Background on visit and possible move to South Africa.
November 11, 2005 10:50 AM   Subscribe

ZAfilter: I am off to Cape Town soon, and might even move there. This is a request for more than just "what should I check out on a week long visit"...

In about a month, I am going to visit Cape Town for a week, for a job interview. So, just to get this out of the way: what are the must see's and must do's ? I am an avid rock climber and like swimming in the ocean, so there's that.

More importantly: 2) Suppose I got the job (lecturer at UCT): should I move there? (3) If you have lived and worked there for a significant period of time, could you share your perspective on living in South Africa (most of my friends rave about South Africa and Cape Town in particular, but they generally were on tourist agendas)? (4) Is living in behind high walls in a sheltered enclave the only option? (5) Are there socio-economically and racially mixed neighbourhoods that are cool to live in and don't give you the feeling of being part of a hated elite? Since having moved to the States, I have felt pretty unconfortable with how segregated the cities are here ... would I freak out? (6) How serious is the crime issue? (7) Anything else?

Finally: (8) I am definetly on the look out for good primers (books, articles, websites, blogs, documentraries, whatever) on South African history, economics, politics and literature.

posted by bumpkin to Society & Culture (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My Traitor's Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience by Rian Malan was an outstanding book, though horrifying at times.
posted by handful of rain at 10:57 AM on November 11, 2005

As a half-Capetonian, I've spent some time in CT every year since the early 80s. I've never spent more than 4 months at a stretch though. With that in mind:
1. Table Mountain has routes of all varieties, and is reasonably crime free. Most Capetonians climb it on a regular basis, so there's always someone willing to take you.
The Atlantic is cold, really really cold in November paradoxically. You should take a thick wetsuit (and a surfboard). It's (almost shark free). The "Indian" side (actually technically still the Atlantic) is warm year round, but has Great Whites. South Africa's annual record for shark-related deaths was 26.
In a week you should climb the mountain, visit Cape Point, visit Robben Island, play volleyball at Clifton Beach, surf at Llandudno, eat at Constantia Uitsig, drink at Jo'burg Bar, Eclipse, and Rhodes House.
2. Don't commit to living there forever. A year or two would be fine. (See my later comments)
3. It's an awesome place to live, particularly if you want to go out clubbing/drinking/partying/hanging on the beach, because those activities are relatively racially integrated.
If you want to live a grown-up life of wine/fine dining/conversation, that's fine too, particularly within the confines of the liberal academic community. The rest of South Africa are still somewhat uncultured, narrow-minded and reactionary. I sometimes find I have to bite my tongue regarding white South Africans "right-of-centre" views...and their general predisposition to burble hippy bullshit too.
4. You will be robbed, burglarised, and possibly assaulted (maybe not all three) within a year. I got ALL my belongings stolen this year, from within a guarded gated "sheltered enclave". You really have to take security seriously, but even with your best efforts you will still be a victim of crime. If you want real life, then areas like Obz, Gardens, Greenpoint etc are all racially mixed. Having said that the townships are still shocking, they make you feel guilty and privileged and really sad. It's tough to just live with them so near by.
6. Bad, see 4
7. Go for it
8. Read Nadine Gordimer, Sol Plaatje, and Time Out Cape Town
posted by roofus at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

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