South Africa is in reality many nations all in one, having suffered from much racial friction between the various elements of this very diverse society. Cut adrift from the rest of the developed world in the 1980s due to the country’s record on human rights and inequality amongst the population, it was reintroduced to the world in a blaze of publicity after the last vestiges of apartheid were removed. While relationships between the ethnic parties in the country still require much work, there is definitely a move forward which has lead to its first African government instituted in the country.

While South Africa is classed as a developing nation, there are areas such as Durban, Cape Town, etc which are fully developed, but progress among the outer towns and villages is very slow. The problems of the past have over shadowed what South Africa has to offer, with some of the most beautiful scenery you could hope for, with extreme desert conditions in the South and lush green flora in the North. These positive attributes are attracting more Expats wanting to live in South Africa between the various elements of this diverse society.

Contents: Culture in South Africa | Employment in South Africa | Property in South Africa | State Benefits in South Africa | Facts about South Africa

Culture in South Africa

It is difficult to put forward one culture as the South African way of life, due to the mass diversity of ethnic groups and cultures in the country. However, there are some common denominators which include food, music and dance, which all feature heavily in the history of the many tribes and ethnic groups.

The culture of “black music” is pinpointed by many as the main element that has brought differing ethnic groups closer together, and it has also proved a very useful promotional tool to the rest of the world. There are many famous bands that actually celebrate this music by traveling the world with their brand of South African music.

The country though is still suffering in many ways from the entrenched traditions of the slave industry of years past and there are still distinct difference between the lives of the different racial groups. There are an amazing 11 different languages that are officially recognized in South Africa, which include Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. This is perhaps one of the reasons as to why the various groups have not been able to integrate and communicate at the same level, though much effort has been put into it.

Employment in South Africa

The country has long been dependent upon its rich mineral resources. However, this is slowly changing with new sectors such as finance, legal services, communications and energy coming more and more to the forefront. The country also has a budding media sector with many Hollywood blockbusters filmed on location in South Africa that is taking advantage of the ever-changing landscape, wildlife and cultures of the nation.

Unemployment has most definitely improved since the days of “Apartheid” with the current unemployment rate in the region at 27.1% (and remaining fairly steady at this level). While still massive in comparison to developed Western economies, it is a distinct improvement on the 40% rate in the days of the trade sanctions due to the government’s apartheid policies.

The South African authorities have recently come down hard on potential immigrants who have little to offer to the country. Quotas have been installed to ensure that certain areas of the work force are replenished, thereby adding to the overall performance of the economy. However, there are some concerns that the process is by no means straight forward and fairly lengthy. Whether this will impact on the vast number of Western companies who have entered South Africa remains to be seen, but these companies have a lot to offer to both the employment market and the economy.

Property in South Africa

In effect South Africa has a two tier property system with the likes of Cape Town, Durban, etc showing massive growth over the last few years, as more and more immigrants look to these highly developed areas for employment, a good standard of living and a reliable transport network. The latest trends in 2009 indicate that the current market prices in South Africa have fallen to their lowest in 23 years as recession reached the shores of South Africa. This is exacerbated by rising unemployment and slow consumer spending in the current market not only locally but internationally.

For those looking to relocate to South Africa you need to be aware of the local property market picture and take advice from the experts. The vast divergence of property values and prospects makes this one of the most difficult housing markets to fully understand. There is potential there, it is just a mater of finding the best offers around.

South Africa also has rental market, with many foreign nationals keen to check out the situation and various areas of the property market before committing themselves. The laws regarding the rental of property are very thorough and offer a great deal of protection to the customer – well worth considering as your first option.

State Benefits in South Africa

While South Africa has one of the few State Welfare systems in Africa, there is still much work to do to support the vast number of poverty stricken families.  In a country where the current average is 27% of the work force are unemployed (although this figures rises to 40% in some regions) many people depend on state benefits as their only income – often needed to support large families.

The taxation system is very similar to that of the UK, with revenue collected via the PAYE system.  For those deemed to be resident in South Africa, the government expects all worldwide income to be declared – against which tax will be charged.  There is however a number of dual taxation agreements in place to ensure residents do not suffer.

Benefits are available for anyone who has paid into the country’s taxation system, with the standard unemployment benefit, housing benefit and pension payments among the most common.  There still appears to be a major problem with fraud in some areas of the country, bleeding dry a state benefit system that often struggles to reach those in real need.


While the potential for future growth in South Africa is not in doubt, the country is still very much a number of nations within a nation with periodic signs of unrest between the various cultures. Slowly this should calm down and while the economy has performed fairly well of late, the currency can often be a problem. South Africa Expat Forum has been reported last July 10,2009:

“South Africa has so much to offer anyone that come with a positive attitude, ready to see all the beauty and the richness of its diverse culture , the still vast open areas with animals still in abundance.”

Areas such as Cape Town and Durban seem a million miles away form the ghettos and areas of stark depravation.  These are the regions that should be receiving the array of state benefits on hand, but due to continuing fraud this is often proving difficult.  Pressure from the developed countries of the world is alerting the government to the potential harm they are doing to the future, but the problems in South Africa have been around for centuries and old beliefs die hard.

For those looking long term, there is potential for real financial rewards and a great lifestyle in South Africa, but there will always be certain areas of the country that may well be out of bounds.

Before you travel, heed this advice from the South Africa Expat Forum dated last August 10,2009:

“South Africa is like Marmite you will either love it or hate it, we love it. If you have never visited go and try before you buy, and not just once go several times. Get a feel for the area that you intend to settle in, then decide.”

More facts about South Africa :-

Capital :Cape Town

Official Language : A variety including Afrikaans, English and Zulu.

Government : Parliamentary Democracy

Size : 1,221,037 km2

Population : 47 million

Currency : South African Rand

International Dialling Code : +27

Economy : 28th largest in the world

Religion : Christian