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BeccaBoo's avatar

We are moving to South Africa in Dec 2011, but I have never been?

Asked by BeccaBoo (2715 points ) April 9th, 2011

I would like your opinions and experiances on how different this is going to be for me. I have never been as we have never been able to afford to take all the children and us there. I am moving from Norfolk (a flat and green place, and pretty cold) to where my partner comes from in the Free State. I have my reservations on culture and how the people are different. My 16 son who has just finished school to go onto college is going to have to go back to school for a further 2yrs (he does not seem to fussed at this). My partner is a farmer (as are all his family) so this is going to be a real culture shock. My attitude is you have to try everything once, but i worry that i am going to hate it. I know nothing about it, and that i will stuggle with the language barrier, crime and how god loving they are. (This information is only what i have been told by my partner) Please if there are any South Africans with advice…...i need some help and positive input here.

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13 Answers

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Welcome to Fluther!

Your nervousness about the move is understandable. It’s general human nature to fear the unknown. You are doing the right thing by reaching out for information on what to expect. We do have at least one fellow Jelly, NaturallyMe, who lives in South Africa, but she hasn’t been on the Fluther site in several weeks. I’ll forward your question to her, and we can hope that she sees it.

While I’ve never been to SA, like you, I am in the process of moving to another country and will be living a very different lifestyle. What has helped lessen the nervousness is learning as much as possible about the history, culture and current laws. The internet is chock-full if information on SA. It’s also helpful to watch videos (YouTube has quite a few) to garner information in an audio/visual aspect. Getting familiar with the culture is really helpful; I’d be lost in just about every conversation if I wasn’t remotely familiar with the British sports teams, pop culture celebrities, and the different words used.

If you and your son start this education process together with your partner as your coach, it should help put you at ease. One final tip: make sure he explains all of the potential downsides as well. The more you are prepared for the possible worst, it won’t catch you off-guard. My guess is that you will find many wonderful things about SA that your partner never bothered to mention because he always took them for granted.

Good luck in this new adventure! There are many who would jump at a chance like this.

stardust's avatar

I’ve been to South Africa, Cape Town-stayed there for a few months. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.
I did experience the whole culture shock thing initially. The disparity between the wealthy and poor was something I found extremely hard to stomach. I also witnessed racism among South Africans which I wasn’t prepared for. The effects of apartheid are still looming unsurprisingly.
Having said that, on the whole my experience of SA was incredibly positive. I’d go back at the drop of a hat. It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people.
I was there during the winter so I don’t have any insight on what to expect heat-wise. The winter was cold and wet.

There’s a lot of languages spoken in South Africa. I’m not sure if you speak Afrikaans, Xhosa, etc etc but I reckon it’s a must to learn at least some of the languages spoken if you’re going to be living there.
I appreciate the huge transition you’re embarking on, but I think you’re in for a real treat. It’s a truly magnificent place and the people are very friendly. There’s quite a laid back vibe too, which suited me nicely.
I wish you all the luck in the world. As @Pied_Pfeffer said, there are indeed many who’d jump at such a chance, I being one of them!

LuckyGuy's avatar

You are being presented with an awesome opportunity. I was there working with one of the auto manufacturers and really enjoyed it. Of course I saw everything from the White side of the fence. You did not mention your race or your partner’s race here – nor should you. It will affect your experience drastically.
Either way you will have life experiences that you will never forget. I’d do it in a heartbeat.

JLeslie's avatar

I have never been, but I hear the country is absolutely beautiful! I live in America, and all the South Africans I have met here in the states were wonderful people. Friendly, sense of humour, welcoming. Sometimes in America we get a bit of a biased view, because we generally meet people from a country who have left their country, so that can be a certain type of person with a certain mindset; more adventurous and open.

My advice is this: make an agreement with your husband that if one of you winds up very unhappy after giving it a go, that moving again will be a possibility. I think one of the toughest things in a marriage is when the two people want to live in different places. It can be different countries, or even just different cities in a country. Where you live really matters. There have been recent studies demonstrating that where you live greatly affects happiness.

Go without prejudice. If you are making some assumption, possibly by observing how your husbands family is, let that go to. Meet everyone as an individual, and when asked if you like it there, I suggest you answer, “yes.” Of course with close friends and your husband you can be more honest if you are having trouble adjusting.

Why do you mention the language barrier? Don’t most people speak English?

BeccaBoo's avatar

Hi guys,

Thanks for the responses so far, lots of really helpful tips. Just a few things to fill you in on that may help a little more. My partner and i are not married, although we have a child together, we are a white family (although for me this makes no odds, however i have found out that out there it really will, and i don’t like it one bit) also i only speak English, have picked up a few Afrikaans words through listening to my partner talk to our son, we will be moving to the country where the family are farmers, so i doubt there will be many English speaking people although i have been told that they understand it well.
I really want to try this and give it my best shot, if for nothing else but our son, i just don’t think i am going to cope with the harsh reality of the black/white divide and the fact my views and morals are all fairly modern, and i believe they are very old fashioned out there!! Please someone put me right!! My partner is very reluctant to share any information on this.

JLeslie's avatar

@BeccaBoo Sort of similar, I moved to the American south where racism is deep in their history, however it is probably more divided still in South Africa. But, we people from out of state talk about how it bothers us tremendously that here there is still incredible economic desparity between white and black for many. However, for the most part, the people I interact with, in my social circle, are not overtly racist, and so my daily life is quite nice with good friends and a my husband loves his job. When I say overtly, it is not a good description. What I have found is the white people here have little tolerance or understanding for the ways they feel black people are sabotaging themselves. Meaning, they really could care less what someone’s skin color is, they are bothered by more crime in black neighborhoods, high high school drop out rates, speaking English poorly, and more subtle is atitude. I guess some would call it xenophobia, but in a way I think it is the reality of how to be successful in America, and there has to be a certain amount of conformity to take hold of the opportunities America has to offer. In other parts of the US this is not the case, minorities are at all levels of income in significant numbers.

If you will be living in a very white area, with no black people near or around your town, there will likely be little discussion about race.

Also, your partner has lived out of country long enough that maybe he will be intolerant to racist conversation also. He is likely more like you then his family I am guessing? Since you have a life with him and love him. As long as you both are united, you can work through anything negative about the environment, and make a change if necessary.

JLeslie's avatar

@BeccaBoo A bazaar thing that happens to a lot of people from the north who come south, is they begin to understand why southern whites think how they think. A horrible uncomfortable feeling for open minded, liberal, people who have always lived without prejudice. It doesn’t make them become racist, it actually is quite disturbing to them. I know people who never had a racist bone in their body, never would discriminate, and then spend time in Memphis and think things they never thought they would think. Most of these people are disheartened by the situation and wish it could be changed for the better they know it can be, while I find southerners many time feel it cannot be changed.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I have lived in South Africa for a bit. Life varies based on your race and class and it all depends on where you move. There is a way to live in South Africa and not have a clue about what’s really going on in terms of disparities. It’s all about how blind you want to be. There are good and bad people there, like anywhere but the history and the richness of South Africa’s cultures.

BeccaBoo's avatar

@JLeslie I am from the UK born and bought up just outside London, the most multi-cultured place in the UK. The colour of some one’s skin, their race or even how rich or poor, clever or stupid has never been an issue to me, i was bought up with the attitude, you treat each person as an individual and to never ever judge someone until i get to know them properly. These same traits are the things i have installed into my children. However my partner hates black people, not here but the people in South Africa, he says they are different there and that they are uneducated etc. Makes my blood boil to hear him talk like this, although i realise that out there it is different culturally and that there will be poverty that i have never seen before and crime to make my eyes water. I just think that what i’d like to install into my children, is not about race, class or who or where your from, however it seems that this is something i am going to have to accept as a way of life. I think i will have to be a little reserved when it comes to my opinions.

JLeslie's avatar

@BeccaBoo I have been known to say that if I had children I might move by third grade. I don’t want them to grow up in a place where one group is so unequal to another or where religion is so predominant, and boundaries of separation of church and state are crossed too often. It is actually not very extreme here, just different than what I am used to. You have to wait and see I guess. It would be hard for me to be married to a racist person, but you should know that my husband was the most non discrinating person I had ever met in my life, I loved that about him. Here, where we live, surprising phrases come out of his mouth, surprising to him and me. He still always treats everyone as an individual without prejudging, but when a black person winds up fitting into the stereotype that frustrates him, which happens too often here, he can’t help but recognize it. It is more about socio-economics than skin color, and the subculture in the communities. Very very few people in the states actually think black people are born stupider or less than, as people. Most people, white people, want it all to be equal, everyone to be equal, even white southerners feel this way. It’s tricky. Seems your husband does not hate black people, he is commenting on a specific group of black people, it is a cultural comment. What white people sometimes fail to see is that they are part of the problem, part of the reason black, and other minority communities might not be succeeding, not just the culture within the community.

I have found that places that are very black and white suffer from black and white tensions, while very very diverse cities, where there are many many cultures, everyone feels one of the many and it becomes a non-issue, if anything a point of interest to learn about the other person and where they are from.

I hope the immediate community you move to isn’t racist, that will be your childs experience, his friends and family he sees every day. And, you will have influence over him of course.

BeccaBoo's avatar

I see your point of view and agree pretty much with what you say about it all, I guess it will be the same no matter where in the world i go. I just struggle with all of this because in my head and from what i am being told, I know its wrong, on a day to day basis I am not living it. I am sure its something i will learn to accept and deal with in time in the appropriate way. My partner like yours is definatly not a racsist, however he does make comments about things that have happened to him directly when he was there and on talking to him about this today, like he points out he’d rather i knew what i was letting myself in for. I think that the children will be ok as long as i make sure that the schools they attend are English and they are cushioned from alot of whats happening with apartheid and the divides it causes, they will be ok. I think the whole situation is a very scary prospect, but one i’d like to give my children just for the fact there is a whole new family and brand new life out there for us. Most of what i hear about South Africa is positive and many English that have emmagrated out there. love it. The weather, the country, the people, so I am guessing for the most part i will like it. And believe it or not i am quite excited.

JLeslie's avatar

Your son can be a leader in his new community as he grows up. He will know both. He will know life in cosmopolitan London, and understand life and the struggles in SA. He might wind up building bridges you never know. I know a married couple, wife is Jewish, husband is Palestinian, and I figure when they have a baby it will be a golden child and bring peace to the middle east. He actually was a counselor at Seeds of Peace when he was young trying to bring understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

Plus, if it really sucks you can always leave. I believe you when you say you are excited, a new adventure.

NaturallyMe's avatar

I live in SA (born here), so probably can’t tell you anything about culture differences since i have nothing to compare it to, but as far as language goes, you’ll do just fine with English (take you time in picking up Afr when you get here) – i have yet to go to an area where nobody speaks English… (ok, i haven’t been EVERYWHERE in SA of course, but still). SA as a whole is very bilingual as far as Eng and Afr is concerned, so there should be no language barrier problems really.

As far as the weather goes, it’s nice – not as cold as the US or UK i suppose (but your hands will still freeze, hehe), and it can get pretty hot in summer depending on where you live (Free State not being one of those extreme heat places in general). Overall, compared to what i know of the US anyway, our weather is quite pleasant. I live next to the Free State, so you won’t have much humid weather, and you’ll have dry winters and rain during the warm seasons.

Regarding god loving people, it’s the same as anywhere else i suppose. As far as i know, it’s a mostly christian country.

Anyway, this is just some superficial info. If you wanna know something specific about my experiences here you’ll welcome to send me a message, i’ll see if i can help. :)

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