So it’s been about three weeks since my move to Johannesburg, South Africa.
So far, it has been good and this city is super beautiful. I haven’t started missing New York City or the U.S. yet because Johannesburg literally has everything that I could possibly want/need. The only thing that I am still getting adjusted to is the time difference. I am currently 6 hours ahead of my family and friends on the East Coast. Once Daylight Savings Time happens, I will be 7 hours ahead. It’s weird because when I wake up each morning, my friends and family at home are asleep and when I am getting ready for bed, everyone at home is still awake. My communication has been delayed because of the time difference. I’m actually not sure how my relationship with my boyfriend lasted so long, (over a year and some change), seeing that I was living in NYC and he was in Johannesburg. We communicated so consistently that it didn’t really feel like I was in a relationship with someone on the other side of the world.
I’ve been posting a lot of my experiences so far in Johannesburg via my IG stories and IG feed and a lot of people have been saying that now they want to visit South Africa. I think the majority of people in the U.S. still have a narrow view on Africa.
Before I left NYC, people would ask me questions about Africa that I personally thought were absurd.
“Do they have cars like ours there?”
“What kind of houses do they have?”
“Isn’t it really hot all the time there?”
“Do they have malls?”
“What will you eat?”
…and the list of questions go on.
I’m sure those same people were surprised once they started seeing the photos and videos that I was posting.
Even though I’ve only been living in South Africa for less than a month, this is my third time in this country and I thought it would be cool to share some things about South Africa that people should know before visiting (from a New Yorkers point of view):
Yes, there is Winter here
In fact, Winter happens at the opposite time of the year here than in the U.S. The most expensive month to travel to South Africa is December. December is the official start of Summer and the time when everyone is on holiday (aka vacation).
A cost friendly time of the year to visit South Africa would be in April. The flights are cheaper (about $750-$1,300 RT) and the weather is pretty good. This is the time when Autumn is approaching so it’s not too hot and not too cold.
Just bring a light jacket.
The flight is hella long
The first time I flew to South Africa, I flew via Virgin Airlines and I had a 12 hour layover in London. I enjoyed the long layover because I got to get out and explore a new city. During my layover I visited Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Big Bed, China Town and a couple cafe’s.
It felt like I explored two destinations for the price of one.
The other two times, I flew via South African Airlines and it was a straight flight. 15 hours is the time it takes to get to South Africa from New York. It sounds super long but it’s not that bad. I spend my time watching movies, sleeping, eating, sleeping (again) and listening to music.
If you’re someone that doesn’t like layovers, I suggest taking a straight flight.
Johannesburg > Cape Town
The first time I visited South Africa was in April 2017. Despite everyone telling me to choose Cape Town over Johannesburg; I chose Johannesburg. I was told that Cape Town was more of a tourist area and there was more to do there. I don’t like tourist areas when traveling so I chose Johannesburg to get an authentic travel experience. I am so glad that I did.
This past weekend, I visited Cape Town for the first time and while it was visually beautiful to look at; I much prefer Johannesburg. If you enjoy city type vibes when traveling, then definitely visit Johannesburg. This city has such a vibrant city vibe, luxury and authenticity.
I understand that everyone is different and though I enjoy cities when traveling, others may prefer beaches and nature. Cape Town is a great destination for travelers that love the outdoors, nature and beaches (I mean, you’re surrounded by a mountain and the ocean at all times).
My ideal vacations consist of exploring local coffee shops, art, architecture and a bit of shopping and that is why I would always recommend Johannesburg over Cape Town.
The U.S. Dollar goes a long way
Every dollar here equals to about R14 (14 Rands). This means that you can get really high quality food for a cheap price. For example, my boyfriend and I ate at a nice restaurant and had steaks and wine and when I converted the check, the total was about $30. I don’t know about you, but I could never find prices like that in New York.
To give you more of an idea, Ubers here can take you from point A to point B for less than $10. So basically you can get around this city at anytime for a reasonable price. My favorite part is that you can get a great cappuccino at an amazing coffee shop for about $2-$3.
The only things that aren’t cheaper here than in the U.S. are clothes and shoes. To the surprise of many Americans, South Africa has stores that range from high end to fast fashion. Stores like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Mango, Zara, H&M, Forever 21 and more all exist in this country.
The airfare to get here may be steep but once you get here, you will see that your money will go very far and you won’t blow your budget (unless you go to the mall and go crazy with shopping).
There is somewhat of an accent barrier
Yes, there are many languages spoken in South Africa but most people here speak English. Often times people go in and out of English and speak their mother tongues of Zulu, Tswana, Xhosa, Situ…etc. This is when things can get confusing and you have to remind people that you only speak English.
I noticed that in restaurants, the waiters have trouble understanding me when I order water. I end up having to repeat “can I have still water” about three times (haha). This is because of the accent barrier. Being here makes me understand how foreigners feel when they visit the U.S and people don’t understand what they are saying because of their accent.
Here are a few vocabulary words I picked up to help you navigate South Africa better when visiting:
“Howz It?” - greeting/”Hi, how are you?”
“Shap” - see you later/alright, then
Rand - the name of the currency in South Africa
Robot - stop light
Garage - gast station
“Yebo” - yes
Joburg, Jozi - nicknames for Johannesburg
Lekker - good/tasty
These are just a few, but these are words you will commonly hear in South Africa.
The people here are very warm & welcoming
I personally think that South African people may be the warmest people in the world. This wasn’t something I was prepared for or expecting. Everyone here greets you with such warmth and you can tell that they are genuine.
Americans talk about Southern Hospitality and how sweet people in the South of the U.S. are.
Southern Hospitality has nothing on the warmth and hospitality of South Africans.
Black people do really well here
When I came here and saw how well black people live here, I was pleasantly surprised. It felt great seeing black people in high positions, driving nice cars, having nice homes and just living their best lives.
There is so much space to grow and prosper here and its admirable to watch first-hand.
It’s great to see how black South Africans overcame the struggle of Apartheid and now killing it.
These were just a few aspects of South Africa (primarily Johannesburg) that I thought people should be aware of. This place is absolutely beautiful and I would encourage anyone who expressed interest in visit to definitely make it happen.
Also remember, when traveling, have an open mind and immerse yourself into the culture & lifestyle.
Thanks for reading!