Chinese expat Yun Zhang is stretching out into the seemingly endless space that so many Cape Town locals take for granted. Read on for a rare glimpse into the mind's eye of an Asian woman gone African.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Cape Town, Claremont
Q: How long you have you lived in Cape Town?
A: 14 months.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: My spouse lives here, I came by myself.
Q: Why did you move to Cape Town; what do you do?
A: To be with him, and to experience a new country, a totally different culture from mine.
About living in Cape Town
Q: What do you enjoy most about Cape Town, how’s the quality of life?
A: Cape Town’s natural beauty never ceases to amaze me. Life here is a bit quiet compared to that in Beijing, but the sheer scope of the space and the natural phenomena is amazing. I am slowly but surely getting used to “fewer people” and no “crowds.”
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Food. Authentic Chinese food. You do get some good Chinese restaurants here, but they just never taste like home.
Q: Is Cape Town safe?
A: Generally, yes. I know I won’t walk around alone at night.
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Cape Town as an expat?
A: Too many! The city of Cape Town is so spoiled by nature. Claremont is quite nice and close to good schools!
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Cape Town?
A: Compared to where I came from, space is so available in South Africa. It’s an “African luxury”.
Q: What’s the cost of living in South Africa compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of housing and renting is much more reasonable and affordable than that in Beijing; on the other hand, food costs are higher. In particular, good schools and restaurants are expensive. Fresh fruits and domestic servants are cheaper here.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: The locals are nice and friendly; I do socialise with some Chinese. What I like is that Western people generally respect personal space.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Cape Town?
A: Not really, I still find this to be a downside to my life in Cape Town.
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: I hold a life-partner visa. I don’t think there should be any problems getting a work permit here given the current status of my visa.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Cape Town, is there plenty of work?
A: Judging from the amount of beggars at your door on a daily basis, the economic climate is quite trying for the majority of people, especially for those that are impoverished. That being said, I do think there’s plenty of jobs for both the skilled locals and expats. Cape Town is a world-class creative city. There’s plenty of job opportunity revolving around creativity, design, architecture and art stuff…
Q: How does the work culture in South Africa differ from home?
A: A local saying that has become common knowledge is that in China you make friends before you do business. Business is often based around friendship and connections and bribery. I believe in the West generally, business doesn’t mix with friendship, which is a good thing.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: My fiancé is just that, a 'relocation company'. I didn’t need to hire a formal organisation, we did it all ourselves.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: No he’s local. I don’t think he has any problems adjusting to his own home!
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: I don’t have children as of yet. It’ll be great to raise them half time here, half time in China. They’ll grow up in a bilingual and bicultural environment.
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: I know there are several schools in Cape Town, but there are an insufficient number of Chinese-language teaching schools here.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Cape Town?
A: Haven’t had to test it yet! I know that private medical care will cover a lot of expenses, but you have to pay a monthly fee, which is only affordable for those who earn a decent salary.
Q: Is there any other advice you'd like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: South Africa is not as dangerous or unstable as the media portrays. I know that Chinese media are very prejudiced about this country. It’s a beautiful place, just be brave, come here and check it out!
~ Interviewed July 2010