Moving to South Africa

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South African flag at Constitution Hill in JohannesburgIts immense geographic diversity and the recognition of 11 official languages are small indications of the range and rhythm of life in Africa’s southernmost country.  Expats planning a move to South Africa will find the wonder of an entire world within the borders of a single country.

Such extreme regional differences mean that expatriates should be able to find a spot to settle in that suits their needs and expectations. Overall, South Africa is well known for its outdoor lifestyle, the high quality of life expats can enjoy and a working environment with plentiful opportunities for those with an elevated level of education or a unique skill set. Furthermore, adapting to the culture is relatively easy and enjoying the new lifestyle is absolutely effortless.

Retirees are drawn by the wonderful climate, ambitious young adults by the relatively cheap cost of living and foreign high rollers by the easy access to a luxury lifestyle in the midst of an African aesthetic.

The country’s economy is fairly stable and emerged largely unscathed from the global recession due to its conservative exchange control and carefully regulated financial sector. At the same time, the country is battling with high unemployment, deep inequality and, in places, inefficient governance. Nonetheless, citizens and residents are protected by the country’s liberal Constitution which enshrines the rights of private property and minorities.

Despite problems in the respective public sectors, South Africa’s private healthcare system is world class and several of its universities are internationally ranked. The country’s private schools offer a level of education comparable to the best schools around the world and there are even some public schools which should meet the expectations of money-conscious expats.

As a result of skill shortages in sectors such as engineering, education, executive management and information technology, expats with the right skills and experience shouldn’t struggle to find employment.

Unfortunately, the country still has some way to go in addressing the disparities entrenched by the Apartheid era and crime continues to be a problem that affects many private citizens and businesses. Private security is a necessary precaution and, with the country's booming security industry, can easily be contracted for affordable rates.

The most popular cities for expats moving to South Africa are Cape Town and Johannesburg. This is where the similarities end, however – Joburg, as it's endearingly referred to, has the constant bustle of a cosmopolitan business centre while Cape Town offers windswept beaches, mountain-framed vistas and a more laid-back lifestyle.

For many expats moving to South Africa, its idiosyncratic mixture of first and third world elements makes for an irresistible combination in spite of the challenges.

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