Tag Archives: driving

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.

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