Moving to Joburg from India was not an easy decision – not with all negativity surrounding it. Chat forums, expat articles and news reports painted a city that was dark, full of crime and dangerous. However, against all odds, K and I decided to relocate in 2012. And now looking back, I am so glad that we did. This vibrant, colorful city is full of life, tenacity and warmth, and I am happy to call it home.
Here are a few things that I love about the City of Gold:
1) Its multi-cutural and multi-ethnic population: I fit right in!
Joburg is a melting pot of cultures. At any given point, you will hear a multitude of languages being spoken around you – English, Afrikaans, Dutch, Xhosa, Zulu, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, Portuguese and many others. Your neighbours, friends and work colleagues could range from South Africans to Greeks, to Chinese, to Indians, to Nigerians or Americans. And as a result of this, expats and migrants like me, feel welcome and at home almost immediately. Very few cities offer the opportunity to meet and interact with people from such diverse cultures.
2) Street art, graffiti and the inner-city: something new, something amazing!
I had not seen real graffiti or street art until I moved to Joburg. And venturing into the inner city was a strict no-no. But one day, I managed to persuade K and a few friends to take a graffiti tour with Past Experiences. That was the day I not only discovered what graffiti really is – the bold messages, the colours and the talent of the artists’, but I also discovered the ‘real’ Jozi – the CBD, Newtown, Braamfontein and Maboneng. From no-go areas, they became my go-to places! These are the areas where I found delightful eateries, quirky bars, colourful alleyways, vibrant markets and great coffee. And this is where I go if I am having a dull day and need some fun and inspiration.
3) Open spaces, parks and doggy heaven: happy dog, happy me!
People of Joburg love the outdoors and given the number of parks and open spaces in the city, it’s not hard to understand why. I have explored a fair number of parks in the city, yet there are so many more I am yet to visit! In addition, most of these parks are dog-friendly. Coming from India, where there is hardly any place for humans to walk, let alone a dog, Joburg is a sheer delight. Mia gets to run and I get to enjoy some peace and quiet.
4) Coffee shops galore: a very happy me!
Being a coffee addict, one of my favourite past times is trying out new coffee shops and it’s great because Joburg has no dearth of genuinely good coffee places. From big chains to tiny kiosks, there are hundreds of coffee shops in the city, with new ones opening up every other month. I think if I really wanted to, I would not have to visit the same coffee shop twice!
5) Festivals, markets, theatre and shows – no boring weekends, ever!
There is always something interesting taking place in Joburg and I am not just talking about the weekend markets, of which there are so many that I have lost count. The city is also a hub for standup comedy, arts festivals, music shows, theatre, beer, wine and food festivals, car and bike shows, hobby and home expos – the list is endless. Hardly a week goes by, when I don’t read about a new art exhibition or a food festival. From a Latino Day to a Medieval Fayre and from Holi One to Chinese New Year, Joburg plays host to all. I may run out of days, but I won’t run out of things to do!