All you need to know before moving to South Africa



Information is essential when moving to South Africa. Expats should know for each container of goods sent to South Africa the cost will be around $1531 USD, making moving to South Africa an expensive issue without good planning. Compare quotes from international movers and get all the moving information you need with ExpatFinder.

Africa's southernmost country shines as the continent's single most developed economy with nine progressive provinces in its fold: Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State, North-West, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

Aside from a great economy, South Africa is also gifted with the world's most vibrant floral kingdom set amidst a warm and temperate climate, which varies from one region to the next. In summer, the average temperature is 20 degrees Celsius going down to 12.6 degrees in winter. Its avifauna consists of some of the world's endangered species, including the African penguin, the Cape vulture, the black rhino, the riverine rabbit of Central Karoo, the wild dog, the roan antelope, the wattled crane and the blue swallow. 

The peoples of South Africa are as rich as its natural resources, thanks to a welcoming culture that is evident in a Constitution that upholds 11 official languages; namely Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati (Swazi), Tshivenda and Xitsonga. Anyone considering expatriation to this country will appreciate South Africans' natural tendency to embrace anyone who comes to live with them, whether as personal acquaintances or as business associates. 

The same welcoming nature is experienced by expats in the practice of varied religions across the country. This is yet further proof that cultural integration into the South African population will be a breeze for anyone considering a move there. About 80% of South Africans are Christians, most of whom are Protestants. Khaoisians, who mostly live in Botswana and Namibia, are devotees of this religion introduced by European migrants.  Groups from the Glasgow Missionary Society and Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society have made their mark among South Africans and continued to have an influence among minorities.

Locals of the country are particularly excited by the thought of "eating out" and have made this practice quite an interesting lure for expats and tourists. Some restaurants serve traditional or modernized South African cuisine while others offer Moroccan, Chinese, West African, Congolese and Japanese recipes. Aside from restaurants offering elaborate and exotic dishes, South Africa is also a hub for world-famous fast food restaurants such as McDonald's, KFC and some successful homegrown chains such as Nando's and Steers.

South Africa has one of the best transportation systems on the continent. It is known to be the hub for business travel to and from Southern African and international destinations. In particular, O.R. Tambo International Airport and the country's major sea ports are famous among international traders not just within the continent, but around the world. 

South Africa is a three-tier constitutional democracy seated in three major cities; namely Cape Town, its legislative capital, Pretoria, its administrative capital, and Bloemfontein, its judicial capital. The government firmly believes that open markets are keys to economic progress through its Growth, Employment, and Redistribution or GEAR strategy.

Indeed, trends in this southern African Polestar are fast making it a strong favorite among expatriates looking for a place they believe to be their new home.

Essential relocation information


With ample preparation, relocating to South Africa and importing goods will be a smooth process for any expat.

Firearms, materials with obscene content, meat, live animals and controlled drugs may be allowed as long as they are officially declared and come with necessary permits. Honey and honey-based products are completely banned from entering, along with other specific items that have to be researched carefully to make sure removals to South Africa are done with the least inconvenience.

When importing firearms, one should first apply first for a license in the nearest South African police post. Personal effects, liquor, cigarettes, etc are allowed for entry duty-free provided that the products total value is below R3000. Before calling movers in South Africa, all of these requirements should be met to avoid the hassle of unpacking.

When bringing cold cash, up to R5000 per person is allowed; otherwise, the bearer should present proper identification to avoid suspicions of money laundering.

There are no specific items an expat should pack for South Africa apart from clothes that suit certain times of the year. There will be both warm and cold seasons so appropriate clothing must be brought along. Sun creams are also helpful, especially during the summer heat while mosquito repellents will be useful when visiting malaria-affected regions.

To ensure trouble-free packing, hiring one of those overseas shipping and removal companies will be an important step in ensuring everything is packed safe and secure. These people also know which items may or may not be imported to South Africa, thus, allowing expats to avoid problems with the country's shipping and customs regulations.

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How to live like a local



Globally, South Africa is categorised as an upper-middle class economy, the second largest in Africa, and Rank 34th in the world. Although poverty and unemployment are still widespread, highly-skilled expats still have great potential in starting a promising career and life in South Africa.

For many years, the true beauty of South Africa has been clouded by images of poverty and segregation based on textbook racial profiling. However, this ‘Rainbow Nation’ has taken its rightful throne and is now a renowned expat destination. This country possesses a developing economy that continues to push its people towards modernisation and a better life. Considering South Africa’s rigorous efforts in rebuilding itself for the past two decades, it is without a doubt that it became an ideal host country for expats who want to seek thrilling adventures while working amidst a vibrant multi-cultural society.

Outdoor Fun for the Family

Popular activities for kids in South Africa include swimming, hiking and spending time outdoors. This country is renowned for its amazing wildlife and kids will surely enjoy visiting local zoos such as the Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves that houses animals such as buffalos, rhinos, elephants, leopards and lions. Ushaka Marine World in Durban is great for kids who love to explore the world underwater. Here, they can marvel at dolphins or take a plunge in its beautiful beach.

There is also the Lost City at Sun City, a theme park styled like an ancient jungle city where many animals and their sanctuaries can both be interesting and educational for children. Another attraction that offers rides, sideshows and facilities developed specially for children are Gold Reef City in Johannesburg, which is a replica of a gold mine right within a Victorian-style theme park. Ratanga Junction in Cape Town is also a must see since it boasts a combination of ten mini-theme parks where all members of the family can enjoy rides and shows.

World Class Shopping Malls

Shopping is an ideal past time for well-off South Africans since this country has an impressive list of shopping centres. Here, expats are guaranteed to have access on the latest movies, the most fashionable clothing and exquisitely delicious local and international dishes. Other benefits of shopping in South Africa are the favourable exchange rate of US dollars and Euro which means that one’s money can go a long way and the affordability of the products.

As of 2016, this country has an estimated total of 1,785 malls whereas most are located in the cities of Johannesburg, Western Cape, Gauteng and Kwazulu Natal. The Mall of Africa is the most modern and largest shopping centre in South Africa that house more than 300 shops. Other general retail stores include Woolworths, Truworths, Checkers and Pick 'n Pay. All of these establishments provide clothes, home ware, groceries, electronics and all sorts of items both local and imported which means that expats need not worry about where to get their daily needs.

Overcoming Culture Shock

"Of course you will still find racial tensions in South Africa, given its history, but we were surprised how much interaction we ended up having with people from very different racial backgrounds. It was incredibly enriching, for the kids in particular, to live in such a diverse culture. - Sine Thieme, Expat in South Africa

Expats in South Africa often find that a local’s warm handshake is enough to break barriers. In fact, handshakes are a standard greeting and considered a gesture of friendship among locals and especially with foreigners. In general, locals also believe establishing eye contact with elders is a respectable thing to do. Otherwise, a person may be considered rude. The right hand or both hands, never just the left, should be used when handing out gifts which should be opened after they are received.

When living in South Africa, there are a number of things unique to locals which expats need to start getting used to. For example, when a family member has a problem, this is usually consulted with an older aunt or uncle rather than with parents. Locals also do not like arguing and will usually make an exit instead of allow the argument to heat up further. And while families enjoy engaging in different fun activities together, fathers cannot hug or kiss their daughters like their mothers do. This is because locals put a distance between opposite sexes, even those within a family.

An expatriate in South Africa may also well start getting used to exotic dishes because locals love these. When invited into a South African's home, expats should not be surprised to be served dishes with hippo, ostrich or crocodile meat. To refuse immediately may be considered an insult but a polite refusal is always acceptable.


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