“I Am Sorry” – An Open Letter From A South African Expat

'I Am Sorry'

Every time I see yet another article from another South African moaning about the negativity of expats, and clearly writing with their rose tinted glasses on, I get angry. Really angry. Hulk angry.

The overwhelming theme of South African bloggers and writers lately seems to be the attack of the expat. How dare we leave South Africa and still think we have a right talk about our homeland? It’s like once we step on that plane, we are suddenly obligated to forget our lives there ever existed, or at least we seem to be expected to forget all the bad bits, lest we offend anyone we leave behind.

South African expats around the world seem to be being bashed in every direction I look. Of course we all know the expat (and this also applies to some South Africans who are still living in South Africa) who is constantly moaning and putting the country down and telling everyone how wonderful his new home country is. But not every expat can be or should be tarred with this derogatory brush.

South African expats aren’t allowed to share any ‘negative’ stories about the country, or comment on any South African news if we are judged to be being ‘negative’. I say ‘negative’, because one person’s negative is another’s reality. It seems that you are only allowed to have an opinion on the state of the country if you are residing on South African soil. Or if you are being ‘positive’ about South Africa then that’s ok too.

Which really pisses me off. Yes, we know there are so many wonderful stories and amazing initiatives happening in South Africa – most, if not all of us personally know someone who is fighting hard and making a difference to our beautiful home nation. Many people who live abroad still donate their time, money and where possible material possessions to charities in South Africa. We all fondly remember driving and hooting at each other and waving our flags from our cars after Joel Stranksy kicked that winning drop goal in the 1995 Rugby World Cup. We continued to be inspired by Madiba’s legacy of forgiveness and healing no matter where in the world we live and what colour our skin.

But what most of us cannot forget is the horrors of what we have personally experienced. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, robbed, held up at gunpoint in their own homes, mugged in the street, hijacked, raped and murdered. Ask any expat and I would say that they or someone close to them has been physically harmed in some way and that was a major part of the reason they left. Not all, of course, but many.

Every country has ‘problems’ but not every country has a murder rate and rape rate like South Africa. A murder rate that is only getting higher, not lower, which implies that these problems are not being addressed successfully.

South Africans will say they don’t live in fear, but you should try leaving the country sometime, just for a holiday, and see how the rest of the world live. The first time I went overseas was to England I was 15 – we took a taxi from the airport to our hotel and it was about 8am. My mum remembers my amazement when I asked her why people were walking around the streets. That’s what normal people do. They walk to work, they take buses and trains to work. Yet I had never seen that!

So yes, we expats are sorry. Sorry we ever had to think about leaving our beautiful homeland. A place not just close to our hearts, but in our blood, where we grew up surrounded by family and friends who loved and cared for us. Sorry that not only did we think about it, but we packed up our entire lives and actually got on a plane and left.

Ask any expat and I am sure that 100% of them will tell you they cried when they left. They cried for their family, their friends and for the fact that they could not see a future for themselves of their children in their African homeland.

And we don’t simply hop on a plane and start living it up in our glorious new country. Often we arrive with little money because we had to sell everything just to afford the visa and relocation costs. Many of us don’t have jobs for months while we look for work to support our families, both with us and back home. We usually have to start from the bottom and work our way up from scratch, we don’t often walk into cushy jobs with fat cat salaries. It usually takes an expat years to attain a similar lifestyle which we left in South Africa, if we ever get there at all. And you know what? We are happy about it. Because we sleep safe in the knowledge that we have made a decision that is right for us. A decision that is right for our children. And a decision that will be right for their children.

So next time you want to bash an expat, perhaps you could think about what they might have gone through before making a life-changing decision that they believe is in their own, and no one else’s, best interest.

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  • Reply Phil 6th June 2015 at 6:21 pm

    When we speak about SA, we don’t speak about the country as such, but rather the crooked and corrupted ANC Government and its followers and how they alone have made it a hell hole to live in. So lets use our words wisely, sharpening our arrows pointing them towards these facts. I pray for SA everyday.

    • Reply frans 1st January 2016 at 3:04 am


  • Reply Theresa Potgieter 6th June 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I thank you for this Reeva. I too feel that we are often bashed to bruises. We are judged even before we open our mouths. I have never even had the opportunity to say anything about my new home to my people as they are not interested. Now they bash us when we say anything about our homeland. We feel that we belong nowhere and it is our own people who are pushing us away – and they wonder why we only see the negative?

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 8:12 am

      Thank you Theresa ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Kim Lester 8th June 2015 at 2:20 am

      It will take many years still to re-establish ourselves in the new countries we chose. However, we know we did the right thing for our kids and grandkids. We are just the ones who had to take the really hard decisions and face the backlash. I am happy to do that for their sakes.

  • Reply vomillerdamm 7th June 2015 at 2:33 am

    Thank you for this post! Very well said.

  • Reply Greg 7th June 2015 at 6:55 am

    It’s not all expats who feel the need to justify their decision to ‘run away’ as opposed to ‘run towards’ something better, however there are too many particularly in Australia and New Zealand for some reason who do. Not the UK or Us or Canada. Why is that? It’s just exhausting seeing some of the thinly disguised racist commentary and gory pics doing the rounds, often taken from unrelated stock pics, making out as if those of us (by far the majority) who remained are deluded. I’m married to an Australian, have 2 separate neighbours who are Australian (even 1 from Perth..), another couple who are Dutch and a Swiss family across the road. Many people are desperate to live here and don’t understand the reasons for leaving. Some of you had bad experiences, sure, crime is a problem, but it doesn’t consume us. Not everyone lives in hot spots of Jo’burg and Durban. Some of us live safely in towns, cities and suburbs where people walk the streets day and night, safely, not naively, catch public transport and the like. One doesn’t have to emigrate for that, merely semigrate..

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 8:11 am

      I think you have missed the point of my post but thank you for your comments Greg ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Expat Loves SA but not blindly 8th June 2015 at 3:13 pm

      ‘Some of us live safely in towns, cities and suburbs where people walk the streets day and night, safely, not naively ‘ – I think Greg you are dreaming. Even those considered Safe Towns are not as safe as you think (or perhaps you are in a luxury estate and boomed off, and how many can afford that ! ) Love South Africa sure, promote it sure but don’t be blind either that does not help push things forward to a better future .. better facing things for what they are than closing a blind eye, otherwise nothing gets done !

      • Reply Greg 17th June 2015 at 8:15 pm

        This is the type of comment that riles most if us. I don’t live in a ‘boomed off’ area, nor am I prepared to accept things I believe need to change. The same way I felt about Apartheid. Things can be changed and they may not be better for a small minority on the whole (although I’d argue differently), it certainly is better for the majority. I’m not sure where you once loved, but please don’t project that onto all of us who quite simply don’t share your generalised presumptions. I think you can see why Such Africans get so annoyed with some expats who share drivel and generalised statements as if all South Africans and even expats share the same slanted, perspective. That man have been your reality, but it’s not most of ours.

  • Reply Tanya 7th June 2015 at 8:47 am

    I randomly came across this via a Facebook link. Thank you I have been in Melbourne for 18 years. I came here with my family a few months before I turned 18 so I had all the issues of commencing adulthood and finding work and starting from the bottom. It took me a good 5 years even at that age to find some good friends and settle in. Now 18 years later I am finally happy with my degree and where my career is at. For anyone wishing to leave South Africa- I have gutted fish and cleaned toilets to get to my comfortable life now. It is not easy moving and you cannot walk into a cushy life as said in this article. However I can go out without constant fear. I miss the beauty of Durban all the time.

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 8:54 am

      Glad you found it Tanya and enjoyed it ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Reply Cool beans 9th June 2015 at 11:51 pm

        An excellent letter .. Thank you!!

    • Reply Kim Lester 8th June 2015 at 2:24 am

      We had the same experience in Canada – had to clean houses and do other minimum wage jobs before “earning” our right to be here. Settling down in a process lasting many years. Well done on your achievements.

  • Reply Simon 7th June 2015 at 9:28 am


    This a timely article having recently read much expat bashing. Having left RSA 9 years ago it takes a lot of effort to establish yourself in a new country. The move I made is without a doubt the best for me, even though it was hard (and I often thought early of returning often), and to see my friends and father requires a trip around the globe.

    From time to time people do ask me about South Africa. It never an easy answer; I love the country and many of the people. I never claim to know these days what the details are, I get most of my information from my good friends in South Africa…I don’t long for the good ole days, it was my generation that voted “yes” to make the NP make the transition happen – a never much discussed topic. But I also have a unique perspective from those still living where they were born, I have comparison. I can compare my former employer Eskom (what a disappointment) to utilities here in the US. I can tell you that you can come here to learn about performance, effort and hard work. I tell my former coworkers so when I am back on vacation.

    South Africa gave me a lot, but it took things too; it took a year of my life to prop up the racist policies of a government I did not support, in my career I it took opportunities due to the racist policies of the next government. South Africa has some huge problems in the fundamentals of how people should treat each other and others property….issues I consider foundational. You can’t build on a shaky foundation. Many of my friends no longer see them, because to accept that reality is hard to wear every day. Sure you can eat well some places, go to the beach and some wine farms. But what do you have to ignore?

    I hope South Africa does resolve its major issues (and every place has challenges) but if you are hating those that of us that could not accept conditions of corruption and inequality. Take our passports, we are where we want to be????? That’s your government. We are your supporters, we cheer for Bafana-Bafana, we cheer for the Springboks (and Stormers), we want South Africa to be a fantastic country, heck I want to be to visit my dad many more times. We are your supporters.

  • Reply Sarah van Niekerk 7th June 2015 at 10:24 am

    I’m sorry that you don’t understand the reason for the bashing of expats and that you feel so stongly about it. In my opinion you wasted your breath but I hope that you feel better for expressing your feelings. South Africans are going through trauma on a daily basis, not just due to murder, rape, and loss but due to corruption, unfairness and helplessness. It is knowing that no matter what we do we are just not enough to make a difference. The intensity of stress they go through is higher that having to make a new beginnig in a strange country.. I feel anyone has the right to life were they want to and people should accept and respect others peoples choices, but when a South African blow off steam on social media they do not appreciate comments like “oh that is the reason why I live in Austrailia”. I would suggest that you rather place articles or comments that are positive to support and help South Africans to overcome trauma. Its like when you were raped or someone in your family was murdered and someone else says “but why did you stoped at a hijack hotspot when you had a flat tyre” or “you should have had a gun with you”. That is how insensitive it is. I too lived in the uk but I’m currently living in Gauteng and by the way found Australia very boring, but I’ve never said that or got angry with an expat. Just know that when someone living in SA attacks you on social media its because they are hurting, its because they know that whilst they did not have a choice they continue to stand upright in a country of chaos and they feel that those who “deserted” them don’t give a shit. Anyone should be able to leave the country and enjoy it. So don’t feel sorry for yourelf feel sorry for others then you will understand and enjoy life.

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Thank you Sarah, I do agree with some of what you are saying but I must say I do not agree that I have wasted my breath. I have received a number of messages, emails and comments thanking me for writing this post so it would appear there are many expats who agree with me and relate to what I have written. I certainly do not feel sorry for myself and would just really like it if South Africans could support and not slate one another all the time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Reply Tracey Adam 7th June 2015 at 8:45 pm

      HI Sarah. I would like to take issue with a comment you made: “The intensity of stress they go through is higher that having to make a new beginnig in a strange country” We left SA nearly nine years ago to make a start in the UK. I was 40 and hubby 45. Although I have no regrets for making the move, I cannot begin to express what we have been through to build a life here, and had I known the challenges involved, I would never have made the move away from home. Yes, we sleep soundly at night and feel safe, but in the process I have lost a part of myself. My self confidence has gone, I struggle to believe in who and what I am, and for the first time in my life am fighting depression. Unless you have been through it, it is difficult to understand the feeling that we just don’t ‘fit’, people here are just not interested in your past (even financial services where your excellent credit history means nothing), how uncomfortable it feels to get a ‘strange’ look when differences in culture and attitudes suface, getting into trouble for casual comments made that have no derogatory meaning back home but here people take exception to, etc, etc etc. I have never had an ‘easy’ life: children’s homes, foster care when my mother landed in Tara three times from a nervous break down, alcohol in the family, sister’s baby drowning in our pool when I was in my teens, sister killed on a motorbike, family friend murderd, (can go on)…but leaving SA and building a new life in the UK was and is the hardest thing I have ever been through. That being said , ALL SAffers are facing huge challenges that the average person will never understand.

      • Reply Kim Lester 8th June 2015 at 2:36 am

        Well said, Tracey. Until you emigrate you do have no idea. We went through an almost identical experience coming to Canada. Culturally so different, and so hard to establish yourself. Looked down upon because you “rejected” Africa and suspected as racists! We found that problems exist in all countries, just in different forms. Human nature is constant and so are politicians – lol.
        I make a point of not going on about how good it is to feel safe and secure here, as we still have lots of family and friends in SA. We have to support them as most do not have the option of leaving and have to carry on somehow.

      • Reply julie 8th June 2015 at 7:39 am

        Im so with you there tracey!!! Don’t regret leaving S.A, but man its tough here in the U.K. totally agree with everything you say! Anyone who thinks that us SAFFAS leave for an easy life is very sadly misinformed.

  • Reply Willem Wessels 7th June 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Great article Reeva. We are from Zimbabwe, and we share your sentiments exactly!

  • Reply BornInSAForAReason 7th June 2015 at 2:28 pm

    What’s really important is that not everyone can leave, even if they wanted to. So a couple of million people have no choice but see the positive and fight the good fight, in whatever way they can, while those who have left (indeed some running towards – but droves running away) stand on the almighty Facebook and chirp. There’s a huge amount to be said for positive thinking, the power of one, everyone can make a difference etc, and I believe it. It’s a shame that it’s the more difficult option.

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Absolutely! I just wish that no matter who does what, everyone could respect each other’s positions. I find us South Africans to be the nationality who just cannot seem to cope when someone else has an opinion that differs, it’s like the sky is falling down when people disagree. I do not think that anyone has the right to have a go at someone else just because they chose a different path. Many other nationlities are able to move around the world without being judged so severely and openly by those who do not leave (for whatever reason). Thanks for your comments ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Kim Lester 8th June 2015 at 2:41 am

      The hardest thing we ever did was to emigrate. We have struggled with the consequences of that decision daily for 6 years. However, I think things are at last improving, whereas if we’d stayed there would only have been an increase in the anger and outrage we felt every day we lived in SA. If it was possible to change the government in our lifetimes we would have stayed and tried that. But when the democratic vote elects the same moemparas twice or 3 times – what conclusion can you draw?

      • Reply Chantal 18th June 2015 at 7:29 pm

        Kim, I have als been here for 6 years now and understand the pain of leaving home for a better life. I was planning to come for a year or two but since things are not improving in SA there’s no point in going back. Granted there are some awesome people doing some awesome revolutionary stuff in SA but not enough to change a country lagging behind in education, unemployment, poverty etc. and don’t get me started on the politics there! As beautiful as SA is it will take a long long time for any improvements to become evident. I’m quite happy to be copped on the chin by South Africans for deserting my country. They don’t understand how hard it was to leave and never will until they do it themselves one day.

  • Reply rmgwilt 7th June 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Yes what you say is reasonable. I too have been castigated but on re-reading what I posted on Facebook like many I can be accused of almost gloating that here in New Zealand “we wouldn’t stand for this” and we “wouldn’t tolerate that” and the big whopper, “well you voted for them!” The fact of the matter is many, many are trapped where they are and hearing ivory tower pontification does not make them feel any better. It actually makes them anxious, I would think. I was back in South Africa just over a month ago. I can say people of all races were nothing but nice to me. And you never really know – maybe, what with all the crap happening in the Western World South Africa could be the place to be a decade from now.

  • Reply Greg 7th June 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I think the point that’s being missed here by many is that the majority of us who choose to stay here and make a positive contribution to change in one form or other, are constantly bombarded with selective, negative, gory and sometimes not even thinly disguised racist comments and innuendos, rubbishing the country of our/their birth. The only selective ‘expat bashing’ is from those who remain in a country we love and choose to live in, despite other choices, yet are just simply sick and tired of seeing the propaganda rubbish we receive almost daily from expats living only in Aussie and New Zealand for some reason. Also from ex-Zimbos, calling themselves Rhodesians. Most of these expats support their new home teams rather than their old home sides, which is rather bizarrely unique to many expat Saffas living in those countries alone.

    My wife’s Australian and still proudly supports the Wallabies and Reds (proud ex-Brizzie girl), and I thoroughly support that despite her having lived in SA now for more than 23 years. Our Aussie neighbours on 2 sides still support their Melbourne and Perth teams, although not necessarily enamoured by the country of their birth, they don’t rubbish it on social media.

    The only ‘bashing’ you’ll receive is where bashing has occurred in reverse. We’re defending what we fiercely believe in. We don’t care about your reasons for leaving, nor the hardships you’ve endured to make your new home comfortable. Perhaps many underestimated the lushness of the ‘greener grass on the other side’, and hence the need to ‘bash’ the country you left, to help justify your ill conceived move in many instances. Not all of you by any means. Whatever your motivation (and I only refer those who circulate the rubbish), just stop circulating negative propaganda amongst yourselves and to those of us loving living where we still do, and the ‘bashing’ from this end will stop immediately, I have no doubt.

    • Reply Andrew Mckay 7th June 2015 at 10:15 pm

      Well said Greg. I feel similar and submitted a post although perhaps I let my emotions take over and the author choose not to publish it, which is her prerogative.

      I think all of us are a bit tense and sensitive at the moment, 2015 has been a tough year for us in SA. Maybe I need to chill out a bit and articulate my thoughts better such as your in post

  • Reply Thomas 7th June 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I don’t believe that there is this army of expats pumping out negative propaganda on the internet about South Africa. In fact most of the negative articles I see originate from my South African friends based in South Africa. I mostly don’t comment on these as its sounds patronising and I don’t feel I have the knowledge too make a meaningful contribution. The only time I would ever share a negative article was if it were humorous… By far I would share positive posts ie on tourism.

    As Someone who left South Africa 17 years ago at the age of 19 I am still very proud to be a South African. But I avoid the expat cliches like only eating SA food and hanging out with South Africans. I do support South African sports teams, more so than when I lived in South Africa. From my own observations the negative people are usually newly arrived expats, usually older people who have to start over here seem to have to reflect on negative things. South Africans should follow the example of the Irish, Greeks and poms who have massive expat populations and the relationship is mutually beneficial both parties. This is probably closer to the reality.

  • Reply Deez 7th June 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Blah blah blah, you happy where you are then great! good for you. Why do you need our approval?

    I have traveled to many parts of the world and generally spent a considerable amount of time in most of the places I have traveled too. I run various online businesses and am fortunate enough to be able to work from anywhere on the globe that has decent Internet Access. I spend MOST of my time in Durban, South Africa. (My hometown). No rose tinted glasses here, just an appreciation for our amazing country.

    Yes crime is a problem, it’s a problem in many places of the world. Obviously in SA it’s far more extreme but on the flip side, we don’t have massive earth quakes, hurricanes, tornado’s, tsunami’s etc… we have a higher crime rate. Personally, I would rather be faced with an armed robber than a tsunami. An armed robber, I could decide what action to take and defend myself and family (obviously depending on the circumstances) I have been in the situation a few times and I have been fortunate enough to have always come out on top. Yes, I have a solid martial arts background BUT my point it is an armed robbery is nothing compared to the devastation of a earthquake/tsunami etc… At least in some cases with an armed robbery you do have the opportunity to fight back. With a Tsunami, well good luck!.

    You speak of Perth as if it’s Paradise. I stayed there for 3 months, perhaps being white you were not subject to the blatant racism in Australia. I’m a South African Indian, in Australia the locals immediately assumed I was some sort of illegal immigrant from Pakistan or something. Racist remarks and and stereotypical comments happened almost daily, I was once asked “why are you walking around here, should you not be opening a supermarket somewhere?”

    Lets not forget about the aborigines and how Australia continues to persecute them. Obviously you do not see this OR you have conveniently turned a blind eye to this sort of behavior. One can live anywhere in the work and be happy, it all depends on if they chose to live with blissful ignorance OR if they choose to stand up for what is wrong and refuse to support a society that openly condoles the abuse of fellow human beings.

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Deez. I certainly do not need nor have asked for anyone’s approval, nor do I speak of Perth as if it is paradise, so clearly this is your interpretation not mine. I am also not aware of any devastating earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or tsunamis that have hit Perth, certainly not while I have lived here, but I could be wrong. I’m not sure you understood the point of my post but thanks for taking the time to read it and come here to comment.

      • Reply Deez 8th June 2015 at 2:39 pm

        I’m also not aware of any major natural disasters that have happened in Perth, my point was that whilst S.A. may have a exceptionally high crime rate we are fortunate enough not to have any major natural disasters like many parts of the world. I didn’t mean Perth in particular but I see now how it could have been misinterpreted.

        I do understand the point of your post, my response is based on the fact that many expats assume that the South Africans who still choose to make South Africa their homes are doing so because:

        1.) They have not traveled
        2.) They can not afford to move.
        3.) They are wearing rose tinted glasses
        4.) They or a loved one have not been a victim of crime.

        I’m saying this is not always the case, some of us choose to live here over anywhere else in the world. Our government is down right pathetic, our crime rate is insane, Eskom is a nightmare and dealing with just about any government department is mission impossible. Yet, there is still something unique about South Africa. Something that keeps us here. It’s almost like that having a delinquent child that drives you up the pole 90% of the time but then there are those moments when he/she looks up at you with these big beautiful eyes and smiles at you. Everything else all off sudden doesn’t matter because it’s in those moments where you realize how much you love you have for this child. That’s the best way I can describe how I feel about South Africa.

        Keep in mind that not all South Africans have a problem with expats, I understand why many people have left and that is entirely their own choice. We are all responsible for the choices we make in life. What we do not appreciate are those expats who constantly tell us we are insane for staying and we should get out of there as soon as possible before it turns to another Zimbabwe. it’s almost as though they want to see it happen so that they can feel more comfortable in their own decision to leave. They can sit back and finally say “Thank god, we left when we did” and then say to us that stayed “See, I told you so!” All I’m saying is let us be, we choose to stay for our own reasons as much as you have chosen to leave for your own reasons.

    • Reply Kim Lester 8th June 2015 at 2:48 am

      To each his own. If one place was ideal, we would all end up there. At least we have the freedom to make those choices and nobody is “right” or “wrong” to do so. We should not be judging each other for doing so as what I am prepared to tolerate may be far less than yo. Vive la difference.

  • Reply Nelmari Burns 7th June 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Well written, thank you! Counting the sleeps until we go home to SA for holiday; it will always be that – HOME.

    • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 7th June 2015 at 10:22 pm

      You are most welcome Nelmari ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply Kim Lester 8th June 2015 at 2:49 am

      Yes, home is where the heart is (sorry for the cliche, it just seems true!)

  • Reply Kevin (East London) Barrett. 8th June 2015 at 12:06 am

    There’s always going to be overly defensive or aggressive people surrounding most topics, although nothing quite hits home, as the subject of home. Being an expat, I find it best to focus on the positive, and avoid criticizing SA. Of course, as you stated in your article, there’s issues in every country. It’s a personal decision to live where I want, and I keep it that way, unless talking to close friends. Thanks for your article, I find that the majority of expat related opinions in the media are dominated by a negative minority.

  • Reply Kenny 8th June 2015 at 6:31 pm

    I too had a similar experience to yours when you were 15 in England. I, like many, spent 2 years abroad after high school and when I returned I had to look over my shoulder constantly. I could no longer take public transport because of its poor conditions and risks.. I had to learn the little things again such as removing your front loader from your car because your radio will be stolen or hiding your stuff under the seat so they dont break your window for a R20 item and not using your phone in public etc. I will leave the country in a heart beat and I dont care what people say. I am no longer “Proudly” South African ๐Ÿ™

  • Reply fredazealousart 9th June 2015 at 4:46 am

    Many people have asked if we left South Africa because the crime… and we usually reply Nope My husband had a great offer, the crime and corruption just made the decision to make the move easier… Was it easy Nope! Been in Canada 6 years now, not easy but I sure will do it again.

    Something that makes me sad is South Africans that bash the country they are now living in… and gets upset when I talk about the reality of life in South Africa (not being negative just the reality of it all!) We embraced Canada and are loving it. We just wrote our Canadian Citizenship test and are waiting for the big ceremony! Proudly Canadians to be.

    Great post

  • Reply Robert 9th June 2015 at 8:53 pm

    I think that it is very hard for all those people that aren’t as fortunate as those of us that have been able to leave and probably wish that they could also leave. They read our posts as to how we are releaved to be in a place that is better for us and where we feel happier and safer. I am sure that it might cause a bit of bitterness toward us. Yes we do feel strongly about what is happening to the country of our birth and are saddened to see all the horrible acts being perpetrated against innocent people still living there. We do need to be sensitive to those still back home, but we also need to keep making people aware of the plight of South Africans and hope that our voices are heard soon, to bring about positive change back home.

    • Reply Greg 10th June 2015 at 12:31 am

      Robert, what absolute and utter nonsense. That’s exactly the type of comment that angers the very many of us who are very able to leave and live in other places if we wished to. As mentioned above, I’m married to an Australian I met in London, 2 separate neighbouring families, one beside us one behind are Aussies from Perth and Melbourne respectively, a Swiss family across the road and Dutch diagonally across. People from all over the world see the incredible opportunity and magnificence of living in SA. My entire family (incl. my kids) have Aussie and SA passports, yet we choose to live in SA. There’s no envy whatsoever, if anything pity, but certainly not envy. We travel extensively.

      You don’t need to tell the world what’s happening in SA either, thanks all the same, leave that to us to do. We actually know what’s going on here. I’m not sure where in SA you’re from originally or where you now reside, but good luck and enjoy your new home. I suspect the decision was taken for all the right reasons..? Just believe that the majority of us who remain here, and we are most certainly in the vast majority, actually have more than tasted what’s out there on offer in the world, and actually, despite the challenges we may have, still believe we are making the right decision not to run away, but rather stay and contribute to positive change and sustainable development. The vast majority of of expats returning in their droves from Australasia, Europe and Canada will attest to that.

      • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 10th June 2015 at 7:24 am

        The longer people describe us us ‘running away’, the longer this ridiculous battle goes on.

        The entire point of my post was that people who choose to leave South Africa do so because it is their own decision that is right for them, and everytime they get judged to be ‘runnning away’ the wheel of animosity keeps spinning.

      • Reply Corinna 5th August 2015 at 10:55 am

        Its the same old broken down record, we have run away and South Africa is a blossoming success story. Greg, you do not understand why people leave. It is wonderfully lucky you live in such a lovely part of your world which is so safe. I can tell you safety is only ONE reason why people do leave. However for some people who have experienced horrific things such as I have and who has young kids is it not a normal human reaction to try and do the best for your kids and yourself? Yes I am in Australia and no its not all Utopia and roses, far from it but I really do feel that you have no understanding. I have lived in Africa and I tell you I had enough of all the daily problems with Police, govt departments, license departments, electricity to name a few wrongs. When stuff is wrong in Australia I can at least complain to somebody but hey guess what, I dont have a lot of incompetent govt departments that dont work, I trust the police force, I dont lock myself in behind my electric fence, I dont get intimidated in traffic every Godamn day in traffic by police, taxis, govt motorcades, street sellers. Oh dont get me started, Africa is beautiful but so much is wrong with it. If you want to make a difference there, get rid of the poverty, why do you accept the society where there are a few rich and so many poor. Its sad that you have such a good life when there is so much poverty around you and you say you live so well. I am not justifying anything, I am saying it like I see it and how it is. I did not see a solution so I made a solution and made an exit. You have a right to be where you feel happy and if its Africa then its ok for you. Just as I have a right to go where I think the pasture may be more to my liking. Nobody is right or wrong here. people returning in droves? I think you are dreaming. You know 2 Aussies in SA? wow. I think I know a lot more SAFFAS in Oz and I dont go looking for them. What kind of work do you do Greg? I am curious what you do for a living. And yeah grow some balls, in Oz healthy banter is something which we do here. So go ahead I dare you to respond. I am curious why you are on this anyway. Are you here just to try and annoy us ‘weglopers’

  • Reply ppaldownloads 10th June 2015 at 6:44 am

    Been in the UK for three years now. Currently in the process of paying yet again for visa to stay in the UK. I totally agree with everything you said, well done.

  • Reply Keith 10th June 2015 at 2:58 pm

    I have many ex-pat friends living all over the world. Most of them are truly great people who do not dictate to South African’s living in South Africa, how to vote or who to vote for. So not all ex-pats are “When We’s”. That “When We” term comes from Ex-Pat Rhodesia days ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply Antonie de vry 13th June 2015 at 2:12 pm

    It is true that there is a lot of misunderstanding and resentment as to why we left. We moved to the Netherlands which was at the forefront against apartheid. Was it easy? No definitely not as the Dutch to this day still believe a number of twisted lies that demonized white South Africans. I have to work harder than most to prove myself and it is not always easy being accepted by the Dutch. When I recently went home for a holiday I realized that I have become a foreigner there and is still seen as a foreigner here in Holland by some. Am I sorry I left? My kids are studying and getting a good education. If I want to walk the dog at one in the morning I do so without any fear. When my kids go to a disco in our or the next town they cycle and I can go to bed without having to worry about them. My only worry and fear is for those I left behind and I do believe that I have the right to complain about SA. Yes it is still my country as it has been for generations and me leaving does not change that fact. It is an abnormal society run by an inept government. A government that was helped there by western countries that pretend that their noses are bleeding when one mentions the corrupt and violent society they helped create. It is good that we complain and make others aware of the problems in SA. In fact we are doing something good by bringing an awareness to foreigners as to the situation there. One can stick ones head in the sand and pretend it is such a great country but it simply is not a normal society(again). The masses demand what they see as things stolen from them and slowly but surely their demands are met. I have seen the white squatter camps….all a policy of the Marxist ANC and whilst you have a good job, make good money you can afford electric fences and have a false sense of security…. you can criticize those that left. What happens when you loose that? We do all our work ourselves, cleaning, maintenance and renovating….as we have always done in SA. I have always wondered why most white South Africans make themselves dependent on outside help. The last is just a thought, something I have never understood.

  • Reply Greg 13th June 2015 at 5:29 pm

    The irony Antonie, is that the very same Dutch who now have a guilt trip were the ones who perpetrated Apartheid. The term itself is Dutch. Let’s not forget that. What you describe as being unique to the outside world may surprise you but is still rather common in Cape Town, where my kids have grown up riding in the streets to the beaches, walking the dogs at night, walking up the mountains, playing in public parks, etc. They don’t ‘disco’ here anymore however, but do ‘go clubbing.

    Things have moved on, some things are in decline in some towns and cities in the Northern provinces and parts of Natal, but others are thriving. Much has to do with the attitude and local governance of the people themselves. All of us included. We don’t have electric fences in the Cape and E.Cape, the few who may do so are generally foreigners who’ve heard about SA from expats, or have moved down from Jo’burg or Durban. We may have help at home, but that is part of the employment cycle here and gives us a great quality of life, where weekends and evenings are left to go to the beach, climb the mountain, go wine tasting on the various wine routes, chill with mates around the braai and pool, or watch our kids play sport. Yes schools here still play sport. One doesn’t have to join a club for that.

    What I’m getting at is the ridiculous sweeping generalisations that people such as yourself make about what you may remember of but a mere fraction of South Africa, where you happened to live. It’s as big country, as big as a few countries in Europe put together, and there are many great places and experiences to be had all over. Things were expected to be in a state of flux for some time post-Apartheid (after all it did last for nearly half a century, and some might argue for 350 odd years), but thinly disguised racism and fear of ‘Communism’ is oh so 70’s and 80’s. We’ve moved on here, and continue to do so, despite the challenges. South Africans are great with challenges. Your Dutch forefathers had more than their fair share of threats and challenges. That’s where the phrase, “‘n Boer maak ‘n plan” came from. But they got over themselves and persevered. Many even intermarried across racial lines as far back as the 1700’s.

    I’m glad you’re enjoying being ‘back where your ancestors originated’, but we’re determined to take out feet out of wooden clogs and make a go of things here sommer kaalvoet. These expats who’re determined to pull us backwards and rubbish our positive outlook deserve to be put in their places. Just accept the fact that most of us who live here, with many options to live elsewhere, just love it.

    • Reply Tess 17th June 2015 at 11:33 am

      Greg, I have read all your comments here and came to the conclusion that you are one bitter person. Reeva is right, you have missed the entire point of her post.

      Everyone agrees that the good life in Cape Town can’t be compared to the rest of the country and many parts of the world. You may count yourself very lucky, but where is your empathy with less fortunate South Africans? Those who have to suffer horribly in state hospitals for example? If you were aware of how patients are left to die without treatment , maybe you wouldn’t have been so rude to Robert when he commented on “making people aware of the plight of South Africans”.

      As for supporting my new home team, of course I do. Nothing wrong with that. It is my choice not to support any team playing under the ANC flag. The same flag under which thousands of my people have been, and are still being murdered every day since 1994. I didn’t start a new life in a new country just to carry on as before. It is my personal way of protest while the whole world, including you, turn a blind eye.

      • Reply Greg 17th June 2015 at 7:23 pm

        Tess, I know that Saffas, as with people living all over the world, leave their countries for very different reasons, including the 100’s of thousands of Brits, Aussies and New Zealanders living abroad. However it is those South Africans who left for all the ‘wrong reasons’ who are the most negative and vocal about what’s happening here. That is clear. Those who ran away from something rather than toward something they really wanted.

        Either you are naive or just ignorant of the plight of majority of South Africans prior to 1994. Not sure who had their ‘head in the sand’ back then, but it certainly wasn’t me. It is not I that is ‘bitter’ one bit, quite the contrary, though judging by the tone of your response I think it’s clear who is in fact the bitter one here.

        Our teams don’t play ‘under the ANC flag’. What a ridiculous comment. It’s like saying Australians play under the Socialist Labour Party flag or Americans under the Democratic Party flag. That’s just plain silly. Many of us who live here have strong political views and don’t have to support the ANC to live here and continue with our lives and support national teams. Sure, Cape Town is exceptional by world standards, but most of my family live in Jo’burg, various parts of Natal and E.Cape and as much as there is much work to do there, they’re all very appealing places to live in for many different reasons. Whilst Cape Town and the Western Cape majority support for the DA increases incrementally, Port Elizabeth will be the next major city to fall to the DA in the next municipal elections, and Gauteng will follow suit, mark my words. Already Fort Hare University, the bastion of ANC elders has fallen to the DA youth. Things are happening and moving forward here.

        I’m not sure where you got the impression of my apparent ignorance of the plight of many South Africans, I find that comment rather offensive, and if you knew me you wouldn’t have said it. However, I don’t know where you get the idea that ‘people are simply left to die in hospitals without treatment’. I’m not sure where you experienced this first hand, but I have 4 good friends who serve as medical specialists in a number of State hospitals around the country, and that is certainly not the case at all. Sure, many are poorly equipped, but there were no hospitals for majority of South Africans prior to ’94. Of course there will be pressure on the system for some time, but it’s not as bad as you’d like to believe. Did you happen to hear that the first penis transplant in the world was recently performed in an SA State hospital, and the man and his wife have just successfully conceived, only a few months later. Incidentally young doctors from Australia and other countries still come to Bara Hospital in Soweto to get world class training.

        No-one’s turning ‘a blind eye’, to what’s happening here, believe me. South Africans are very vocal when they’re disenchanted, and the huge growth in the opposition parties is a case in point. However unlike you, most of us remain here to make positive contributions and encourage political change and accountability rather than mope in our prejudices and throw our arms up in surrender. Others living abroad are supportive and encouraging. I know not all expats feel the way you do at all, but you clearly have some reason to be very bitter. Fortunately I, and majority of us who live in our beautiful country, most definitely do not share your attitude. Each to their own.

  • Reply proudlysouthafricaninperth 17th June 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Interesting comments Greg. While I agree on the whole with most of what you say, I think the reason so many foreign doctors go to Baragwaneth is to experience an intense range of extreme violence cases in their short time there rather than the ‘world class training’. Having met several young doctors doing this in Cape Town this is from the horses mouth.

    • Reply Greg 17th June 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Reeva, that is the automatic assumption, but I can give you the names of at least 2 Aussie doctors who would have you believe differently. Although what you say is correct in part, there would be no point spending years here if the methodology and learning were regressive. It’s not all about stab and bullet wounds..

  • Reply Corinna 5th October 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Ever heard of a frog boiling in a pot Greg? I was never going to leave Africa, passionate me love SA. Then it happened the unforgivable crime which shattered my life Greg. You have no idea of ‘running away’ as you call it.
    My kids are more important to me than my life. I could not let such crimes happen to them so I made the effort to move from the crime pit which SA has become. Others can testify to how a murder or rape can change your life. You have not experienced it. Dont be naive, it can happen anytime and more so in SA. Its risky. Is it worth the risk, I say no. You can say what you want but you are living in dreamworld Greg. There are non so blind as those who cannot see. Greg it does not mean we do not love SA. It just means we love our kids more than SA. So call it what you like, SA is just another country on a big map, nothing more special than anywhere else

  • Reply Chareen Boake 5th December 2015 at 9:26 am

    Just read this article Reeva and I couldn’t agree more. It seems that as an expat we cannot talk about the atrocities that affected our decision to leave. Beside that, do they think that we all very together at bbq’s and discuss the ‘horrors’ of South Africa? Randomly approach people and tell them about the terrible land called South Africa? Hell no….we got on with enjoying our lives! Yes, we have up big houses and fancy cars, my garden is now the size that my pool used to be. Am I unhappy here and jealous of all they still have in South Africa? That’s laughable. …we have all that and more! We can sit and so bubbly on the beach at 9 pm without worrying about getting raped and attacked … oops, I can’t say because I no longer have the right to be negative! Well, what I will say is that it makes me so happy to drive on good towards, to have encountered a broken traffic light only once (which, incidentally, was repaired only 2 hours later when I passed through). It makes me happy that I’ve never had a power failure or water cut here, I’ve never been affected by crime (not that it can’t happen, at times I do take off my ‘rose coloured’ expat glasses to acknowledge that) If I am affected by crime I know fir damn sure that the police will deal with the issue effectively. It makes me happy that my daughter will be able to go to uni and study whatever she wants as long as she qualifies to do so on her own merit, it makes me happy that their are no limitations to our career advancement other than or own ability, it makes me happy that I came home to a home still full of my parsons after we went on holiday and forgot to luck the sliding door, it makes me happy to walk my dog in the park, chat to people and not constantly check my surroundings for an attacker, it makes me happy to know that I can catch a bus or train if I don’t have a car, it makes me happy to see my daughter riding her bicycle along beautiful, safe cycling paths, it makes me happy to go for a run along well maintained pavements. It makes me happy that my daughter is educated at a great school for less than $500 per year. I sometimes wonder whether it’s bitterness and jealousy at not being able to leave South Africa that people feel the need to ‘slam’ expats. I love my life and wouldn’t go back for all the mansions, Larny suburbs, big cars and fancy, highly priced schools in (South) Africa. I will, however, always cry when I say goodbye to friends and family, always miss the beauty of it’s rugged shorelines, miss the own honesty and humour of its people, miss all the memories of my childhood that my children would never experience. Thanks for standing up for all of us negative expats, sadly bemoaning all we’ve lost as we live or sad and miserable lives abroad.

  • Reply Tanya 2nd February 2018 at 5:52 am

    I relocated from SA to UK more than 10 years ago, and I still can’t get used to the weather. In fact, I miss SA like crazy, especially the weather, the long walks on the beach, the sundowners on the beach, and everything related to the beach. I lived in both Cape and Gauteng and faced lots of crime in both. But the crime didn’t end there, it continues in the UK and I have been a victim here too. My biggest fear here is of serial killers, as they are a huge phenomenon here. Here violent crime comes from a mere grudge and not for the same reasons as it does in SA – so it is an education of why crime is there in the first place. Even though it’s beautiful here, nothing can compare to the beauty of the Mother City of Africa, Cape Town and the magnificent Table Mountain. I have travelled to other countries, beautiful in their own right, but Africa still marks the spot. There are loads of problems in this country. The reason people are using buses, and walking everywhere is because the infrastructure was built there from many years ago and it’s a tiny country. SA is a huge country, and doesn’t have that same type of infrastructure in comparison. The minds of people where I live are so small they think that SA TV is the same as Scottish TV, well it isn’t, it is hugely different, with different values and upbringings, different laws too. And those things have to be respected. For example, you cannot walk down the street with an open bottle of booze, you cannot smoke in most public places, as it’s against the law and a crime. Its’ also a crime to shout, and swear. And that my dear is the reality on the opposite end of the earth. And I miss the freedom of SA.

  • Reply Max 13th August 2018 at 12:51 pm

    I left SA for the USA 15 years ago. Till this day I miss SA and think about it almost daily. My family still lives there and I am the only one here. I was very lucky and had no issues with citizenship or work and was able to live comfortably after a short period of time. Even so, there is a daily demon that knaws at you and you doubt your decision. I suppose thatโ€™s why expats are so interested in sharing their views on the subject as it puts the demons to sleep for a little while and calms their mind. Same reason the non expats visit too I suppose. What I have learned is that I better make friends with that demon as it will be around forever. When I left I had a lot of patriotic friends that told me I was crazy. Today one of those good friends asked me if I could help them find a way to leave. Most expats believe that saffers living there are like frogs in hot water and all the saffers are saying the water is beautiful and they are in it so who are you going to believe? All I know is while I struggle with many things, I have many things to be grateful for……most importantly that I donโ€™t need to worry about my kids at least not in my generation. All I can tell you is whether you leave or stay, our forefathers failed us as we are all on this forum writing these messages because we have all been placed in a situation that none of us want to be in regardless of which โ€œsideโ€ you pick. One day one group will be proven wrong……and I hope to god itโ€™s the expats……because the alternative is terrible for us (expats) too. What a truly horrible situation we face that most of us had no hand in creating.

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