A Guide To Working Abroad in Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa is more than just big five safaris, no matter what your travel agent may tell you. Cape Town is by far the most well-known city in South Africa, and one that is booming with energy. Between Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, penguins, and beaches ranging from cold Atlantic waters to the more temperate beaches along the False Bay coast, it’s no wonder Cape Town is regarded as one of the best travel destinations in the world. Jobs in Cape Town will give you more than just a new stamp for your passport, you will benefit immensely from the skills you’ll add to your resume and have the adventure of a lifetime all the while.
Not only is Cape Town the economic hub of the Western Cape Province, it’s South Africa’s second main economic center, and the continent’s third major economic center. Job opportunities abound for expats in Cape Town, so get those resumes and cover letters ready!
International Relations. In an increasingly globalized world, professionals in the field of international relations cannot be overvalued. Look into open foreign service jobs in Cape Town at your home country’s embassy or consulate for starters. However, diplomacy never sleeps, so be prepared for odd hours to touch base with your counterparts back home. A few hours of sleep is a minimal sacrifice for the opportunity to do fulfilling, meaningful work in Cape Town though; sleep for experience seems like a pretty fair compromise.
Marketing. Cape Town is known for its creative edge and entrepreneurial spirit. In this art inspired culture, marketing firms and corporations are constantly looking for young talent and new ideas. What’s trending today won’t be tomorrow, so if you’re looking for a job abroad to keep you on your toes, look into open marketing jobs in Cape Town at multinational companies like Johnson & Johnson or Levi Strauss & Co., in addition to South African companies and marketing firms.
Health care. The majority of the South African population didn’t have access to health care until the mid 90s; since then, the country has made great strides in its healthcare system. Cape Town’s health care system now sits among the best in all of Africa. With both a private and public healthcare sector, expats will have many options for work in Cape Town.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa, English being one of them. However, it will be beneficial, and interesting, for English speakers to learn key words in the other languages. Although, you will likely be able to communicate with colleagues and locals in English.
Of the 11 official languages of South Africa, the three you’ll encounter most in Cape Town are Afrikaans, Xhosa, and of course, English. The Afrikaans language is descended from Dutch, and learning to say a couple key phrases like good morning (goeiemore) and thank you (baie dankie), will go a long way in Cape Town! Xhosa is a Bantu language spoken by approximately 7.6 million people across South Africa. Its tonal nature and click consonants can have varying meaning, so you’ll want a lot of practice with a local language partner before showing off your Xhosa skills.
Cape Town is not a city for the faint of heart, and it’s no wonder so many adventurous expats are drawn to it every year. Adrenaline junkies rejoice, because you’ve found a new home in Cape Town. South Africa has been long-standing the adventure capital of the world, with plenty of heart pumping activities to partake in, like kite surfing, rock climbing, wake boarding, hang gliding, sky diving, and the world’s highest bungee jump off Bloukrans bridge. Picking up and moving to work abroad in Cape Town is certainly a leap of faith, in more ways than one!
For the more subdued expat, there is still plenty to enjoy in the city’s more metropolitan areas. With plenty of museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants to try, you don’t have to go jump off a bridge for a good time in Cape Town.
Your salary should cover the cost of living in Cape Town, but it is up to you to ensure that you consider all extra costs while discussing compensation with your future employer. Stipends are more commonly associated with internships, so it’s unlikely that there will be additional compensation to cover cost of meals or accommodations.
The cost of living is fairly affordable in Cape Town, though it varies depending on what part of the city you live and work in. On average, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant will cost around $8, a soft drink is usually around $1, and a cappuccino comes to $1.50. An apartment can be rented anywhere from $300 to $400 dollars each month, and utilities will often cost about $80.
Apartments and condos are the most common (and affordable!) accommodation for those living and working in Cape Town. There are many different districts within the city that offer the most job opportunities, so researching the safe and affordable districts is important to ensure your safety and comfort. Consider the security that apartments, condos, or other rentals have in that area to ensure that you are safe as an expat.
A work visa is mandatory in order to work in South Africa, and you must have obtained employment prior to applying; in other words, the job must be proved to be legitimate for you to get a workers visa. It is illegal to look for work once you have already moved to South Africa, especially since you won’t have a work visa without already having a job offer. Your employer will provide assistance and any necessary documents throughout the visa process. Keep in mind that immigration regulations are very strict in South Africa, and it is not easy to change a permit or extend your stay without good reason.
Casual Cape Town. While it is important to maintain a professional presence during any job in Cape Town, many will find that Cape Town is a pleasantly casual, relaxed city that makes both work life and personal life enjoyable and easy to adjust to as an expatriate.
Experienced Expat. Having prior experience or distinct skills that set you apart from other applicants are vital when applying for jobs in Cape Town; it can be quite challenging for foreigners to obtain work in Cape Town if they don’t offer something that the local applicant pool cannot.
Pervasive poverty. First-time travelers who haven’t experienced developing countries may experience culture shock more abruptly than those who have completed escapades in Europe or the American south. Poverty is a real issue facing the people of South Africa, and as a resident in Cape Town, you will come face to face with it every day. Challenge yourself to become educated on the historical causes and contemporary issues related to poverty in South Africa. While working in Cape Town, you can also seek out opportunities to volunteer (there are many). Most importantly, as a foreigner worker in Cape Town you should come to recognize your common humanity with locals who may seem very different than you on the surface.
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