Moving to South Africa
February 7, 2004 2:56 AM   Subscribe

South Africa: Company wants us to move there. The question is, do we want to live there? The city is East London. We're a white gay couple (American and Belgian). How safe is it? How much an issue that we're gay and/or foreign? I've searched and asked around, too many conflicting reports.
posted by Goofyy to Travel & Transportation around South Africa (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about SA, but here's a link from the Canadian Government:

South Africa Travel Report

Section 3 (Safety and Security) can give you some idea of the current situation.
posted by smcniven at 7:26 AM on February 7, 2004

The Equality Project looks like a good resource on legal issues.
posted by teg at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2004

i've never lived in east london, but i've travelled through it a few times, most recently 3 years ago.
its a small city, fairly backwaterish, in a very poor part of south africa. good for surfing, close to some very beautiful parts of south africa, beaches are good.

the country has a fairly liberal constitution, so being gay should not be a problem.
There are also lots of tourists around, so being foreign is fairly common, but can make you a target for crime. I wouldnt let crime dissuade you, but you must understand that you have to take many more precautions over there and not do stupid things (like carry lots of money on you / flash it around)

cape town would be a better place to live, it's odd that your company is going there, what do you do?
posted by carfilhiot at 10:27 AM on February 7, 2004

the country has a fairly liberal constitution, so being gay should not be a problem

Is this a joke?
"Stop hitting me this minute! Look [pulling out a copy]: the Constitution!"
*gay-bashing thug, abashed and enlightened, runs away*

The question is: how do actual people in the actual city of East London react to actual gay people?
posted by languagehat at 10:43 AM on February 7, 2004

My company has had about 5 people in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana and Zambia) for the last 4 or 5 years doing fieldwork mostly in remote areas. In that time there have been two documented incidents of violence, one a smash and grab of valuables while the car was stopped at a traffic light in Johannesberg, the other a 2-hour car-jacking in Zambia. There have been a few other near-miss sort of things where a getaway has been made before anything significant has happened.
You definitely need to acclimate to a different mindset in terms of personal security (both of the above incidents happened as people were preparing to leave or right after they had arrived), but Southern Africa is popular among our field-crews and generally well-regarded.
posted by cardboard at 11:26 AM on February 7, 2004

i saw a travel show and also a magazine article that has south africa as a top "gay destination". it was my understanding that at least parts of south africa are very gay friendly.
posted by centrs at 3:27 PM on February 7, 2004

Languagehat nailed the issue as far as gay things go. As a couple, we're not concerned with the gay 'scene', but with social attitudes. Its hard to hide (and unpleasant) the fact that 2 guys living together (especially 2 foreigners) are a couple.

Personal security is the other big question, probably more important. Much of the advice doesn't seem to me to be that different from how I would do things in most big cities. But the poverty there is much deeper than anyplace else I've ever been.
posted by Goofyy at 12:19 AM on February 8, 2004

Okay firstly a disclaimer, I live in Cape Town and have never been to East London, but can give you some general answers.

Firstly on issues of security, as in any country, if you're careful and take precautions then you can live pretty much a normal life. The vast majority of crimes, especially violent crimes, are still found mainly in the poorer areas (which is the case in any city I guess). Your biggest fears are burglaries and car theft, but with a decent alarm system (which usually come standard with some sort of armed response service) and a gear lock on the car even I don't really worry much anymore (and the crime rate in Cape Town is certainly greater than East London's).

Being gay or foreign isn't gonna make a difference. East London is a relatively small place compared to Cape Town (which has a thriving gay scene), but it's still one of SA's largest towns. Foreigners are pretty much welcome (you're bringing in the ol' foreign currency we crave so much) and while I'm pretty sure East London doesn't have much of a gay scene (although never having been there I can't say much), I'm can guarantee you no one is going to be driving you out of town with torches. You won't be the first gay people to live there that's for damn sure. East London is in one of the more picturesque areas of the country and you've got great access to the whole Eastern Cape.

East London's Offical Web Page has lots of more useful info, and feel free to contact me via email if you have any other questions.
posted by PenDevil at 12:40 PM on February 8, 2004 [1 favorite]

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