Her desire to discover the real South Africa has taken Namz from the inner city to leafy suburbs, from botanical gardens to nature reserves, from museums to theme parks. The blog Mia Musings is all about her experiences in the Rainbow Nation and the City of Gold… Travel, food, things to do, a few posts of Mia (her dog) and “anything else that catches my fancy”, she says.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your life as an expat?
I never planned on becoming an expat, or a blogger! But life is funny that way, and now, I find myself living outside my beloved India, and loving it too! An Indian by birth and soul, a traveller at heart and an investment analyst by profession – Kabir (my husband) and I decided to move to South Africa in 2013. He was offered a job here and after a bit of thinking, we decided to go for it. The time was right and it was a good opportunity. Living abroad was not new to me – having lived in the UK earlier – so moving was not a big deal.
Turning into a blogger was an entirely different thing, and not something that I had envisioned. As luck would have it, finding a job in SA turned out to be much harder than anticipated. So after trying long and hard, when nothing seemed to be materialise, I decided to start my blog (I needed a great deal of pushing and encouragement and for that I am glad).
Life as an expat in South Africa has been great. Settling in was easy and people were genuinely warm and welcoming. A few things that really worked for us was that language was not a barrier as English is widely spoken in SA; there is a huge Indian community here and Kabir’s company provided us with great relocation agents. So at least we had people to assist us in the initial phase. Now, after almost 3 years here, we are one of the locals!
What does the concept of “trailing spouse” means to you? How have this experience affected/changed you as a couple?
It took me a while to accept that I was a ‘trailing spouse’. Not easy when one has been independent and has had a fulfilling professional life! But once you choose to accompany your spouse to foreign lands and decide to take a break in your own career, you will invariably have to accept this reality. Initially, I took it as a negative term but then realised that it’s more an opportunity – to take some time off, to meet new people, to explore a new culture and place, to write and to travel. Once I made peace with that, I found myself enjoying my new life.
I have also written an article on my blog about ‘trailing spouses’ and the challenges faced by them. You can read it here.
Kabir and I accepted this as a challenge, together. This not only brought us even closer but also helped strengthen our relationship even more. The fact that we were in a new country with no friends or family meant that we had to depend just on each other. Just knowing this, makes a couple stronger than ever. Of course there are times when the frustration and negativity takes over, but it is nothing we cannot handle.
How is the culture and local community like? Have you felt the cultural shock or, on the contrary, the feeling of being a “citizen of the world”?
South Africans are lovely people – warm, friendly and accepting. We moved here with no friends, and now we have more friends than we could have hoped for! We do not live in a very expat neighbourhood of Joburg and so its not often that we hang out with fellow expats. In the beginning this made meeting new people quite challenging but then we managed to make friends anyway.
There was really no culture shock per se, but the thing that required most getting used to were the electric fences everywhere and security concerns. Johannesburg has a bit of a problem with crime (but it is really not as bad as what is portrayed by the media). Hence, most houses are located behind huge walls that are protected by electric fences and gates are access controlled. Having never lived in such circumstances before, it took us a while to get comfortable.
Besides this, living here has been a dream – great weather, beautiful city, and good infrastructure with modern amenities.
As expat woman, people advised you to start a new family (“Apparently, that’s the foremost objective of a stay-at-home trailing spouse!”, you said). And once in South Africa, you adopted a mixed Afrikaner puppy and started pottery classes. How was the adaptation to your new life?
Hahah! It’s true – when ever I mentioned I was bored, I was gently advised to have a baby! But most people said it in jest – people who know me would really not make that mistake 😉
As you can see, I don’t seem to have taken that advise too seriously! Getting a dog was not a substitute or a fall back option honestly. Kabir and I have grown up with dogs and so it was only natural for us to get one here. It made even more sense since I had the time to raise a puppy. For me, the type of dog or a pedigree never mattered. What was important, was to have a dog that we could love and spoil. So when I saw some ads about a local rescue called CLAW, I decided to pay them a visit. I was really impressed by this organisation’s work with township people and their pets. So when they put out an appeal for the adoption of some puppies who had been rescued from a ditch, we knew we had to have one! That is how adorable Mia became a part of our family.
As I mentioned earlier, we did not know anyone at all when we moved to Joburg. I was constantly on the lookout for clubs, hobbies, etc. that would help me connect with people who had similar interests. Pottery classes turned out to be just that. Although I had never done pottery before, this was the only hobby that seemed to appeal to me. Not only did I realise that I was not that bad at artsy stuff but that I really looked forward to my weekly classes. Such hobby classes really help expats settle in and get orientated with local people I find.
How was the paperwork and administrative preparations of the move? Did you have some help?
I would say that organising a visa to live and work in SA is the most difficult thing – paperwork, bureaucracy, delays, etc. But once that part is taken care of, the move, renting a house, buying a car, etc are not that difficult. We were very fortunate to have had an agency helping us with the entire process. They took care of all the paperwork.
My advise for the visa would be to get an authorised agency to help you. The rest of the things you can manage on your own too.
I have a section on my blog about ‘Moving to South Africa‘ – it has some valuable resources.
Could you give us some advice about life in South Africa and what do you like to do in your spare time?
My first and most important advice on moving to SA and Johannesburg in particular, is to realise that there is crime here, like in most other countries as well. But don’t just go by what you read in the media – speak to people who live here, contact bloggers and expats like me who can give you their perspective. And once you do decide to take the plunge, you will see what a great decision you made!
Another important thing is, if you are moving with your spouse who has an offer of job here, and you are hoping to find a job here too, it would be better to get a job and work visa before you move. Will save you a lot of hassle.
South Africans love the outdoors and are very athletic. Every weekend there are tons of events and things to do from hiking, running, mountain biking, farmers’ markets, walking tours, etc. So be prepared to slap on loads of sunscreen, don your hats and have a great time. So far I have not had a dull weekend or holiday!
If you want to know how the adventures of Namz continues: Mia Musings !
EXPATS IN BELGIUM
If you’re starting your own adventure expat in Belgium, you need expert information or to meet people that are in your same situation, join the e-community of Settle & Connect !