When SA was first mentioned to us, we dismissed the very idea, but I can tell you we changed our minds within a few hours of landing here for a check-it-out visit and now we would love to stay here for many, many years.
Life in South Africa is rich, exciting and for the most part safe. The lifestyle with a young family is almost impossible to top.
Your toddler could do every imaginable type of activity and have the choice of a huge selection of fantastic playschools. He will grow up outdoors, with no shoes on and you’ll be able to head off to the beach, climb a mountain or walk in a forest and still get back for the lunchtime nap. It’s a very child-friendly, family-focused environment.
You will also be able to afford home-help and a swimming pool in the back garden. I have had several friends who have given birth here and the private health care system is fantastic – so as long as you have a health insurance, you will have a great experience.
Cape Town has a very European feel to it and has large ex-pat communities of English, French and Germans and actually most nations in the world. It is clean, has a good road system, most things work and the setting is stunning. Great restaurants at a fraction of London prices and vineyards everywhere.
Safety is the thing you obsess about before coming here and it is also the local topic of conversation, much as house prices are in the UK. Security is a bit of a national past-time. It would be crazy to deny that there are risks. In the Western Cape house burglary is the one that would be most likely to affect you and the edge to it here that doesn’t exist at home is that intruders will sometimes be armed (knives more often than firearms). So the thing that most ex-pats do (including us) in order to simply neutralise that risk, is to live in a security estate. Do not think compound. Think housing estate, but behind the gardens is a large electrified fence and you go through a boom and gatehouse to enter. Life in that environment is then worry-free and your kids can ride their bikes, you can leave your doors and windows open and so on. That said, I know plenty of non-South Africans who live in free-standing homes very happily. They usually have a dog and a good alarm, just to be on the safe side.
Walking the streets during the day is very safe. The city centre spends a fortune on bibbed officials who are there to help you and there are car guards everywhere. I have NEVER felt nervous or threatened in any place in Cape Town and my work takes me into townships. The only theft we have encountered is baboons eating our picnic! So you will feel much as you would in a European city and take the same kind of precautions. You would need to be careful walking the mountain on your own and I wouldn’t go to a deserted beach alone either – but those are the same rules you would live by in London, Paris or New York.
Driving standards are a bit dodgy, so the other greatest risk would probably be the road, but usually it is benign incompetence rather than dangerous driving.
The natural beauty of the place is breath-taking. If you are in any way outdoorsy there are SO many things you can do. The social history is fascinating. There is a good art gallery, good theatres, good music festivals. SA folk don’t live to work and the working hours are pretty laid back. My husband is the last out leaving at 5:30 and don’t expect anyone to answer the phone after 2pm on a Friday. Which all helps with family life. Commutes are also short if you choose your location well.
I imagine I have communicated my enthusiasm for the place. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it for a young family. We used a relocation agent who was truly fantastic (we’ve used them before and she is head and shoulders above) very details-orientated and knowledgable.
Ex-Client of Space.