My South African Story

I am a Swiss lady of 63 years. I left Switzerland – this wonderful, clean and well-organized country – in 2000. It was too narrow-minded for me, and I emigrated to Spain.

I lived at the Spanish coast six long years, until I decided to book a 2-week holiday in South Africa. Why SA? I don’t know. The only part of Africa I ever have been before was Morocco – and I was fascinated by the North African culture.

Hence I arrived in Johannesburg the 23rd of July 2005, booked a Hotel close to the Airport, and after waking up the next morning I went outside.

I have taken a deep breath and got tears in my eyes because of the arising feeling: “I am home”. This feeling was so strong, also during the next 2 weeks travelling around in the Cradle of Humankind that I decided: I want to live in this beautiful country. Not only because of this feeling, but also how I experienced the people.

‘You must be crazy’

Everyone I was talking about living here, told me: “You must be crazy; there is no future in this country. Look only at the crime.” I must admit that there is also lots of crime in Spain and in Switzerland, but not as brutal.

Wherever I went – whatever problem I had: everybody was friendly and helpful. That was something new for me.

When I was standing in a queue and had to wait, people were talking to me. Something I never experienced before, not in Switzerland and of course never in Spain. I was amazed . that’s communication!

I was sad when my holidays ended and it was clear: I am coming back! Five months later, after having sold my business and everything I had, I arrived Christmas Day 2005 in Johannesburg, only with two suitcases of clothes and 2 dogs.

I didn’t know where to live

I didn’t know where to live and how to make a living. But that was not too important. I only wanted to be here, in this beautiful country, with all the birds and animals, with a wonderful climate, a warm sun and a wide sky full of inspiring clouds. I wanted to discover the mentality of the South Africans and also experience black people and their beliefs – and was astounded about the variety and the depth.

I felt very much attracted to the area of Magaliesburg, and the first few weeks I was living in self-catering cottages. It was not easy to find such kind of accommodation with two dogs. But the ones that allowed pets were very friendly.

I didn’t know the heavy rainfalls here and experienced some surprises to drive my VW Chico on dirt tracks. One day I stuck. Only a few minutes later a friendly man in a 4×4 stopped and pulled me out – we became friends.

Finally I found a nice little house to rent in this area and moved in. I bought new furniture, curtains and what else I needed. After a few days the company delivered a fridge and washing machine – and now I could start really living in South Africa.

Everything was gone

For the first time I used my washing machine with all my dirty clothes and hung them outside in the sun before I left for shopping – that was my first mistake. Because of the not really secure fence (there were some holes in it), I took my (hunting) dogs along – that was already the second mistake.

When I drove back home I immediately noticed at the gate that the washing rack was not anymore where I placed it. With very bad feelings I entered the house. Everything was gone, everything except the furniture! All new clothes, all bed sheets, all shoes – everything. The only thing left, was what I wore.

The friendly Policemen have taken a report – and you wouldn’t believe it: after a few weeks I got more than 50% of my stuff back!

It depends on the way of looking

I think it depends on the way of looking at this incident. I am living in South Africa and it is well known that (almost) nothing is secure, except the increasing prices. But I only lost some clothes and towels and suitcases – not my life. If I would be scared of crime, I rather should move into another country. It is part of the life here.

Anyway, I moved closer to Johannesburg to reach my clients and rented a beautiful tiny house and applied for a Business Permit; I am a Health consultant. It took me a while until I got it, but with the friendly help of a lady at the DTI Department of Trade and Industry finally I received my Business Permit and I was able to start my work.

This small house was not big enough to put all my furniture in it, so I had to look for storage. A friend of a friend of a friend, I never have seen before – offered me a complete empty Container to store my furniture: for free! I didn’t believe it, but it was true: I can store my stuff at least during three years there. Unbelievable!

South Africa is the country of contrast and it is a challenge to live here. In spite of all the warnings of people around me, I want to apply for Permanent Residence.

Why? I experienced so many positive things in the 28 months I am living here, I never experienced in my life before, and I was living in different countries in this world. And I want to make a difference – I love South Africa. I need some more time to explore the entire huge country .

Story submitted to SAinfo on 12 April 2008