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Interview with Annabelle – a British expat in Cape Town

Updated 29 Jan 2010

Annabelle Dare moved with her boyfriend, James, to Cape Town in 2003, planning to stay for a year or two. Now married with two children, Belles and her family are having such an amazing time that they have no plans to return to London. Don't tell her mum, though.

For more information about expat life in Cape Town, visit the Expat Arrivals city guide to Cape Town or read more expat experiences in South Africa.

About Annabelle

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: London, UK

Q: Where are you living now?
A: Camps Bay in Cape Town

Q: How long you have you lived in Cape Town?
A: Seven years

Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A: I moved with my then boyfriend, now husband! We didn't have children at the time, but now we have two.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: We only planned to come here for 18 months. My husband had decided to take a break from banking and come to South Africa to do a diploma in wine. I am a teacher, so it is quite easy to move anywhere with my job. We decided it would be fun to do something different for 18 months before settling down, and have had such an amazing time we have never gone back!

About Cape Town

Q: What do you enjoy most about Cape Town, how’s the quality of life?
A: Life in Cape Town is amazing. It has so much to offer. The most important thing to me and my family is the pace and quality of life. The South African climate, coupled with no traffic jams and the beautiful surroundings, means everyone gets a lot out of life. Most people don't seem to be tied to the office until 9pm or beyond and really make sure they get the most out of their free time. The excellent restaurants and stunning coastline are top of my list of high points.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A:  There isn't as much culture to be had in Cape Town. There are a couple of theatres, but very little opera or art exhibitions. All this does seem to have improved since we moved here, but certainly not to a European standard, but there is so much else to see and do you will not struggle to fill your time… Things don't happen quickly here, which can be frustrating when you have a power cut of you need a plumber over Christmas (when the whole country seems to take a month off work!) but you get used to it! 

Q: Is Cape Town safe?
A:  South Africa is famous for its crime. We have a fence around our home and set our alarm when we go to bed every night. But I have never been, and do not know, anyone who has been a victim of serious crime. You must just be sensible and vigilant, as you would be anywhere in the world.

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A:  Atlantic Seaboard, City Bowl or Southern Suburbs.

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A: You get more for your money than you would in the UK. Really depends on what you want to spend, but there is something out there for every budget. Try Gumtree or the local agents. 

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: It's cheaper here than the UK, although food prices are rising all the time (as with all countries at the moment). Petrol is cheap, but new cars are far more expensive than in the UK.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: We mix mainly with other expats, although have made friends with some locals through our jobs or our children! Capetonians are notoriously cliquey, so we didn't find it particularly easy to make friends with the locals!

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: We were lucky, we were given a few introductions to people living in Cape Town before we arrived and have made some excellent friends since we have moved here.


Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: Home Affairs, who deal with work permits, do not make it easy! They are constantly changing the criteria, and it is almost impossible to speak to anyone there who is able to help without waiting in a queue for most of the day. Some people use lawyers who do get the permits, but it can be an expensive way to do it.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: Work is not easy to come by. It is best to come knowing you have a job rather than waiting to try and find one when you get here.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: We found it easy to settle in. Exploring a new place is so exciting, but it does take time to build up friendships and can be pretty exhausting in the beginning.

Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: The schools are excellent. You have the option of fee-paying or schools where you make a nominal contribution to fees. There are plenty of international schools, e.g. British, German, French and American.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: The healthcare we have received has been outstanding. You need medical insurance, otherwise you will be liable for all doctor's or hospital bills, but the quality of service and care is excellent.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you'd like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: We are truly happy that we made the move to Cape Town. The lifestyle is wonderful for families with small children (or no children!) Just make sure you make the most of it when you are here. There is so much to see and do, and it is very easy to become too settled. Get out there and see all the amazing things the rest of South Africa has to offer!

►Interviewed January 2010

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