Five Things I love About Joburg


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!

15 thoughts on “Five Things I love About Joburg

  1. Mia, we went to Joburg as a staging post before going to Kruger. So off putting were all the warnings about going downtown that unfortunately we did not get out of Sandton. Such a shame.

    1. Oh that’s a shame. I wish people would stop exaggerating things. Since the time I started writing this blog, I and many other bloggers have been trying to change this perception. Guess we need to work harder! If you have a chance another time, take a walking tour. You will see what I see 🙂

  2. Just had a South African client I asked him about j burg as they call it. He said it’s 2nd dangerous city in the world he said he would never ever go there to live and he is rich he has lived in jersey 20 years has a private plane etc !
    I mentioned friends were going to look at moving there soon he said although the lifestyle is great if you have money he said you can buy protection and you can basically live in a mansion or a huge castle whatever he said your also target for kidnapping and all the guards in the world can’t stop kids seen as rich being taken on their way to school he basically said it’s a fucked up place.
    I don’t want to put you off but wanted to tell you as he was born there . He said on holiday you’d love it as he said it’s a beautiful looking place very cheap great places to eat but dangerous.
    This is what my friend just sent to me on FB …we’re moving over in nov and coming to look in two weeks ( super excited) I have lived in bad parts on New York and London but nobody ever said not to move to them! Also Joburg not even in top fifty most dangerous countries of the world 😉

    1. Thanks for the input Kirsty. As much ae the media is to blame, so are the south africans who have moved away. I am not saying that there is no crime – there is, kike any other city in the world. My friend got mugged while walking home around St Paul’a in london! Things happen but its not the end of the world and Joburg, as correctly put, was not even on the list of dangerous cities! People who moved away from here have taken with them the memory from the time they moved and have never really come back to se e how things have changed. .for the better. And since I live here now and am not on a holiday, my views are shared by many. So sad your client thinks that way…but your friend won’t be disappointed!

  3. First off, I never near Joburg was short for Johannesburg. Quite a catchy name. What a diverse city you currently live in. I suppose some might say don’t go into the city because there are a lot of people there and you can get distracted by the things you see and petty thieves will take advantage of you when you’re not looking. However, I think it’s the same in most cities and we just have to be careful.

    Every single point you list is just like Melbourne! 😀 Probably except the one for dogs and animals – in Melbourne we love pets but there is hardly any place for animals to roam around. It’s very good to hear your dog fitting in in your new city that you call home 🙂

    1. Oh Johannesburg has several names…joburg, jozi, eGoli! It got a bad name when its central business district became crime infested in the 90s. Drugs, cartels, gangs…a lot of murkiness. Which is why even today they ask newcomers and tourists to stay away from the CBD. However, after a lot of cleaning up and regeneration, this area has been the centre of arts and fun. So a lot has changed but few people know it and acknowledge it. That’s the sad part…
      Good to hear about Melbourne! In many ways South Africans and Australians are similar. for sun and the outdoors!

      1. That is quite a few names! They make the city sound very lively. Sounds like Johhanesburg is now a modern city with a lot going on and that’s why people like you are attracted to it 🙂

      2. Absolutely Mabel…joburg is somewhere between the developed and the developing. Lots of culture, music and local african things happening. Can’t deny that I love living here 🙂

  4. I really enjoyed being back last year. There is a definite vibe that exists, and I really miss that vibe. But, I do feel the fear and the longer I am away, the more scared I am to return. My family is there though, so will be return again 🙂

  5. I had no idea Joburg is short for Johannisburg! Something new learned today 🙂 It sounds like a really cool city. What’s the food scene like? I imagine with all these different nationalities it must be foodie heaven?

    1. I hope so too Gayle. But when you do, please remember to do some of the off-beat things, especially some walking tours of the inner city.

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