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Interview with Melanie – a South African expat living in Las Vegas

Updated 24 Aug 2022

Melanie is an avid hiker and beer enthusiast from South Africa. After spending a few years in Taiwan, she made the move and currently finds herself in the USA.

For more on expat life, see our Expat Arrivals essential guide to Moving to the USA.

About MelanieMelanie USA

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I'm originally form a small town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa.

Q: Where are you currently living?
A: Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States.

Q: When did you move here?
A: I've visited the USA quite a few times in the past but officially moved here in August 2021.

Q: Is this your first expat experience?
A: No, my second. I previously lived in Taiwan.

Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: With friends.

Q: Reason for moving?
A: An opportunity to study and travel presented itself and I had to take it.

Living in Las Vegas

Q: What do you enjoy most about Las Vegas and the USA in general?
A: The size. It’s a big city with a great vibe. There’s so much to do both indoors and outdoors. My favourite is all of the hiking spots.

Q: Have you had any low points? What do you miss most about home?
A: Plenty. I miss South African food, obviously. I miss my community of people and speaking Afrikaans. I probably miss braaivleis the most.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience culture shock at all?
A: The currency. I still have no idea how the US dollar works. I don’t know how much a nickel and a dime are worth. Getting used to driving here was also a bit of an adjustment. I didn’t really experience much of a culture shock here.

Q: What are your favourite things to do on the weekend? Any particular places or experiences you’d recommend to fellow expats?
A: My number one suggestion for anyone coming here would be to ignore the casinos, ignore gambling and go straight to all of the hiking trails. The mountains and the desert have amazing spots.

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? Is there anything especially expensive or cheap in the USA?
A: It’s much more expensive living here than in South Africa; however, the income is higher as well. Depending on where you buy groceries, you can manage to save some money. For example Whole Foods is much more expensive than Costco. You just have to be smart about your spending.

Q: What’s public transport like in Las Vegas and across the country?
A: I don’t take public transport but there are buses and bikes available.

Q: What do you think about the healthcare available in the USA? What should expats expect of local doctors and hospitals?
A: The healthcare is extremely expensive. I would suggest applying for some sort of alternative, encompassing insurance instead when you're visiting the US.

Q: What’s the standard of housing like in Las Vegas? What different options are available?
A: People mostly live in condos or rent apartments. I am fortunate enough to live in a friend’s house for free. The cost of rent is extremely high. 

Q: Any areas or suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Good suburbs in Las Vegas are Henderson and Summerlin.

Meeting people and making friends

Q: Was meeting people and making friends easy? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: I mainly met people through friends I was already acquainted with. However, I have met plenty of people on trails and while rock climbing.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends with the locals?
A: Yes, I have some local friends. It’s great to know locals because they can show you all the hidden cool spots. Vegas locals in my experience are extremely kind and nice and eager to show you around. You just have to approach them in a social setting.

Working in the USA

Q: Was getting a work permit or visa a relatively easy process? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I am on a tourist visa, therefore I have to leave the country every six months. I haven’t applied for a work permit or a green card yet.

Q: What is the economic climate in Las Vegas like?
A: The city can be quite expensive, especially when you go out often. However, there are many great job vacancies in countless different sectors, so if you really needed work, you’d be able to find a job easily.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: People here tend to be more abrasive and careless, which is something I sometimes admire. People tend to be louder and more outspoken than us South Africans.

Final thoughts

Q: Is there any advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals to Las Vegas?
A: Don’t overthink it. Las Vegas is loud, out there, amazing, bright and overall just insane. Just enjoy the vibes, there are so many different ones. 

►Interviewed August 2022

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