A Guide To Working Abroad in South Africa
On the southern most tip of Africa lies the mysterious and vibrant country of South Africa. Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, this African republic is the twenty-fifth largest country in the world! A nation of immense diversity, South Africa is home to numerous cultures, religions, and languages (eleven official ones to be exact!). Working in South Africa will provide you with culturally rich experiences, whether in the workplace or out and about exploring all the country has to offer.
South Africa is a stunning country packed with both natural and cultural diversity; those who choose to work abroad in South Africa will be able to take advantage of the nation’s varied landscapes, from beaches on the subtropical coastline to the desert-like heartland, and even go on wildlife safaris on their days off! South Africa was once plagued by racial segregation, but it is now a highly attractive, growing international city.
Cape Town. Due to its popularity amongst foreign workers and tourists, Cape Town has become one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Also one of the largest metropolitan cities in all of Africa, Cape Town is tucked between the nation’s coasts (aka. it is home to spectacular beaches) and the infamous Table Mountain. Cape Town is a hotbed for creativity, serving as a central location in the country for media, advertising, and technology. However, due to the popularity of expat life in this scenic city, jobs in Cape Town can be competitive.
Johannesburg. In the northeast corner of the country lies the largest urban setting in the country. Known locally as Jozi, Johannesburg was founded in 1886, in part because of the discovery of gold (yes, Africa also had its own gold rush). Gold plays a major role in this sprawling (635 square miles in total!) city’s status as an economic powerhouse, not only for the country, but for the region as a whole. Although Johannesburg is known for its high crime rate, it remains an up and coming city for jobs in South Africa, with restaurants, music clubs, and museums welcoming foreign visitors and expats year round.
Durban. Known as the friendliest city in South Africa, Durban is located on the northern coastline of the Indian Ocean. Due to its location, this harbor city has become an integral part of international trade for the region; booming industries have consequently developed around the coast, including both agricultural and manufacturing. Durban has a sizeable Indian population, so the city has a wonderful blend of Indian and African cultures and cuisines. One of the most popular local dishes is, not surprisingly, Durban Curry. Yum!
South Africa has a booming economy that accounts for almost a quarter of the entire continent’s GDP, which is amazing because this economic strength only began in recent years after the abolition of apartheid. South Africa has been working on restoring its international relationships since apartheid ended, which includes increasing trade and attracting multinational corporations to set up offices and businesses in South Africa.
Today, the most common jobs in South Africa available for foreign workers are teaching English, government work, or au pairing. Each job opportunity presents a wonderfully unique lenses in which to experience the local South African culture, whether from a political point of view or a more homegrown, organic perspective. English teaching jobs are by and large the most popular type of position among foreigners in South Africa.
Keep in mind that jobs exist in other industries, too. Like many countries of similar size and economic stature, South Africa has experienced major “brain drain”, and although it is unfortunate for its native land to lose such skilled and experienced workers, this means there are many more job opportunities for foreign workers.
Most fields of work in South Africa abide by the typical working hours, the good ol’ nine to five, Monday thru Friday deal. When it comes to business etiquette, tread lightly when speaking of politics in the workplace (although this doesn’t change much no matter where you work abroad!), as South Africa is still divided and wage inequality is a huge issue. Most South Africans share the hope that there are many changes for the better in the near future though. Depending on where you work abroad in South Africa and how large the corporation is, the language used in daily business transactions may or may not be English. As previously mentioned, there are eleven official languages in South Africa, so make sure you do research into the work culture and language required for each job in South Africa before embarking on your new adventure.
While South Africans may be unhappy with their economy and rising cost of living, South Africa still remains one of the most affordable countries in the world to work abroad in. The South African Rand (noted as ZAR) is used as the nation’s currency, and $100 is roughly equal to $1,362 ZAR. The U.S. dollar can go a long way in South Africa.
When it comes to salaries, those who work in the tourism industry will receive about $1,000 a month, teaching jobs may provide teachers with roughly $1,400 a month (depending on the type of position), and government jobs pay larger salaries, closer to around $3,000 a month.
Although these amounts may not seem like much by U.S. standards, when compared to the price of goods locally, it is clear that living and working in South Africa can be a great option. Using the McDonalds standard (those golden arches are a standard across the globe), a combo meal costs around $3.70. Of course, the price of goods will vary across the country, so your budget and salary will depend on what city you decide to work abroad in South Africa.
Have no fear! Once you arrive and become acclimated to your new surroundings, you will surely figure out which stores and restaurants are more affordable and how to cost down your living costs, just like the locals do. No matter what, it’s best to start your search for work in South Africa by creating a budget you can live with and looking for positions that can fit your needs, and of course, flexibility is always needed.
If you want to work abroad in South Africa, it’s best to first find a job and then immediately secure housing. Do your research and find out which neighborhoods are safe, and also a commutable distance from your new job. The average cost of rent for a one bedroom apartment in a major city is $350 a month. If you’re moving to South Africa with your family or looking to live with roommates, a three bedroom apartment is about $750 a month. Your salary will play a big role in what you can and can’t afford, and where your housing will be located. Of course, living outside the city limits will be cheaper, but you will need to take into consideration your commute and transportation cost too.
Every year, the department of Home Affairs issues a list of jobs in South Africa that are in need of qualified individuals, which is basically an open invitation for foreign workers to fill these positions. If you have skills that can be considered critical, per the Home Affairs website, you may be eligible to apply for a work visa before even having an offer for a specific job in South Africa (but this can be risky for obvious reasons!). Since South Africa is in such high demand for foreign workers, the government often provides temporary residence permits for prospective international employees. In general, South Africa is a very welcoming country, and therefore accommodates foreigners with an interest in living or visiting the country in many ways.
Safety. Just like any other foreigner working abroad, you will need to watch out for yourself and your personal belongings in South Africa’s major cities. South Africa may be known as an idealistic place to live, but in reality it is burdened with crime, including petty theft. But don’t let this sway you from getting a job in South Africa, as many places around the world have similar concerns. South Africa has so much to offer foreign workers, and you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity. Instead, just avoid going to certain places by yourself, especially at night.
Career Growth. Working abroad in South Africa will put your resume above other applicants who lack international work experience. Why? First, it shows that you can adapt to new cultural environments and succeed in cross-cultural interactions. Second, you will likely pick up some new language skills, and foreign language skills are always in demand!
Affordability. Although it has been mentioned several times, it is worth mentioning again. You will get more bang for your buck in South Africa! Housing is affordable. Food is affordable. Even visiting famous sites and tourist attractions is affordable! Although your salary will take some getting used to, you will be not be disappointed when you are able to enjoy a day at the spa or a safari outing while working in South Africa.
Jobs in South Africa are your chance to enjoy one of the most beautiful countries in the world!
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