I came across this article on News 24, of a real life account of a South African man and his wife, currently living in Sydney Australia and thought it appropriate for anybody thinking of packing up and leaving SA to read this thought provoking piece. Personally I like the objectivity and honesty of this article, but I will let you decide.

Things are not always what they seem and sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side. The question is, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to be happy?……..

I moved out here 2.5 years ago and while I’ve seen a lot of comments about this topic, I don’t believe anyone has really hit the nail on the head! In case you’re wondering, I’m not writing in to explain why I left South Africa. I have my reasons and I’m keeping them to myself. The reason for writing in is to share my experiences with you and let you know what you’re in for if you are planning to move out here.

Let me start off by saying that my intention with this article is not to speak badly about South Africa. I love my country, anyone who knows me will attest to this. It was home for 25 years and while everyone was leaving pre 1994 (my family included), I was there until early 2008.

I believe the last 10 years have been phenomenal for SA and the future holds a lot of potential. As such, I will continue to promote and support it as much as I can. I subscribe to The Good News website and where possible, I share everything positive about our great country. Since leaving, I’ve been back a couple of times, including being there for the SWC. I had the pleasure of being at the playoffs in PE (Germany versus Uruguay) and was extremely proud of the awesome tournament we put together. It was great to see us welcome the world and I was really fortunate to experience the vibe and to be a part of the first ever FIFA tournament on African soil.

My background: I’ve been in the IT industry for the past 16 years. While in SA, I held many senior roles and was extremely successful in my field. This track record allowed me to cement myself in my chosen field and as such, I never had to apply for a job. Due to this, I was able to have a very comfortable lifestyle that allowed me to own a cluster home in Fourways, drive a BMW and pretty much live a privileged life.

While I don’t regret my decision to leave, I think it’s important to set the record straight. I did a lot of research before I moved out here but no research can beat real life experiences. You only really know what you’re in for once you actually live in a country. While I understand that each person’s experience may be different due to a number of reasons, the following relates to everyone who is considering this move:

  • Salary Increases – In SA, I was accustomed to getting a salary increase every year. If times were tough, the least I’d expect was an increase in line with inflation. Imagine how surprised I was to not get an increase when I over achieved my target by 40%! I checked with a number of other overachievers and guess what? Some hadn’t received an increase in five years. Unemployment is at five percent so companies don’t really have to be aggressive with salaries as there aren’t that many jobs available. This of course doesn’t mean that day to day expenses like food, utilities, petrol, etc get any cheaper! These are always going up.
  • Rent – As I said before, I had my own cluster home in SA. If you’ve lived in one of these or a townhouse before, you will agree with me when I say that we build them nice and large in SA, which meant always appreciating the ability to escape to them after a long hard day. Unfortunately, Australia hardly has any of these. In fact, most of their architecture is Georgian or Victorian terraces (inner Sydney) and if you’d like something similar to a cluster home or townhouse, get ready to pay in excess of $1 000 rent a week. If you want to purchase one, the price could be anything between $ 1.5m and $3m. As I write this, the exchange rate between Australia and SA is currently R 6.70 so do the maths…it’s a fortune!
  • Food – My partner and I spend $1 000 a month on food (booze included)! There are only two of us, so I’d hate to know what it would cost us if we had kids. This doesn’t mean that we snack on caviar every night or drink Moet champagne. We have three meals a day like anybody else, including packing lunch for work as that could easily cost us $10 to $15 a day if we ate out at food courts. I find this extremely expensive when compared to SA. The most I spent back home was R2 000 a month.
  • Daycare – If you have children, get ready for the shock of your life. Unlike SA, where most families I know leave their kids with their housekeeper during the day, here it costs $120 a day to leave them at a daycare centre! As such, most couples land up sacrificing one salary as a parent lands up staying at home to bring up their child.
  • Rules/Laws – While I always felt that Police or Traffic Officers didn’t enforce these enough in SA, I think the Australian government goes overboard in this regard! For one, there are cameras everywhere. If you are caught speeding, you not only get fined but you get points deducted from your licence. Once you reach 12 points, you lose your licence. A fine for speeding costs four points so once you reach the 12 points, you will lose your licence for six months. Besides fines, I’ve also been approached at a bar after three beers. I was asked if I was okay to drive and if I decided to stay, would I be a problem later. Needless to say, I didn’t stay.
  • South Africans are considered arrogant – This has been the toughest lesson for me. I believe South Africans are entrepreneurial in nature and therefore, ambitious. As such, we have an opinion about everything and won’t hesitate to share it. I’ve unfortunately learnt the hard way that this isn’t acceptable here. You must quickly learn that it’s their way or the highway. As such, keep your opinions to yourself. The attitude here is very relaxed and the term “no worries” applies to everything they do in life.
  • Promotions at work – if you were good at your job in SA, you were recognised and promoted. Not here! They have this term – “Fair go” – which basically means that if I have 16 years of experience and you have three to five years of experience, we are considered equal and therefore, could easily earn the same salary. Based on this, it’s tough to get ahead as you are all equal.
  • Doctors – We’ve been to many and have been extremely disappointed. Fifteen minutes costs you between $50 and $60. Anything more and it’s considered double time! Forget getting a check up like I was used to in SA where they always checked throat, ears, nose, etc. Here, they listen to you and in some cases, check the internet for a solution (yes, we’ve caught them doing this!). As such, we’ve stopped going as it’s a waste of money.
  • Average salary – Hopefully, you’ve added up all of the above and realised that you need to earn a decent salary to live in this country. While the average salary is recorded at $50 000 per annum, I think you need $150 000 to live comfortably in Australia.

While the above may all be negatives about Australia, the following I believe are all positive:

  • Politics – There is no dominant political party in Australia. In fact, during the last elections, they had a hung parliament so the population was clearly telling them that they were not happy with either party. Imagine that happening in SA.
  • Pension – Here it’s called Superannuation and basically, every employer that hires you needs to contribute 9% of your annual salary towards pension. The difference between SA and here: it goes into an investment account and you can only access it when you turn 65 years old.
  • Medical care – While the doctors leave much to be desired, basic medical care is covered by the government. As we are on temporary visas, we don’t get access to this so it lands up costing us a fortune every time we see a doctor. However, once you are a permanent resident, annual checks ups are all covered by government.
  • Public transport – Extensive! Trains, buses, cabs…it’s all available and affordable.

I hope this information has been useful. While I’ve travelled extensively, this is the first time I’ve really lived in another country and it’s really made me appreciate what I had back in SA. The only advice I can give you: enjoy it while you can! And think long and hard about your move. While there are similarities, I’m sure the above has highlighted many differences.

PS. I miss home!

Reference: News 24

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