Johannesburg (or Joburg, as the city is commonly known) is the rhythmic centre at the heart of South Africa. Expats moving to Johannesburg will find themselves not only in the country's economic engine room, but also in one of the foremost financial centres in Africa.
Well known for its role in South Africa's tumultuous history, the city is founded on gold, dust, contrast and conflict. The pace of life in Joburg can be frenetic as business people pursue their ambitions and consumers shop with apparent abandon. The nickname eGoli, given to the city by locals, means 'place of gold' and refers not just to the gold found below the ground but also the proliferation of wealth above it.
Despite its industrial reputation for mining and commerce, Johannesburg is not without its own unique brand of natural beauty. Its affluent neighbourhoods are spacious, leafy and quiet, and beyond the electrified fences one can find landscaped gardens of pastoral splendour.
Expat families can enjoy outdoor outings to a range of destinations such as the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve and Zoo Lake. The Highveld game and nature reserves outside the city also provide an opportunity for expats to get in touch with nature and contain the country's iconic grasslands and wildlife.
That said, many Joburg locals looking for entertainment simply head to the city's mega malls for shopping, socialising and movie watching.
There are, however, downsides to life in Johannesburg. It is a fast-paced, vibrant metropolis characterised by continuous growth, but the shadows of its wealth hide an underside marred by crime and poverty. Kamikaze-like minibus taxis, which function as the most commonly used public transport, make owning a car essential. Walking in certain areas is also inadvisable due to safety concerns.
And yet, for many, the city remains a beloved land of opportunity which continues to attract thousands of expats and locals chasing career advancement and hopes of a better standard of living.
Expats often remark on the ideal climate that Johannesburg enjoys, and the weather certainly is one of the major attractions for many people moving to Joburg. Summer is characterised by hot, clear days and spectacular late-afternoon thunderstorms, while its frosty winter mornings resolve into dry, warm days.
For those who can afford to live in the relative safety of its wealthy suburbs, Johannesburg offers an exceptionally high standard of living coupled with great economic opportunity.
►Check out some of our Expat Articles about South Africa
"Weather-wise, Joburg is one of the best places to live in, and the locals are really warm and welcoming." Namrata is an Indian expat living in Johannesburg. Read her interview about expat life here.
"Don’t pay attention to all the negative comments that you read about Joburg and the rest of South Africa on many expat websites. Most of those comments are made by people who no longer live here. Come with an open mind and an adventurous spirit and you are almost guaranteed to love it here." Heather is an American writer and photographer, who's been living in Johannesburg since 2010. Read about her experiences here.
Are you an expat living in Johannesburg?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Johannesburg. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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