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Johnny: Johnny Africa

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in South Africa makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to South Africa, etc.

My name is Johnny (clearly) and I’m an expat living in South Africa and originally from NYC. I moved to SA in May 2013 to work in one of the investment banks here. I’m an avid traveler and plan to see as much of Africa as I can before heading back. I already have a few places checked off the list and it only gets better from here.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I figured I wouldn’t have too many other opportunities to live abroad so I wanted to make the most of it. Everyone does the whole Facebook and Instagram thing (myself included) but I wanted to do more than that. Hopefully whatever I write in my blog will help others in the future looking to vacation to these more obscure areas of the world.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

I’m particularly proud of my post about finding a gym in Joburg. I’m an avid gym goer and I think this is a unique post in the SA expat blog community as I’m a single guy pumping iron. However, it seems that my post when I visited the apartheid museum and my take on it is the most popular, especially following Madiba’s death.

Tell us about the ways your new life in South Africa differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

Of course! I think anytime you move to a foreign country, there’s gonna be a little shock (except maybe Canada to the US). South Africans, thankfully, speak English so there was no adjustment necessary there. However, the culture is so different here. Pace of life is incredibly slow in Joburg and that whole driving thing took some getting used to. Nevertheless, the culture is quite similar. People here are obsessed with American media, and the culture is similar to what I grew up with.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in South Africa? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

Unlike many Americans, I actually knew Johannesburg was a proper city. There were no zebras running in the streets and people didn’t have lions as pets. Sadly, many Americans would totally believe you if you said this. Nevertheless, moving into Sandton, the wealthy northern suburb of Joburg, I did not expect to see a city that was THIS nice and affluent. It is safe here unlike every tidbit of information I was fed by the media and just like any city in the world, there are places you want to avoid.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

There are so many but perhaps my experience being pulled over by the police should suffice…

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Africa?

  • Be opened minded here. There’s so much to do and see here that it would be a shame not to do as much as you can.
  • One thing I can never understand is when expats are moving here and they’re taking vacations to Europe. Hello! When else are you going to be able to travel so freely in this part of the world? Europe will always be there!
  • Oh, and be sure to eat biltong but make sure you get it from a proper butcher!

How is the expat community in South Africa? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

There aren’t many expats in Joburg and if there are, it isn’t easy to meet up. This city is so incredibly spread out that you can’t just walk down to the local bar and talk to people. Nevertheless, I don’t really care if I’m surrounded by Americans; I’m living in another country! I’m totally content and I want to make friends with locals here. Besides, I love all the different accents here.

How would you summarize your expat life in South Africa in a single, catchy sentence?

Oh man, good thing I don’t need to answer this on the spot. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do but when in South Africa, they don’t ride elephants to work, damn it, so go eat some biltong and visit Cape Town!”

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