped plan. It is unlikely that you will manage to get speeds of more than 4 mbps in South Africa, and you should find out if there is a 10 mbps line in your neighbourhood before you opt for a plan with a higher speed.
Landline phones are provided by Telkom at a rather low rate, but due to the lengthy bureaucratic process involved, it could take well over a month for you to get it installed! Additionally, the problem of outages is quite common with landlines, and so it may be best to simply conduct all your business via your mobile phone, which is a common practice in South Africa.