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Johannesburg (or Joburg, as the city is commonly known) is the rhythmic centre at the heart of South Africa. Expats moving to Johannesburg will find themselves not only in the country's economic engine room, but also in one of the foremost financial centres in Africa.
Living in Johannesburg as an expat
Well known for its role in South Africa's tumultuous history, the city is founded on gold, dust, contrast and conflict. The pace of life in Joburg can be frenetic as business people pursue their ambitions and consumers shop with apparent abandon. The nickname eGoli, given to the city by locals, means 'place of gold' and refers not just to the gold found below the ground but also to the proliferation of wealth above it.
Despite its industrial reputation for mining and commerce, Joburg is not without its own unique brand of natural beauty. Its affluent neighbourhoods are spacious, leafy and quiet, and beyond the electrified fences one can find landscaped gardens of pastoral splendour.
For those who can afford to live in the relative safety of its wealthy suburbs, Johannesburg offers an exceptionally high standard of living coupled with great economic opportunity.
Cost of living in Johannesburg
The cost of living in South Africa is generally lower than overseas, and roughly on par with better developed African countries. Living in Johannesburg is about half as costly as in European capitals. Expats with a foreign-currency income will be able to live well, and local salaries, while lower, can still afford a good quality of life.
Accommodation in Johannesburg is reasonably priced, if not slightly higher in price than in most other South African cities. Grocery costs are on par with those in other cities. Petrol goes for a bit higher than in coastal cities, but otherwise transport costs are about the same. Private education and healthcare, although costly, are more likely to meet expats' standards.
Expat families and children in Johannesburg
Expat families can enjoy outdoor outings to a range of destinations such as the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve and Zoo Lake. The Highveld game and nature reserves outside the city also provide an opportunity for expats to get in touch with nature and experience the country's iconic grasslands and wildlife.
That said, many Joburg locals looking for entertainment simply head to the city's mega malls for shopping, socialising, movies and excellent eateries.
There are, however, a few downsides to life in 'Jozi'. It is a fast-paced, vibrant metropolis characterised by continuous growth, but the shadows of its wealth hide an underside marred by crime and poverty. Kamikaze-like minibus taxis, which function as the most commonly used public transport, are a constant source of irritation and danger on the roads, while walking in certain areas is also inadvisable due to safety concerns.
Climate in Johannesburg
Expats often remark on the ideal climate that Johannesburg enjoys, and the weather certainly is one of the major attractions for many people moving to Joburg. Summer is characterised by hot, clear days and spectacular late-afternoon thunderstorms, while its frosty winter mornings resolve into dry, warm days.
While Johannesburg may have its flaws, just like any expat destination, new arrivals often find they enjoy the high quality of life, low cost of living and are often welcomed by the friendly locals, leading to many expats choosing to call Joburg home on a permanent basis.
►Check out some of our Expat Articles about South Africa
"Weather-wise, Joburg is one of the best places to live in, and the locals are really warm and welcoming." Namrata is an Indian expat living in Johannesburg. Read her interview about expat life here.
"Don’t pay attention to all the negative comments that you read about Joburg and the rest of South Africa on many expat websites. Most of those comments are made by people who no longer live here. Come with an open mind and an adventurous spirit and you are almost guaranteed to love it here." Heather is an American writer and photographer who's been living in Johannesburg since 2010. Read about her experiences here.
Are you an expat living in Johannesburg?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Johannesburg. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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