5 reasons why South Africa is an expat haven

Contributed by Aetna International, 01 September, 2020

Despite COVID-19 causing major disruptions to many hopeful expats' moving abroad plans, now is a great time to reconsider where you would like to call 'home' once normality resumes. Whilst South Africa might not seem like the most obvious choice for expats, it has much to offer those looking for a unique living experience.

With breathtakingly beautiful landscapes as diverse and immersive as the country's culture, South Africa attracts millions of tourists each year. But what makes the country ideal for expats? To find out, this article uses insight from people familiar with life in South Africa to form five compelling reasons why South Africa is an ideal home for expats.

1. A diverse and immersive culture

Famously referred to as the rainbow nation, South Africa is made up of a beautiful blend of languages, cultures and religions. In fact, South Africa is home to eleven official languages including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Sotho, Sotho sa Leboa, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. Even the national anthem is made up of five different languages, which truly emphasises the multicultural and multilingual nature of the country.

If you're moving from an English-speaking country, then you're in luck. As one of the country's official languages, English is widely spoken and is used as the language of business, commerce and politics. With such a unique yet diverse culture, settling in as a new arrival shouldn't be difficult.

While the country as a whole is home to a high number of expats, SA's major cities including Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Durban, to name a few, boast an abundance of thriving expat communities. Whether you wish to join an expat community, live like a local or enjoy a balance of both, there are plenty of places to settle in South Africa.

2. An outdoor-oriented lifestyle

From tropical beaches and towering sandstone cliffs to awe-inspiring waterfalls and snow-capped mountain ranges, South Africa's landscapes are as diverse as the country's culture. Thanks to the country's ever-changing landscapes, South Africa also offers a variety of activities and leisure options for expats to enjoy.

No matter where you choose to call home in SA, you'll always find plenty to do, see and experience. In Cape Town, for example, you'll find ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, water-sports, fishing, and more. Other coastal locations like Durban, for example, also boast incredible watersport opportunities, including canoeing, kayaking, parasailing, and fishing, to name a few.

In South Africa, life is very much lived outdoors. You'll quickly come to learn that people are passionate about being outdoors, especially when it comes to enjoying activities and sports, with mountain biking a popular choice. If you're a fan of the outdoors then, you'll simply love living in SA.

For avid adventurers, "SA is also a good base for exploring other phenomenal neighbouring destinations, like Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Mozambique" says Justus Visagie, a South African national and author of Bike Routes. He adds that "there's such an enormous variety in scenery, nature, animals and activities that there's always something to experience".

3. Delicious cuisine

Home to a thriving expat population, it's perhaps no surprise that South Africa's food scene finds influence from all corners of the globe. "Food in South Africa is simply amazing. The country has a great international vibe, allowing both visitors and expats to find meals from anywhere in the world" says Leyre Paniagua, a Spanish expat who has lived in South Africa for more than a year, and author of The Sugar Bush.

Durban for example, boasts an impressive international food scene, especially when it comes to Indian cuisine – which is no surprise as Durban is home to the largest Indian expat community outside of India. One popular local dish is 'bunny chow', which is a hollowed-out loaf of white bread, filled with a selection of different curries and beans.

Traditional South African cuisine is made up of a diverse blend of African, European, Indian, and Malay influences, meaning that 'staple foods' vary from region to region. Seafood for example, is extremely popular in coastal locations such as Cape Town, the West Coast, the Garden Route and Durban. Among the highlights are lightly spiced fish stews, snoek, mussels, oysters and crayfish.

Meat, particularly red meat, is also a common favourite in South Africa. A traditional South African braai is a great example of this love for meat. A braai is more of a social event than a meal, like a barbecue, in which family, friends or local communities gather together to share and enjoy food. Traditionally cooked on an open wood fire outdoors, the meat – usually lamb, beef, pork, or chicken – is cooked and served with an array of vegetables.

4. High-quality private healthcare

South Africa's healthcare system is made up of two systems – public and private. Unfortunately, the public healthcare system is underfunded and suffers from a lack of staff and long waiting times, however, the private healthcare system is of a very high standard.

South Africa's private system is much better equipped and offers higher quality facilities than the public system. Leyre adds that "doctors and medical staff all speak English and are generally very friendly – the facilities are always very clean".

While the standard of private healthcare facilities are much higher, it is also more expensive to access private medical facilities and hospitals. That said, a study of 28,000 individuals in South Africa found that more than 40% of them used the country's private healthcare system in some form, while approximately 16% of the population are covered by medical aid.

In order to easily access the country's private healthcare facilities without having to pay out of pocket fees, you may need to look into getting a private medical insurance plan or a global healthcare package. That way, you're able to benefit from the country's high-quality facilities.

5. Low cost of living

The country also boasts a low cost of living along with a high-quality of life, so you only have to pay a little to gain a lot in return. Compared with the UK for example, South Africa 's overall cost of living is around 44% cheaper, with the price of housing almost 50% lower. South Africa also offers a lower cost of living than the US, Australia and many European countries.

Money tends to go a little further in South Africa when compared to other countries, especially when it comes to things like real estate, eating out at restaurants, grocery shopping and public transport.

With an affordable cost of living, a beautifully diverse culture and an outdoor-oriented lifestyle, these are just a handful of reasons why South Africa is a great location for expats. You only have to visit the country to discover even more reasons why South Africa is such a desirable destination. So, no matter where you choose to settle, you're sure to find your forever home in South Africa.

Tags: business | Europe | Other | Africa | individuals | Botswana | Namibia | India | South Africa | Australia | Lesotho | Mozambique | commerce | public health | private healthcare | insurance | food | fees |



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