Indian Expat Living in South Africa - Interview with Namrata

Published: 12 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,South Africa
Namrata is an Indian expat living in Johannesburg. Not too long ago, she decided to quit her cushy job with an investment management firm in India to follow her husband to the rainbow nation – South Africa, and became a 'trailing spouse.' Namrata's expat blog is called Mia Musings (see listing here)

Me on top of the Table Mountain, cape Town
Me on top of the Table Mountain, cape Town

Here's the interview with Namrata...

Where are you originally from?
New Delhi, India

In which country and city are you living now?
Johannesburg, South Africa

How long have you lived in South Africa and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved here last year - February, 2013. There is no fixed plan to be honest. Both, my husband & I have fallen in love with this country and would love to live and work here at least for the next few years. But it all depends on the work and when/where the next posting might be.

Adorable little Mia
Adorable little Mia
Why did you move to South Africa and what do you do?
Well, I just moved here to be with my husband. My husband was offered a very good job opportunity, and both of us decided that this would be an opportune time to get some international work experience. So we decided to take the plunge. And here we heart of the rainbow nation.

Whilst in India, I used to work as an investment analyst. But since moving to SA, given the visa restrictions, getting employed has posed a big challenge. However, I have been using this 'break' to my best advantage and have been exploring Joburg and SA to the fullest.

A few months back,coaxed by friends and family, I started writing a blog - Mia Musings,in order to record and share all my wonderful experiences.

Did you bring family with you?
We don't have any kids yet so my husband and I moved alone. However,a few months back, we expanded our family to include a dear little rescued puppy, Mia. She's a most adorable little mutt!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Well, I have lived in the UK for a bit before. So moving from India to SA was not that big a challenge. Since we were helped by a relocation agency, our entire move was rather smooth - from packing up our house in India to shipping and setting up in Johannesburg. Fortunately, none of our stuff was broken or missing (I have heard some horrifying stories from others). In addition, as a country, SA is quite an easy place to settle in - there are no language issues per se as English is widely spoken, driving is on the same side as in India(after having driven in Delhi, this place feels like heaven!), the weather is awesome all year round and there is so much to see & do!

However,there are some other things that take a while getting used to - the fact that everyone has to live inside electric-fenced, gated communities,that you have to be alert and aware everywhere you go, that there is just no public transport system to speak of, and that until you are really sure of your surroundings - you cannot decide to take a walk. Security is a big issue here, especially in Johannesburg. However, over the last few years, things seem to have gotten better. So its not as bad as perceived. but when you are an expat and completely new to a place, you tend to believe whatever you hear. So, during our first few months, we were pretty edgy. Always careful, always well-planned, avoiding the so-called no-go areas. This kind of took away the initial joy of living in a new country.
But we have come a long way since, and are much more relaxed and happier now!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We met a lot of lovely people through my husband's office - both locals as well as expats. Through them,we have met other interesting people. And have been able to make quite a nice bunch of friends. However, it has been more difficult for me. Since I don't work or have kids, meeting new people has been a challenge. But I have joined a few groups such as Meetup and the events organised by has given me an opportunity to meet a variety of people. Joining hobby classes such as pottery and the gym, have also helped.
The local South Africans are a really friendly lot and very warm. We have been fortunate to have met a lot of really nice people.

Amazing colors on a graffiti in Joburg
Amazing colors on a graffiti in Joburg
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Joburg is not really a holiday destination. But for people who live here, especially expats, there are tons of things to do. SA is a very outdoorsy place. So anyone who has an inclination towards sporting activities such as biking, running, hiking, etc will be thrilled to live here as every other week there are marathons, obstacle races, biking events, etc. Additionally, there are places in less than an hour's drive where you could go dirt biking, camping, fishing, or simply get away from the hustle bustle.
There are a number of botanical gardens where one could take the kids and braai (south african for a bbq. Then ofcourse there is the bushveld - the wildlife.
Besides these, there is a lot of cultural stuff happening from theatre to musicals, to stand up comedy.
My personal favourite are the weekend farmers' markets that are organised in different parts of joburg. Each one is different and worth checking out. An excellent on a nice sunny day.

What do you enjoy most about living in South Africa?
The thing i love most is the weather. Its so moderate all year round. Not too hot in summer or too cold in winter. And the sun is out, nice & bright on most days. This makes being outdoors so much fun.
Also the fact that the city offers a variety of activities for the entire family. This has kept us from getting bored on any weekend - so far!

How does the cost of living in South Africa compare to home?
The cost of living as compared to New Delhi is almost the same. There maybe a few things that are more expensive here than in India, but overall, its almost the same.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in South Africa?
The constant worry about security and the mis-led media hype on how dangerous it is to live here. Having to explain to everyone who hears that we live in Joburg, that its actually nothing like what you have heard and that the ground reality is very different, is most annoying.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to South Africa, what would it be?
Don't believe everything you read about the city/country. In fact speak to other expats currently living here to get a clear picture. And definitely don't speak to people who have migrated from SA! they left years ago and still think SA is the same today as it was when they left.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Finding a job. It's been really hard to get used to not working! I hadn't realised that the labour laws would be so stringent.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I would settle right back in! We miss our friends and family a lot and India is home after all.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Speak to a LOT of people before you decide and research well.
  2. Find out the labour laws that will affect the hiring of your spouse. Again, speak to people. Don't just go by the words of the HR department of your spouse/partner's company.
  3. Definitely take the 'look and see' visit in order to decide whether or not you would like to move, and if you do, the area you may want to live in.
  4. Join local communities and groups. They not only help in making friends but provide a lot of local info/tips as well.
  5. Make the most of your stay in SA. the country is beautiful and you can drive almost anywhere. so EXPLORE
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It took me the better part of 2013 to actually start writing. While some of it can be attributed to finding my feet in a new country, settling down and exploring the city that has now become my home, most of it is actually the sheer lethargy of writing. However, getting past all that, I started Mia Musings (named after our beautiful dog), in order to capture my experiences of this beautiful and often mis-judged country via my blog.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted via my blog

About the author

Expat Blog ListingNamrata is an Indian expat living in South Africa. Blog description: Ramblings of an expat wife about Mia, all things South African and otherwise.
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