Category Archives: Johannesburg

One year in Joburg

This Sunday marks one year since Alistair, Boo and I packed up our Cape Town lives for the bright lights and big city of Jozi. Well, bright lights isn’t completely accurate due to regular power cuts, although the spectacular sunsets more than make up for it.

The first six months were a bit rough on my Capetonian sensibilities, but I grow to love Joburg more every day. This city has tested and stretched me in so many ways. It’s made me tougher, more honest with myself and, oddly, less spoilt. If you’d told me in Cape Town that I’d have to drive 40 minutes to work every day, I would have said “Never!”

I’ve had a few unlucky experiences, almost like the city was testing me:

  • 1 x smash-and-grab
  • 1 x bribe request from JMPD
  • 1 x truck landing on my car with me in it
  • Really crappy summer weather

However, the good stuff has been really, really good:

  • Lots of amazing new friends
  • 3 x very close girlfriends who I adore
  • 4 x fantastic trips to Zim, Moz and Clarens
  • 2 x great jobs with super-talented people
  • Book launches, dinners, music and wine

I haven’t been to Cape Town since February and I think that’s helped. Living between cities may sound glamorous, but a little commitment goes a long way. In fact, after saying for the past year that “I won’t buy property in Joburg”, Al and I have now bought a beautiful 177m2 flat in Killarney.

Many Capetonians have blinkers on when it comes to Joburg. They want to stay where they’ve always been, whereas living in Joburg makes you want to go everywhere – and the rewards have been worth it. I feel like I’ve become a grown-up. I’m more confident, less melodramatic and stronger as a person.

We will return to Cape Town one day. If I have kids, I want them surrounded by family like I was. But until then, I’m really looking forward to three or four more years in Jozi.

Walk your own dog!

Lots of things have fascinated me about Joburg over the past three months. Nobody knowing how a traffic circle works, the ardent socialising, the near-perfect weather, the ginormous potholes… But nothing prepared me for dog-walking in the leafy suburbs.

For some reason, the middle and upper classes don’t walk their own dogs – they get their “staff” to do it.

Driving around Parktown North, Houghton, Sandton and Saxonwold, I’ll often witness a young guy in overalls being dragged along by two Golden Retrievers and a Jack Russell. 29 years in Cape Town and I’d never seen this before.

It blows my mind. Half the pleasure of having a dog is in exercising with them. It’s not like this is New York, where you need professional dogwalkers because you live in a 30th floor apartment. Even my grandparents, who lived in typical colonial Rhodesia, never asked their gardener to walk the dogs.

Even Justin Timberlake walks his own dog

It’s like the women who take their maids grocery shopping with them – another Joburg quirk that leaves me speechless. I mean, how lazy can you be?

I’m starting to love this city in many ways, but this is not one of them. Walk your own dogs people, seriously.

Give A Duck in November

What is “Give a Duck”?

Get your little white duck for R100 and the proceeds will go towards two fantastic charities – Learn To Earn and the Bobs For Good Foundation. You can also make a donation on the I Give A Duck website and buy other quacky stuff for the whole of November.

How do I show my quacking support?

Your duck wants to get out and about! Take him everywhere and post pics of him and you on I Give A Duck. Tell your friends they can order their own duck on the website too.

Duck launches on 28 October 2010:

Joburg – 5pm at Giles in Craighall Park

Cape Town – 4.30pm at Simon’s, Groot Constantia

Of course I’ll be attending the Jozi Gives A Duck launch. Let’s show Cape Town we care about more than just high heels and X5s shall we?

About Learn to Earn – This incredible organisation has been helping the unemployed develop new skills for over 20 years. Learn to Earn trains people from Khayelitsha and Hermanus so that they can find jobs or start their own businesses.

About Bobs For Good – Imagine walking to school on a freezing winter morning with no shoes. Bobs For Good gives disadvantaged schoolchildren their dignity back with quality leather school shoes that are locally made.

Joburg Drivers vs Cape Town Drivers

We all know the popular South African aphorism – “Joburg has better drivers than Cape Town.” Even staunch, I-could-never-live-anywhere-else Capetonians say this. I certainly have.

We embrace our crappy driving and wear it as a mark of pride. There is no need for a sense of direction when you can just look up at the mountain to figure out where you are. Hurry? Why hurry? It’s not like anything is that far away. Indicate? Why indicate? You can only go one of three ways.

After six weeks of driving extensively around Joburg, I’ve noticed that Cape Town drivers are actually better in three ways:

  • Freeways: In Cape Town people moan if someone ‘sits’ in the right-hand lane. That doesn’t exist here. Joburg drivers have never even heard of “Keep Left, Pass Right”. It’s just “Pick A Lane, Any Lane”.
  • Traffic circles: I keep getting hooted at when I go through traffic circles. Why? Joburg drivers treat them as 4-way stops. The concept of “Yield to the right” has not trekked north yet.
  • Manners: Road users are more, er, “assertive” in Gauteng. The only people who let me in when I’m stuck behind a truck are the taxi drivers. Although I am driving around with a CA licence plate so maybe that has something to do with it.

All that said, Joburg still wins the Better Drivers Award for the following reasons:

  • A green light means go immediately – not 10 seconds later.
  • Indicators aren’t decorative.
  • Suburban roads are expertly navigated, despite enormous potholes and a million badly marked speedbumps.
  • There are less POSs* on the road and consequently less breakdowns blocking the freeway.

*POS – Piece Of Shit