Angry South African Expats

What I’ve come to realise, over the past few weeks, is that there can be no angrier, more unreasonable person on the planet than the South Africa expat who is told that the country has not gone up in flames (yet) and that we actually spend a lot of time camping, hiking, hanging out on the beach and drinking very nice, inexpensive wine on our expansive lawns in the sunshine while somebody else does the ironing. I think it is fair to say that a goaded bull with a punctured testicle being shown 42 red flags simultaneously could not be more enraged than the (ex) South African who sold up, spent all their money on relocating their family to Wellington before the Swart Gevaar put a torch to the entire country only to find that it’s not quite the utopia they imagined and that their life is actually kakker than before.

When I wrote On Moving Back to South Africa I really did it for myself. It was a way of coming to terms with my own feelings, and trying to make sense of this country I choose to call home. Never in my wildest imaginings did I think it would get over 40 000 views in the first few weeks, get posted and re-posted all over the world, appear on the official South African Homecoming Revolution website and that I would get inundated with comments, thoughts and opinions. And while most, by far, have been extremely positive and a few have politely but vehemently disagreed, there is a small contingency who were made so cross by my allegations that South Africa is still a rather nice place to live out ones days I could practically see the spittle flying from their mouths as they did Rumpelstiltskin dances of rage and shouted abuse at me from their couches in Queensland.

And it’s a curious thing, because if you’re really, really happy in your new home abroad and you’re really, really pleased to have left this cesspit of hell, why would you care enough to get so emotional? All that their comments told me (which were, unfortunately, verging on abusive so I had to trash them) is that they feel deeply conflicted about their decision to leave, and that my story of settling well and loving what this country has to offer seriously messes with their heads. And I can understand that – it must be a fuck up of note to have convinced yourself that we were on the verge of apocalypse and that leaving was the only sensible option only to come back in December and find that your friends are doing very nicely in their holiday houses in Onrus, rump steak costs next to nothing and Woolworths dips keep getting better.

I have friends who left for Canada a while back and come back every summer, and their confusion is tangible. Because it’s the same old place it ever was. Even with that mad bastard JZ in power. We still go for picnics on Clifton 4th; hang out on the café strip; drink bubbly and watch the sunset; swim in our pools; have lekker braais. The story they had to tell themselves (and keep telling themselves and everyone who’ll listen) about why they left the country they loved gets a bit frayed at the edges when their buddies invite them over for fresh kreef and the kids have a jol being outdoors all day and half the night and Spur sauce still tastes good on everything. I’m not saying this country doesn’t have serryass problems, but for now it’s the same old place and sheesh, you have a cool life.

And neither am I saying that some people don’t leave South Africa happily and settle well and never look back, but they aren’t the ones writing me cross letters. And I feel for them, I really do. For me, leaving South Africa permanently would break my heart. Maybe their hearts got a bit broken and the only way they know how to deal is by running the country down and calling those of us who still live here – or, god forbid, came back – names. A writer whose name I forget once said in a novel, ‘Africa is not easily forsaken by her children.’ I never forgot those words. For whatever reason, this country gets under your skin. It holds you in its grip, and I see a kind of emotional attachment I haven’t witnessed in any other place.

A journalist friend of mine went to Australia to interview South African expats, and many had had to undergo some kind of therapy in order to come to terms with leaving. You hear of South Africans going down on their bended knees and kissing the tarmac when they get off the plane. I did it myself when we moved back permanently. Maybe it’s because our country has suffered so much, and we have witnessed its turmoil and anguish and then danced in its (rather short-lived) victories. Or maybe it’s something else; an intangible, indefinable quality that inspires this deep love and reverence.

So, I say this to the expats who need to sound off and be haters in order to justify their choices: let us love our country if that is what makes sense to us. We don’t yell at you and accuse you of abandoning ship because you’re living in Maida Vale. We are happy that you have homes in London because now we have somewhere to stay when we go overseas with our tragic Rands. You made a choice to go, like we made a choice to stay. No amount of shouting is going to convince us that we’re deluded. We read the papers; we get it. You don’t have to point out crime stats to us. For better or for worse, we have made peace with our decision, as you are going to have to make peace with yours.

And the thing is this: you talk about not being ‘free’ in South Africa. I lived in Sweden for eight years and as I ventured out, day after day, under a low-hanging grey sky to take my children to school in a gloomy, high-rise building where everybody I encountered seemed chronically depressed, that is when I felt unfree. Where there were so many rules I was afraid to do anything; where the weather was so crap we spent our lives watching TV, and where everybody lives for the end of the year so that they can get the hell out and feel like they’re alive. Now, I feel alive every single day. And it’s freaking awesome. A moment of shameless sentimentality, but I love this so much. And, like old Thabs says, today it feels good to be an African.

554 thoughts on “Angry South African Expats

  1. Although I agree with the writer, i do believe that the very lifestyle she talks about is being destoyed, we rather sip wine and play on a beach rather than save our natural resources and wildlife, which is the very essence of our lifestyle in Africa

  2. Must say this is an interesting page. I moved from South Africa to NZ in 1997 and from there to the sunny Gold Coast City in Australia in 2004 (Reminds me if Durban). I have no regrets moving to another country and Australia especially. I look at it as if someone decides to move from Johannesburg to Cape Town … for whatever reason. I just moved further. The most concerning thing about South Africa is the message sent by the media. Must be honest it doesn’t do the image of South Africa any good if you read the online Newspapers. We have crime, thefts, rapes etc. There is no Utopia in the world when it comes to that. What does count in my favour is that on a scale of probabilities the chances of any bad thing happening to me is much less probable by ratio than in South Africa. I still have family there …. but I actually get them to come here to see the place I call home. I live here as a NZ Citizen and love Australia.

  3. Absolutely loved your blog. I always say that my heart beats to an African drum and could not conceive living anywhere else other than Cape Town let alone South Africa. I will take it warts and all. It certainly keeps one on their toes and makes life interesting every single day

  4. The only problem I have with South Africa is the way some people are exploited by others and that makes me ashamed. See the article on the life of a maid. Otherwise the country is great and I visit often, but I still prefer it here in Melbourne.

  5. Thanks, living in SA is great. Every country has problems, it’s all about choosing which you are prepared to live with. Going to Europe every year for a month or so is a blessing, because it makes you realize how wonderful this country which we call South Africa is.

    To Tracey, I have been in many sunshine countries in this world and again – the problems you have there is just as many – again it’s all about choosing the problems which you are prepared to live with, but to make us who stay here feel guilty about our decision is absurd. And for a matter of fact, I am glad that all the now expats but then citizens left this country. Most of you are “good weather friends” or in Afrikaans we call you “mooi weers vriende”. You are only friends when the good is going good and the same with your citizenship. We don’t need people with that mentallity here anyway, we need people who will work in and on this country in the good times and bad times. So thanks for leaving, you’ve made us stronger.

    Anycase, that is my 5 cents and in economic times like these, probably not worth much.

  6. Everyone makes choices in life. Everyone should respect the choices made by others. We all have our reasons for the choices we make. We all travel our own life path……
    We can only wish for everyone to be happy with their choices whether they left or stayed.
    Personally, I agree with a writer who said – once you have lived under the African sky you will never really leave Africa. It remains a part of you always.
    Thank you for so eloquently putting my thoughts into words .

  7. I am a South African, living in Cape Town (formerly Durban). I have working rights in the UK and Europe but up to now I dont have any plans to leave (never say never). I had a good career, retired young and opened our own business which is doing well (BEE & other challenges)

    I can only comment on expats that I have met and generalisations are unfair but they do broadly fit into 3 groups (I generalise of course)
    1) The WhenWe group that go over and complain about their new country and compare them negatively to SA – they are roundly disliked in their new country
    2) The WhyWeLeft Group – the ones that tell you why they left despite the fact you never asked them. The ones that email negative articles, and post them on Facebook – as though we South Africans didnt know about an incident happening down the road. This group is disliked in SA and not particularly liked in their adoptive country. You dont diss your former company, girlfiriend or home.
    3) The EmbraceOurNewHome Group – These are the majority and their positive attitude helps them succeed in their new country. They are liked on both sides of the ocean. If I ever leave our shores I promise to be in this group and not diss my country of birth.

    I should note that there are a significant number of SAns living in SA that fit into the WhyWeLeft Group despite never leaving. They often don’t succeed to their expectations and in my opinion dont realise that perhaps their negative attitude spills over to their work and personal life and actually stops their success. This is not to say we shouldn’t fight what is wrong in our country. Positive action in ones own way helps. Whining doesn’t.

    Of course everyone has a reason why they left and we must respect that. However the conclusion that we must be all blind or stupid not to follow them is silly. With change comes upheaval. The changes have afforded my international exposure I wouldnt have had under apartheid. I would definitely have left the old SA.
    It is possible we take the low road. We all hope we take the high road though. We need more positive SAns to achieve this. It will be hard but we can get there.

  8. Hi, have you read a book called “Should I stay or should I go”? Well worth it!! Basically each to their own- just like religion, sexual positions, to have kids or not- the list continues…

  9. Hi I totally agree with what you have said and its well written. I am a hardened South African who married a Canadian. We have both travelled extensively and I have lived and worked in many countries in my single youth.
    All her family and friends where sceptical about my motives at the time for marrying her.
    Instead I brought her to South Africa where we have lived for almost 10years.

    She was a science professor at her local University which she gave up to come over. She searched for a job but was turned down because of her ethnicity.
    She has totally fallen in love with the country and fully supports the Springboks and Protea’s.
    We bought a small holding together in the beautiful Midlands where we have lived for the past 8 years.
    We have since had two children who will be ready for school in a few years. Our idea is to live in an environment where our kids can grow up with space to run free.

    Our home has been broken into 3 times, our crops & stock stolen and land taken.
    The police don’t answer the local station phone when you call. They don’t have a working vehicle to come out to your needs.
    I led the investigation to eventually get the gang leader arrested who was on probation for multiple previous arrests of theft. The court found him guilty where he received an 8 year sentence and was let out in 2 years. We have since had another 2 thefts on our premises. The second incident, I led the investigation again which took me back to the same culprits homestead and after laying out some personal threats. Two days later found my stolen stock back at my gate.

    I work as an engineer which takes me away from home and feel so anxious about my families safety and knowing I have very little support from the local police. The service delivery in every industry is progressively getting worse. The attitude that is taking over is that people whose job is to serve you are doing you a favour.

    Our kids are going to need a good education soon. How much is private schooling going to cost us? Where’s the public transport to take them to school? Its not safe to leave them to play on their own on our own land.
    I don’t have support to stop people doing what they please on my land.

    Everywhere the attitude that is taken over in south Africa is a dog eat dog, survival of the fittest.

    You take your life in your hands when you go out on the public roads due to the lack of law enforcement which is allowing people to do what they want. Jump red lights, speed, drive un-roadworthy vehicles, etc, etc.

    We love the Natal South Coast for its beautiful beaches and warm sea which we frequently visit. Its becoming more difficult to enjoy with all the litter and dirt and debris that is being washed down the rivers from squatters living on the banks. In-fact its becoming a health hazard. How sad!

    We enjoy hiking and camping in the Drakensberg but are warned not to go as you risk being robbed or worse

    For my families safety and to allow me to make a living to survive we have had to move to a gated security neighbourhood in a gated secure complex in the city of Johannesburg. Which to be totally honest is far better than we expected.

    What future is there for our kids, Honestly?
    We both know what we can compare our options with.
    Through much deliberation we have decided to move to a farming community country side in Western Canada.
    Although we will live under more rules and regulations, which is necessary with the human race, to allow over-all individual freedom.

    Yes we will miss parts of South Africa.
    Yes we will have to adjust to the different colder winter, etc, etc.
    Yes will have to work just as hard if not harder to meet the same standard of lifestyle in some areas as we are here.
    But overall we will have a less stressful and more fulfilled family day to day lifestyle.
    South Africa we love you and always will. You are beautiful but you being abused.

  10. Hey Sue , What a beaut’.
    So here we sit “again” each and every Wednesday and Saturday , at the local club pub, and decipher all the crap of the week. It all ends up the same in the end “Another shit day in Africa”.
    The shit that is now taking place is not restricted to SA alone–It’s global , ongoing – and will be for some time,(and who knows for how long). I too have many mates who have left the beloved country for greener pastures,and can divide them into two groups; Happy and unhappy-simple.
    We don’t all have the means of being able to pack up and pull out at a months notice.We are here to stay , and therefore eat the shit ,grind our teeth and grin and bear it.(It’s not that bad at all , just a little more caution is needed.)
    My ‘expat’ friends who have moved to Ozzie,opened three successful businesses , had a kid —-ARE HAPPY and CONTENT with their decision.
    My friend in Hong Kong , hates every day of his life and is returning in December to “re”settle permanently. Each to his own .
    It’s really not a case of ‘greener pastures’ , but more a case of making where you are greener-even if it is your own back yard-to start with.
    We all – in our small town- still have a braai almost every weekend.
    Still visit our friends on a regular basis.
    Still partake in the regular outings;whether sport, camping,socialising etc etc etc etc.
    Still have sundowners on the stoep.
    Man,it’s a good life.


  11. I think the key is that everyone is different. Those people who leave sa Looking for some perfect promised land, will come back disappointed. When you emmigrate you move from a country with problems, to a different country with different problems! For me italy’s political problems are easier to deal with than south africas violent crime problems. My panic attacks vanished, and i have settled very happily in my new country! I know i am extremely negative about sa, but there are plenty of others who are super positive. It depends on your experiences! Going to a family friends funeral (she was only 17) and having family members robbed/hijacked tends to give you a negative outlook… I personally could not ever go back to sa-here i can walk my dog at any time of the day without fear of someone trying to steal my handbag, i can ride a bike (something i hadnt done since i was 10). Im not illuding myself, there is still crime, but it is not that violent crime that is a daily occurrence in sa… In the end each of us decide what is best for our own sanity, and you cant criticise anyone for that.

  12. I enjoyed your article and your view points but I have to make a comment. Just because you couldn’t accept the weather changes in Sweden you imply that this is why we are all unhappy in certain parts of Europe. I live in Finland and as a family we have been living in Finland for the past 13 years and you can’t get more greyer weather during the autumn and part of the Winter months. (temperatures dropping to -30 on occasions) But to be quiet honest the weather doesn’t make your life if you don’t allowed it. South Africans are so used the sun that when they don’t have it they don’t know what to do. Yes people get depressed and more grumpier but most get out, exercise and know they have to do more to make themselves happier. The greatest thing here is when the season change from Winter to Spring and the people start becoming more happier and looking forward to the Summer. Then we have the fantastic long days where I have great joy in gardening and growing vegetables and herbs (which by the way I never did in South Africa even though I had a garden). We are even growing curry leaf trees, chillies, roses and barbeton daisies indoors during the harsh Winter months indoor. Finland is a beautiful country which have many many lakes. What I like about my lifestyle is that although the weather is harsh it has something so basic about the nature, the forest, the lakes etc. We go berry picking, mushroom picking, bicycle riding, walking etc, all the simple in life which doesn’t cost anything. So please don’t knock us all. I understand the sun thing and if affects me but am slowly learning to live with it and realise there are other joys in life.

  13. I quite view South Africa like I view my body. I bitch everyday about my body, wish and wonder why I do not have Usher’s genes or The Rock’s abs and biceps… but never do I try an change myself. I am me afterall and there can be no other me. Much as I bitch relentlessly about the state of affairs, politics, crime et al, I do not dream of ever leaving, after all it IS home. No need to adopt another with problems I am unfamiliar with but only for the sake of a romantic notion of it being better? please!

  14. I am curious, If you are a SA expat living in France then
    – You a re probably one of those privileged ‘brats’ that left
    – How does your presence in France help the people you seem concerned about?
    – How does the presence of the privileged in SA harm the self same people?
    – How do you know that the privileged dont help poor people through jobs, charity etc.
    – How does your presence in France amke the poor people of SA any better off? In fact by leaving you make the poor worse off.

    I dont begrudge people that leave. Its their free choice. But your sanctimonious attitude is galling

    1. Well said David – to make a difference, you need to be in SA! It is so easy to look from afar and shake your head in despair. People who employ domestic workers, gardeners, child minders etc… are supporting families and extended communities with this type of employment. So often the support goes beyond a monthly salary and includes helping to educate children, building homes, clothing children etc… That makes a difference. The next generation will have brighter prospects.

      1. @Carol Myburgh – the context of Renee and my response to eeg (South of France SA ex pat) – eeg criticised the author for being a spoilt, privileged expat doing nothing for the poor. We hopefully make a difference. If we dont well then @eeg criticises us while making no differnece himself/herself.

    2. Hey David – just curious – how are you exactly making a difference to the poor people (as you so call them) in SA by your presence? How are their lives “better off”?

      1. I was responding to eegs jibe who from the South of France mocked the spoiled lifestyle we do enjoy. I dont live in SA to make the contribution. I love it here and I make a contribution because doing so benefits my family and the bonus is it helps others.

        I didnt plan listing my contributions because millions make contributions merely by participating in the economy
        * Before I ‘retired’ from corporate life I worked for an international company, was well paid by most 1st world country’s standards and I paid a lot of tax (never begrudged it… well not much)
        * We now ownand run our own professional business that enjoys good profits and we pay company tax
        * We employ 15 people each of whom pay tax and spends money
        * 3 of the staff get their part time university fees paid for. Most of the rest get training certifications which hopefully boosts their earning power
        * I contribute to charity (not blowing my trumpet. People that can afford it do it.
        * We spend a lot maintaining a good life. That money goes to other businesses which in turn employ people and pay tax.

        In short the tax we pay, the people we employ and the money we spend all helps the country pay government granst and provide services. Sure there is wastage and corruption but that isnt the topic here because it wouldnt get less if we left.

        If we left, it does not follow that 2 other people will pick up the slack to fill the hole.

        I am not saying for a second that we have stayed because we wanted to help people.
        We are not noble enough to live a meager existence just to help people. I would like to be that good but I am not. Sainthood is not in my future.
        I just wont accept being mocked for hurting the poor by someone sitting overseas that perhaps isnt helping at all.

    3. It really isnt what the article is saying.

      As I have mentioned before most ex pats make a great go of it elsewhere, do well and are happy.
      I have many friends like that & I am happy for them.

      There is a small subset that are Angry. The ones that
      – Send you emails about how terrible things are in SA (despite have left 5,10,15,20 years ago)
      – Send you news links about SA events… as though you didn’t notice an event down the road.
      – Assail the social networks with the same stuff.
      – That tell people why they left SA (at dinner parties overseas) regularly without ever being asked
      – Troll out anecdotal stories from the news and convey the impression that everyone in SA suffers these conditions
      – Dont seem happy for you when things go well. I am happy for them when things go well
      – Trawl the SA News sites and post comments about how glad they are to leave
      – etc.

      It is that limited set of expats that behave like that. They dont improve their own lives by doing that and they actually hurt people they care about in SA
      They are a minority

      Most South Africans are delighted when an ex pat makes good overseas (unless they display the angry tendencies). We often (irrationally) claim some credit for their success and still label them as one of us despite their move.

      Of course there are plenty of people in SA that are just as painful.

      I want all our ex pats to be happy, do well, excel… and have a little fond spot in their heart for their country of birth.

      1. Everyone here is looking for validation. The angry ones are looking at the negative media & that’s where they get the validation about leaving.
        The Positive ones are looking at the positive media to get the feel good validation that staying in South Africa was right.
        All should make peace with their choices. If my story is negative I have the right to spread it. That’s MY story.
        I’m not breaking the law. Equally if MY story is positive then I have the right to spread it.
        Everyone has their opinion and are entitled to it. Whether asked or not. Whether anyone else agrees or not. If you don’t like the articles or story quite simple. DELETE or stay away from those people. Writing or talking about them isn’t constructive you are effectively joining the negative talk.

        1. Glen I dont disagree with everyone’s right to speak.
          No-one is trying to curtail freedom of speech. Some are saying we should be sensitive to eachothers feelings (You said that for one, so did I)

          There arere people getting angry because they inferred that they were being called angry. There were also SA residents being a tad defensive.

          But to quote you “This article is insensitive to those that have a painful connection!”

          I was merely pointing out that being an angry expat is hardly kind to the the positive people that are trying to make a go of it here in SA.
          If the Angry Expat has the right to be angry surely we can criticise that anger?

          If everyone was less angry then the angry ones would be happier.

  15. I think that what your article and the comments that follow are all trying to say in a nutshell is that there is a ‘cost’ to living anywhere. In South Africa it’s poverty, crime and uncertainty and in many other parts of the world it’s horrible weather, blandness, a lack of ‘soul’ and a high cost of living. What it boils down to is that we all need to weigh up which elements we want to live with with and which we can live without. The world would be a much better place, in my opinion, if we simply allowed people to make the decision which makes them happiest without judging them or berating them for it. Do what makes you happy and respect what makes others happy.

    1. Rob, I do believe you are inferring things not in evidence.

      a) you are correct that there are many (not the majority) South Africans are negative.

      b) Most of the posters are not critical of all expats. Most SA expats roll up their sleeves and knuckle down in their new home. I dont think many criticize these guys. Their decision is respected by most.

      c) There is a specific type of SA expat (a minority mind you) that never loses an opportunity to run down their old country, never fails to tell you why they left (despite never asking them), sends emails about the bad stuff going down (as if we didnt notice).”. Those are the Angry Expats
      They are the galling sort. Very negative South Africans are equally painful

      d) It does not follow that the negative South Africans are the same ones criticising the “”Angry Expat” Its only if it is the same people that it is hypocrisy. If an “Angry Expat” is free to pass criticism why shouldn’t we criticise the Angry Expat? .

      e) BTW – From my perspective I know lots of SA expats overseas and a good number of foreign expats in SA. Only a minority of the SA expats I know are “Angry”

    2. Hi Candice…thank-you. I have been rattling my brains to get the right words out, but you have done it for me. It is all about respect. Just a little more ‘respect’ would make a world of difference with a ‘few’ of the blogs that have been posted. After all, it’s all about a country we have lived in and loved call SA, not Hell!! Reading these comments it’s incredible what that country has done to so many people. I’m not sure any other could do the same. Incredible SA!! Thank-you.

  16. when people ask me why I came to live in Italy, my answer could not be more true, “I don’t know why”. Its not that I meant to live in Europe, let alone Italy, but life took me here. Do I miss South Africa?, I miss spontaneously speaking my home language, ‘English’ with people around me and I miss the energy of the earth and the big sky. That’s about all. Nothing else has changed. I dont consider myself an expat..what for? because we live on one earth, I just happen to be living where I live for now..

  17. I have to say it is a bit arrogant to say that no other place grabs you like SA. You are a South African and so it may be true for you. However I am sure there are many people who have left their homes for many reasons who long to return and can not. I know many people from the middle east who fall into this group. Many other Africans and South Americans I’ve met in my travels feel this way too. As do most of the Europeans and Asians I have met and lived with.

    As for living a good life in SA, there is one of the roots of the problems in our wonderful country. The huge disparity in wealth that is growing all the time. While you sip your champagne so many others are going hungry. You may be able to afford a picnic on the beach in Clifton but so many can’t even dream of it. These are some of the reasons I left SA and have no desire to live there again and contribute to the problems. I live quite happily as a teacher in South Korea where there is far less of a wealth gap and where things actually work. Public transport is efficient and safe, service is excellent in all fields and while there are problems they are by no means as extreme as in SA.

    South Africa has so much potential, though each day under the current leadership takes it further away from where it could be.

  18. I too read it on FB only because I was intrigued by the disdain of others after reading it. I called it drivel so didn’t expect my comments to be posted – in truth I really just wanted you to read what I had to say. I’m not into the back and forth slanging nonsense or contributing to blogs that are moderated for any reason other than abusive and inappropriate posting.(Twitter, Facebook etc. remain censored.) Perhaps how you think you come across just isn’t quite how many of us perceive your writings. You clearly have the ability to write well so, now that you have read comments others have made, (published after moderation or otherwise), how about rewriting the piece. What have you learnt?

    1. I have learnt that it’s impossible to please everybody and that some people (a-hem) have an extraordinarily inflated sense of their own importance, but the overwhelmingly positive response I’ve received from the vast majority of readers tells me I must be doing something right. I hope you have learnt to be a bit less harsh in your commentary.

    2. I think she speaks for more people than she speaks against them. How is it drivel? It’s well written, and expresses the opinions of many people who have / do live abroad concerning aggitated-expat feelings and thought. You cannot please everyone, but you’ve pleased far more people than not – so WELL DONE!

      I also don’t understand the concerns and criticisms that you are insensitive? I think from your writing it’s obvious you are sensitive to the needs and issues South Africa face.

      1. Emma, firstly, I have commented because I felt it necessary to express my view and have commented often because I believe in the power of debate. I believe the majority of people prefer to avoid conflict. I also hope you respect the fact that I have not masked my identity and have given my full name as a sign of respect to the person I am arguing with.

        Secondly, I don’t know how one can interpret immunising oneself against the poor situation of a vast number of South Africans, as the writer explained in the post I was referring to, as anything other than insensitive.

        Thirdly, I would be interested in your take on how I have misinterpreted the writer’s views?

        Lastly, before saying my response to Susan’s views is ad-hominum, note that I do not attack the writer directly, but the writer’s views, and how those views reflect on the writer’s character.

    3. ps: You may have developed a thicker skin to cope on a daily basis with seeing them, but not nearly so thick a skin as Brits, Americans (etc) who are SO thick-skinned they don’t even consider that their ongoing relative-world-wealth was built on, and continues to be built on, exploitation of poor people – notably in Africa. Why is that ignored?

      I recall being at an international debate in the UK amongst top scholars concerning canceling ‘third world’ debt. NONE of the scholars involved – from America, Australia, South Africa, India etc – denied that the current ‘first world’ had become developed very largely by screwing over the third world, and maintained market and political dominance by maintaing the exploitative status-quo. So on those grounds, it’s not even a question that third world debt should be cancelled – in fact the third world is OWED a ridiculous amount by the first world for what was stolen.

      Yet one argument, simply put by an American Author, was that to pay back JUST what England owed in third world debt, as most accurately calculated by economists, would cost 60 YEARS of TOTAL National GDP for the UK. i.e. It wasn’t going to happen, cos it CAN’T happen, not because it shouldn’t. England is simply nowhere near rich enough to pay what it morally should.

      My point is, it’s easy to say middle class South Africans enjoy a privileged lifestyle due to the far more difficult lives of working class South Africans. But Middle Class Americans, Canadians, Japanese, Australians, Germans (etc etc) enjoy their relatively privileged lifestyles because the economic and political power brokers in their nations maintain exploitation of South African miners, Indonesian fellers, Brazilian coffee growers (and no, ‘fair trade’ is NOT sufficient. It’s FairER trade, more like), Chinese labourers, Congolese workers, Thai sweat shops etc etc.

        1. Eish you are joking ne? Australian mining companies have gold, copper and iron ore mines across Africa and are famously one of the nations that exploits African workers. This is hardly state secret stuff, the country has that reputation. That’s not even thinking about the Aboriginal Genocide.

        2. No Australian mining interests in Africa? Ahem

          BTW – I dont think it was relevant to the topic at hand except an Angry Expat got quite indignant

          A little link from an Australian source – University of New South Wales (2011)

          A little excerpt to save people clicking
          Australian resources companies now have more projects in Africa than in any other region of the world, according to a recent report from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Proof of the nation’s growing presence in Africa’s valuable resources sector lies in the dramatic increase in Australian investment there. Confidence is soaring thanks to the positive outlook for commodity prices, and Australian mining companies have become increasingly ambitious in their search for the next big thing.

          About 220 Australian mining and oil companies have 595 projects operating in 42 African countries. Operators include industry heavyweights such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, junior explorers and a host of mining service providers. A surge in interest is evident in the 48 companies and 143 new projects that were added in 2010 alone.

    4. pps: but Anton, clearly not a disdain you share based on how often you’ve commented. She adopts an entirely reasonable and valid position in her writing. Don’t straw-man, misconstrue or be ad-hominum simply for convenience.

    5. Carol, Australia obviously exploits other less wealthy nations. It is not only mineral-exploitation (though that is true anyway, Australia has very little platinum for instance, needed for catalytic converters, and imports other minerals like Tungsten. Even diamonds, believe it or not, are imported to Australia -despite it having the world’s third largest deposits- obviously Petrol etc) that counts. The aboriginal issue is the obvious historical incident of mistreatment. If stealing people’s home doesn’t count as exploitation, nothing does.

      This is not to say Australia is not a wonderful and impressive nation, with many many positive qualities (I lived happily there for a while in the 80s – Melbourne mostly) but it is untrue to say it does not benefit from a pre-existent, imbalanced and exploitative system. My point is that this issue, so visibly applicable to middle class South Africans, applies to the vast majority of the middle class globally. It shouldn’t, therefore, only be the South African middle class that is targeted for such criticism.

  19. I agree with you 199%. We moved to Switzerland an go home (Cape Town) at least once a year. We will definitely be moving back home soon, cause no matter what ZA will ALWAYS be HOME

  20. I think it’s so sad that it has almost become a competition? Nowhere is perfect, every country has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I love South Africa with all my heart but I came to London when I was 20 and had the time of my life and I absolutely love living in this city and so do my kids. It doesn’t make me love South Africa any less but we prefer to holiday there than to live there and when you live in a country that is “generally speaking, safer” it is difficult to throw caution to the wind and hope for the best especially when tragedy has struck your family. I think people in SA think we sit inside all day and watch tv but the truth is we don’t. My kids watch no more tv than South African kids and they are outside walking everywhere, everyday and they are happy and they have endless opportunity. What I find frustrating talking to South Africans who can’t understand why we would live want to live in the UK because the weather is so kak is that the weather doesn’t determine how happy you are, that has to come from within. So we all have different deciding factors in life and it’s not about who lives in the most beautiful place or how easy there life is, it’s
    about having a day to day satisfaction with your lot in life and loving the people around you.

  21. I love South Africa, but I’m happy that I left. I spend every January there, doing all the nice “South African” things, but the relief of not having to worry (as much) about my family’s safety for the rest of the year, is priceless.

    1. This reiterates what I previously said. The people who have left have young children to care about. Most of the diehards commenting are either older or younger. You have never had to fight your way out of your car while being hijacked and then get your 18 month old out as well. That said I do not hate SA and I never run it down, but I do thank God each day for my beautiful new country.

      1. Sweetie – I came back for my young children. My son attends Bellavista in Joburg – the best remedial school ever. My other children attend wonderful schools in Jozi too – the levels of which I would not have been able to give them overseas. We tried. We made the call to come home for them. Funny that.

          1. Carol – I am sure that you do. I prefer the education I can access for my children in South Africa compared to what I could access in the UK. That is the beauty of life – we can be different. Neither is wrong. Now I am going to stop this silly banter with you and go and enjoy my weekend. Carol for president – of Australia, of course.

      2. Not at all bitter an twisted – grateful for what South Africa has to offer my young family. I wish you well in Australia – it is obviously the right place for you. South Africa is the right place for me. Life is not ‘one size fits all’.

  22. I’m an Australian who has been living and working in South Africa for 2 years now, and I feel terribly sorry for South Africans who think that Australia is the promised land, free of crime and full of frivolity. I hope that those that do take the plunge to emigrate do so with the realisation of how tough their life will be – long hours at work needed to pay the bills, and without the same domestic support available here.

    I can say in all honesty that my life here is much better than in Oz (and I don’t have a maid, while I did have a cleaner in Melbourne). My contract is finishing at the end of the year and I am dreading having to go back. I think my heart will break.

    My fascination with this country began when I first visited in 1994, shortly after the birth of South Africa v2.0. I didn’t come again until 18 years later, and to those that say the place has gone to hell in a hand basket (and plenty do with boring regularity) I would say that in my eyes there have been many positive changes. Unfortunately those who denigrate their country rarely do much to improve things, which is a great shame. If they spent the time wasted bitching about things at a school or local care centre helping out then change would happen much faster.

    I hope your life in this wonderful country is a good one, and I look forward to hearing more about it.

    1. Jen, you get the hero prize, and if I could hug your off your feet, I would. Thank you for this. Thank god for a few voices of reason. We will be very sorry to lose you. You are officially an honorary South African from this moment forward. That others would see what you do, friend :-)

      1. Thank you Jen – we are humbled by your very kind words. Makes for a welcome change.

  23. If you want to go – go. If you want to stay – stay. Make peace with your decision – it is yours. Stand strong in it. Be true to yourself. Don’t criticise those who make decisions different to the one you have made – just to justify yours – either way. Perhaps that sums it all up. Now all go be happy in the places you are in. hee hee

  24. Yes I love the good food, biltong, warm and friendly friends I have left behind and love the rolling sea and the beautiful mountains but I love to travel, sleep and feel safe. Yes it is hard to leave the country that has made you what you are, but experiencing my friends been robbed, murdered and traumatised and people not being able to keep or get a job makes me understand that they get forced to go elsewhere. Enjoy your life and the choices you have made. By the way the weather is also not the most important thing in life

  25. I’ve just returned to South Africa after being abroad for 6 years and do you know what … South Africans are the only people I met who would go out of the way to tell me how bad the country is even before they heard I was from there (my accent is very slight). I lived in Singapore – the “perfect city” – and couldn’t wait to leave – to get back to the chaos and beauty that is South Africa. Yes, SA has its problems, but moaning about them is not going to make them go away and even Singapore for all its “perfectness” has an ugly side to it – well hidden away from prying tourist eyes. I don’t question anyone’s right / desire to be where they are – but at least try to make the most of it and be realistic about the situation, but as my parents always told me – “if you don’t have anything nice to say then keep quiet”

  26. Ha Ha Renee, u’re a funny girl.BUT I quite agree with you.
    First time i’ve ever read a blog,and I must say , I’m enjoying this to the point that I think I’m hooked.
    Thanks Susan and very well written,(even if u are fuming inside by some of the comments posted)

    1. Not fuming, but amazed at how people almost deliberately misinterpret me so that they can vent. I think there were some ous not passing Std 3 comprehension, lol! Anyhoo – just proves my point, kinda.

  27. Susan, thank you so much for keeping me in touch with SA…here I am in Costa Rica, its a great place to live, I never ever lock my doors, or take the keys out the car, my 8 year old, jumps on the the public bus to go to school in the morning, my kids dont know racism, it really is beautiful…yet, I LOVE SA….I am dreaming , and planning my long visist, checking out places to stay, routes to travel….I read the SA news, as if I lived there now….I cant get enough of SA….ofcourse there are people who scare me, tell me horror strories….but I cant wait to get back, even if its only for a half a year….I LOVE SA…thanks for helping me keep in touch…

  28. I’m really amazed that people are honestly commenting that they don’t know any angry expats, but then admit to BEING expats, and blast the author so viciously?

    Like, “There are VERY few angry expats! We’re expats and we are SO not angry! Now just go %^%$^% yourself you ^%&^ing ^*%^&!!!” Wow… cue Alanis Morisette somebody, please?

    I for one have known angry South African expats around the world. I’ve also known happy expats enthusiastic both about their new home, and their old one.

    Again, the author is NOT saying that all expats are angry and unhappy! She is NOT saying that South Africa is a Utopia. She IS saying that much of living here is wonderful for many people who choose to, and that people who direct angry letters at her seem to be doing so out of a personal itch, which seems most easy to theorize (Occam’s razor style) as coming from a need to justify the decision to leave and the personal difficulty associated with that. She’s then, pretty politely if you ask me (though I realise no one has and you may point this, self-evident, fact out) asking for those people to be gracious enough not to jab at those of us who choose to live here rather than abroad.

    I for one am glad she’s said these things! It’s how I feel for sure.

    And if you think I’m misrepresenting, a reminder of HER words (located, conveniently for verification purposes, right above this):

    “I’m not saying this country doesn’t have serryass problems, but for now it’s the same old place and sheesh, you have a cool life.
    And neither am I saying that some people don’t leave South Africa happily and settle well and never look back, but they aren’t the ones writing me cross letters…
    So, I say this to the expats who need to sound off and be haters in order to justify their choices: let us love our country if that is what makes sense to us. We don’t yell at you and accuse you of abandoning ship because you’re living in Maida Vale.”


    Ps: I’ve also seen people accusing this of being relatively low-brow and indulgently self-oriented. For Heaven’s sake, it’s a BLOG! Susan is NOT writing this for “The Yearbook of Physical Anthropology” or even for “The Economist”! She is NOT pretending to be somehow transcendently neutral in her estimation of things. She is (entirely self-consciously) giving HER phenomenological view on things, and it’s a view that many others who read this blog obviously share – me included.

    1. Agreed Emma. Some of the posters have inferred words not said.

      Angry Expats are a subset of Expats.
      They are a minority of all expats

      To me the ones getting a tad tense on this blog are making the authors point.

      1. I would say ‘you’re welcome’, but as I’m now back in SA I’ll use the (much more wonderful in so many ways) ‘it’s a PLEASURE’! ;-)

  29. Its all about where you move to. I moved to the USA (Colorado), and I love my life. I love my family, and home and the mountains and the hiking and camping and skiing and having the money to visit the rest of the world with an american passport. I do not disagree with your assessment though. While I miss SA, I love my new life considerably more. Its not a one size fits all outfit, its a do-whats-right for-you assessment, and I’m glad that you found your home back in SA.

  30. As an ex-pat, from the other side who has lived in this beautiful country for nearly forty years, I cannot agree with you more. This country still thrills me, excites me and makes me glad to be alive! By golly it has some warts, but so do a lot of other places, including my own country, in fact show me one place that doesn’t!! Viva South Africa! Viva!

  31. Loooove everything about this “article”. I was (by work) forced to stay in Tanzania and Botswana….looooved every moment of it, eventhough we suffered financially! However, there is NOTHING like coming back home!!!! I love this country with all the ups and downs! Show me one place on earth where everything aspect of living is positive? NOWHERE!!! I am proud to be AFRICAN! And yes, I am a white female!!!

  32. Positive article, which is nice for a change!

    BUT, of course, written from a privileged white perspective (after having earned big bucks overseas for years and returning with a very favourable exchange rate) – talking about picnics on Clifton, sipping bubbly and shopping at Woolies, whilst someone else is doing one’s ironing.

    It doesn’t touch on the reality of the majority of SAs, with an unemployment rate of over 26% with rising poverty for the masses, rising cost of living and a bleak political forecast, with rampant corruption in an out-of-control government, and no concrete plans (from any quarter) to address any of these real problems.

    Until we, as SAs, realise that these problems are also our problems, which will surely come home to roost at some point and stop reveling in our own comfortable little bubbles, which include expansive lawns, swimming pools and a great quality of life for the select few, the future is somewhat questionable.

    Just saying, quite unemotionally …

  33. It all just depends what you are after in life. I had a great job opportunity come my way to work and live in Rome [Italy], always wanted to live in Europe [even though I love South Africa, SA humour, respect that is still offered, the smell of the land after a thunderstorm, smell of the bush, watching sunrise and sunset]. I have now been gone for 15 years, SA is no longer home, home is where my family are. I go back to SA [Johannesburg] at least once every 18 months, but it is not the place where my home is, my career and future. I enjoy working internationally, done so much easier when based in Europe which is what my goals were. However I would not be where I am today if I had not had the grounding in South Africa, great education, reslience, never give up, do not take anything for granted, life owes you nothing, you have to work hard for it, and the old adage of “n boer maak n plan”, meaning you wil find a way to get things done.

  34. Greetings from California! I’m bored to tears at
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  35. This is such a great platform for differing views about South Africa. Who is wrong or who is right makes absolutely
    no difference at all……….its just life and we only have one.

  36. I’m very happy for you.
    I can’t understand how you come to terms with the violent crime, I suppose you have to if you decide to stay, and that is a tragedy.
    Leaving for me was a no brainer, putting my family at risk every day whilst I had the opportunity to give them a safe lifestyle elsewhere, seems more important than having someone else do my ironing. Good luck to you.

  37. After 3 break-ins, a car theft and a rape I packed up for a new start in auckland NZ. The first year was heaven – everything is shiny, new and oh so better than SA.
    The second was harder but I took to exploring my new (incredibly beautiful) country and that temporarily quashed the small dull ache in my chest.
    Year 3, both hubby and I spent depressed. We felt isolated, alone, misunderstood. But we vowed to push on as our ‘future’ was here, we put ourselves out there. Joined church, fishing and hiking clubs, invited people over – truly made every effort we could. By year 4 the doc had out us both on anti-depressants and seriously strong anti-anxiety meds (never had an issue in SA – even with all the anxiety-producing stimuli). So we instead focused on finding other ex-pats who didn’t tell us to “get the fuck out our country and go back where you’re from”. 9/10 of our friends are now fellow ‘saffa’s’.
    Year 5 and my hubby was finally in a job he enjoyed (job 5 in 4 years – each one making him more miserable than the last). And I went back to study which I love. Everyone keeps saying ‘it gets better after 5 years, now it will start to feel like home’ but every time I thought of Africa I could barely breath the ache to return was so bad.
    Year 6 and everything that felt foreign about NZ now seems normal. I know the lingo, the way to act, the right things to say, how to get by without being harassed. We even bought a house and got two dogs. Financially, things are coming right, hubby is happy at work, studies going well and we have good friends.
    Thing on the outside are going well, but on the inside the simple truth is we do not belong here, despite our best efforts. Instead we feel like we’ve sold out – we barely recognise the versions of ourselves that we’ve become. Kiwi-Kim is not someone I am proud of, in fact most days I feel ashamed.
    In 502 days my contract expires; in 503 days we board a plane (dogs and all) and go home. Real home. And I feel like I can breathe again just thinking about it.

    1. Wow, Kim. What a hectic story. I’m so sorry you guys have had such a rough time. I don’t even know what to say. Come home. Just come home. Sending you a HUGE warm hug xxxxxxx

  38. Thanks for your original article, such beautiful writing. I live in ‘exile’ in Australia and I do encounter angry ex-Saffans. However, typically they have been exposed to traumas and have suffered grief through crime of a violent nature (or their family have). Go easy on the angry ones, you never know what lies beneath the surface in terms if grief. Apart from a hard shell in order to live happily in South Africa you also need an adjustment in terms of what constitutes normality: abnormal is normal.

  39. Anton, firstly it’s GREAT that you are public and recognizable in addressing her. That really is admirable, and I mean that sincerely. With all due respect however (spot my Anglo Saxon origins) I think it’s clear that you misconstrue and straw-man, and this leads to an ad-hominem judgment of Susan. Here are a few points from posts I’ve noticed of yours:

    “Perhaps if we can reverse that drain of people, if we can encourage them to stay, or even come back by not pushing them further away and calling them angry and enraged, by not making fun of them for selling up and calling them the most unreasonable people on the planet, then we might be onto something”

    Here’s the big straw man: you insinuate that Susan is accusing ALL expats of being angry, enraged and the most unreasonable people on the planet. She is NOT saying this. In her article she SPECIFICALLY says she is referring to those who send her angry emails (or those of similar bents)^.

    Another straw man, which swiftly elides into the ad hominem (key quote between triple stars), “
I’m not surprised you go those e-mails. Your “Moving Back” post leaves readers believing you have immunised yourself against the harsh realities of this nation. By doing so you come across as insensitive and uncaring. You also say that “everyone else” here is immunised, ***insinuating you move within in a very small, closed minded strata of society and expressing a complete disregard for people who do give a damn or are actively involved in trying to improve things***^^.

    She says nothing of the sort! In FACT, Susan concludes a progression of thought with the following sequence,
    “You make a decision about how you’re going to give, whether of your time or your money, and then you draw the line. You pay people well, care about their families and behave like a decent human being, but you institute boundaries and you stick to them…
    So, what I’ve learnt over the past four years is that I can’t save Africa and, frankly, I’ve started to wonder whether it needs my saving
    … this doesn’t exempt us from doing the right thing and giving whatever we can, but it does serve as a type of reminder not to take too much to heart; to step back a bit and observe rather than taking everything on as a personal battle. Practice love. Be a good human being…”

    HARDLY the thought process of someone who disregards people who give a damn, surely? She doesn’t come across as a saint, but she does come across as a decent, civically minded and charitable person – surely?

    Another point which insinuates insult, “To them (South Africans who chose to leave), South Africa was not just beaches and warm days and cheap prices and good times. There was more to it. ***They looked deeper***…”

    Therein is an implication that Susan, or other people who chose not to live abroad, did not ‘look deep’. That strikes me as insulting. If you said, “Many of the people who looked deeper than the superficial pros concluded that leaving, despite great weather and good beaches etc, was the wisest move…” you would side step this, but you’ve set it up here as if Susan and all others who concluded differently are simply ‘incorrect’ and foolish.
    This last point you may accuse of being over-sensitive, so a more obvious jibe is probably more illustrative:
    In one of your last points (2.38pm October 31) you say “Susan, you would be surprised at the vast number of people, in SA and abroad, who feel utter disdain for what you have expressed and have therefore not commented here”.
    How can you pretend this is not attacking of her personally? Is such invective really necessary? I have to say – I admire Susan’s level headedness in the face of it. I think she’s shown greater respect toward you than vice versa, and she’s been less provocative. She may also be, ironically, happy to hear that the number is vast. ;-)

    Those highlight most of the principal reasons I assess your interaction with Susan as unnecessarily personal and misrepresentative of her and her views. Trust that makes more sense and sorry for any vagueness.

    ^ On this point, you say: “I’ve never met an expat that behaves like those you mention… I’ve never encountered this sentiment you speak of”

    To be honest, based on my numerous experiences, I find that so unlikely I’m inclined to accuse you of being disingenuous. For benefit of the doubt though, perhaps you HAVE been lucky. I did NOT encounter this sentiment in Norway (where I’ve only travelled, admittedly) and far less often in the USA than in either Australia or the UK (all of which I have lived in). Since those are the two countries you mention having lived in, perhaps it is true you’ve not come across the same vitriol as is mentioned here, but it certainly exists – as responses in this very blog shows.
    ^^ This is a disagreement of substance – so rather different from what you raise and what’s been discussed so far in this response, but I thought I’d add it since I’d footnoted it. You say “It might be a lekker place that doesn’t seem to have changed, but that’s if you have a fair wage and live in a decent part of the country. The vast majority of people in South Africa are far worse off than they were when you left”.
    We simply disagree on this point. Many people are worse off, but the great majority are better off. I’ve done research in a bunch of fields (long story from my Academic past and present), so I feel quite confident analyzing a great deal of data-types critically. I do so regularly re SA, from American, European and South African sources, for personal interest and to remain critical and engaged. By a huge number of measures most South Africans are FAR better off than they were before Susan went to Sweden (is there a causal link Susan? Forgive the tongue firmly in my cheek. I suspect it may be more helpful to reference ’94 etc than Susan in Sweden! ;-)). One link referenced in this blog that is worth attending to is
    There is a great deal still to be done, but do not mistake what hasn’t been done yet for evidence that nothing has been achieved so far.
    The ‘gap widening’ discourse is inaccurate and misleading. To the extent that it’s true it is principally because of increased wealth, not poverty. This is NOT to say levels are acceptable (please don’t misconstrue ME as saying so) – but they are heading in the right direction rather than the wrong one for the vast majority, even if this is happening too slowly for our liking.

  40. I count my blessings EVERY day when I drive on De Waal Drive in Cape Town thinking how lucky I am to be in the most beautiful city in the world, and I have travelled. I count my blessings for the climate, our diversity, the-world-in-one, and thank goodness we’re not at war with anyone, something I would be so ashamed of, killing thousands of innocents civilians and exchanged my services for a country with no shame doing it. I also count my blessings, that whilst I may be behind a high gate and fence, I know for sure there is hardly a country without crime and whilst those stats may be lower than ours, I would still not want to be counted amongst it, albeit lower.

    As for those ‘exploitation’ comments, nobody needs to be exploited unwillingly. EVERY ONE has choice. Be a vendor or shopkeeper, nobody is exploited unless they choose the path. We don’t have it perfect, but please, don’t be shy, point me in the direction of which country has. Our problems are solely ours, and not of our making in someone else’s country, exploiting those through the ‘divide and control’ policy. So if you have nothing nice to say…… say nothing!

    You love and live in a country of your choice and support a system which kills 1000’s of innocent people, women and children alike. At least we know, and can take precautionary measures, those innocent people are killed by automation with no warning. You’re there and evidently support it. Don’t point fingers, its the pot and kettle.

    I love my country, warts and all. I have a conscience!!

    1. Of course South Africa was at war for a long time. Longer than 20 years if you start with the armed struggle..
      I was conscripted. Fortunately for me I was used in my professional capacity and the most action I saw was in a ladies bar in Pretoria. I should add I was useless to the army. The choices facing conscripts were not pleasant : comply, comply but not be useful, religious objection (fine but not useful if you werent religious), conscientious objection (time in jail, head overseas, join the armed struggle.

      I had plenty of friends that were subjected to stuff that affected them.

      We are not at *war* now (long may that last) but we are subject to some UN peacekeeping in the a couple of Central African countries. The moral justification around the peacekeeping is not perfect.

  41. .It is so uplifting to read a blog written by someone who has such affinity for the real South Africa. There are so many haters who whinge about colonialism – if it weren’t for colonialism people like us would not be here to provide jobs for maids, gardeners, etc! We should all embrace each other with gratitude and stop holding on to past hatred. It is that, more than anything else, that holds down members of the underprivilged black and coloured communities . If there was more positivity, things would be so much better. Thank goodness for people like us, who take the time to enjoy the Cape sunshine and marvel at the splendour of Table mountain or Clifton 4th – we offer a beacon of positive light to the rest of South Africa and personify Ubuntu

  42. Sadly Susan, there exist in this world several elements which are difficult, … no, impossible to quantify. Freedom from fear, freedom from guilt, freedom to choose, are just some of them. Whilst Africa will always be in my blood, the price of living there has become, for me, too dear … too much fear, too much guilt, and too little choice. You clearly are well entrenched in the privileged strata of South African society, and your spirits soar when you see the sunshine, and you enjoy all that Africa has to offer those with the means to ensure that your blissful days continue uninterrupted like some colonial storybook romance.

    I would ‘guesstimate’ that about 40 million of our fellow South Africans would not even be aware of the warm sunshine, or the trendy luxuries which you take for granted. These people live in the aftermath of colonial times, in an ’emerging economy’, which is euphemism for a group of self serving greedy ‘veterans’ of the struggle, functioning as a Government that has lost control. At the risk of boring readers with reams of statistics, the vast majority of South Africans live in squalor that most of us couldn’t begin to imagine. The rape statistics are horrendous, and then we hear from what appear to be reliable sources that only one in twenty five rapes is, in fact, reported. This element on it’s own shows that many of the men in South Africa are sub human, since animals in the wild don’t behave in such as fashion.

    I fully understand that emigration is difficult, as is the choice for many people to remain in our beloved South Africa. There is no right or wrong answer. One should display some sensitivity to people and their choices ….. regardless of where they find themselves on the ‘should I stay or should I go’ scale.

  43. I completely understand the sentiment, but as someone who worked overseas for years can testify, your romanticisation of SA is aimed at a certain income bracket who left, and said income bracket who stayed still enjoy a decent life. Sadly though, for the majority of saffers this is not the case. More should have been done to uplift the have less and not so much to maintain the status quo.

  44. This is addressing commentator Emma – there is no facility to reply directly to her comment to me, so please excuse me.

    Emma, thanks for the time you put into your response.

    To your first point about ‘the big straw man”: I don’t insinuate Susan is accusing all expats. My statement insinuates that we should encourage people to stay, or return, by avoiding the ridicule of expats. This would imply one and all.

    To the point about the straw man swiftly eliding into ad hominem: I do not attack the writer’s character. I make a case for how the writers way of expressing herself would lead readers to believe something negative about her character.

    To your question of the writer coming across as “a decent, civically minded and charitable person” I believe it is passages like this that stall that conclusion for her readers: “Eventually, I stopped giving to people on the street. I guess I got tired of it – the constant, relentless need and the tales of woe coming at me each time I walked out my front door. And the gaping black hole no amount of R5 coins will ever fill. At first I was horrified by this callous version of myself. Now I’ve made peace with her. There is no other way. Random acts of kindness just don’t work down here.”

    To your point about expats leaving because they looked deeper, I won’t “accuse” you of anything, but yes, I feel that is over sensitive.

    To the “jibe” as you call it, I am not attacking her personally, neither is it invective. I am pointing out that there are many people who have not commented here because they don’t like the writers views. Please explain how this is abusive or an attack on her personality?

    On the point of the views of expats I have encountered, you say you are inclined to accuse me of being disingenuous but I will say you are wrong because I have no reason to lie – I have nothing to lose or gain here by lying.

    Yes, we simply disagree on your last point. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Anton,

      I’m sorry for sending you back to Trader Joe’s for the Provelone, but if you read the previous response I think it’s clear I do cover these points. 

Since they seem unclear, I’ll explicate:

      The first point I’ll CAPS some relevant words to make it clear how the insinuation occurs.
(1) By saying, ““Perhaps if we can reverse that drain of people, if we can encourage them to stay, or even come back by not pushing THEM further away and calling THEM angry and enraged, by not making fun of them for selling up and calling THEM the most unreasonable people on the planet, then we might be onto something”

      If (as you said in the last comment) you agree that she’s only calling some unreasonable, angry etc, then why are you using the pronoun (‘them’) to apply to BOTH angry ex-pats, and general ex-pats? Since that’s a contradiction, I infer that you DID take her to be referring to all expats as angry.

      Before you say, ‘but I JUST said ‘This would imply one and all’, with due respect that is the very point I am making. They can be ‘one in the same’, but they cannot be ‘one and the same yet not so’. Either you acknowledge that Susan is speaking about the angry ones, and you can argue ‘it is likely to discourage both angry and un-angry alike from returning’ OR you think she is blanket referencing both and can then say what you said before… but they are different arguments.

      (2) Now, to give some ground you actually haven’t asked for, a good argument can be made that Susan DOES lump all expats together. Susan says initially, “What I’ve come to realise… is that there can be no angrier, more unreasonable person on the planet than the South Africa expat who is told that the country has not gone up in flames (yet)”. Now in this case, Susan’s wording is clumsy and could inflame – because it does initially suggest that she’s talking about all ex-pats. She’d be better off saying something like “…there can be no angrier, more unreasonable person on the planet than THOSE VOLATILE ANGRY South Africa expats who…” (or some such clarification). Only later does she specifically say that she’s referring to the ones who send her angry emails – so I DO get it if some people’s backs are put-out after this first line. If I had been sitting in London, or Melbourne, or Southern California and read that line I’d probably have said ‘Oi! I Love SA and of course I don’t expect it to have gone up in flames!’. 

I think it’s clear from her clarification later that she does NOT intend for all to be seen this way, but the initial language IS clumsy (Sorry Susan, I love this blog I’ve just discovered and think you are / it is great!)

      (3) re your quote of Susan’s “Eventually, I stopped giving to people on the street. I guess I got tired of it – the constant, relentless need and the tales of woe coming at me each time I walked out my front door. And the gaping black hole no amount of R5 coins will ever fill. At first I was horrified by this callous version of myself. Now I’ve made peace with her. There is no other way. Random acts of kindness just don’t work down here”:

 The Lord of the Rings would have been a major disappointment had it ended with Frodo and Sam captive in Osgiliath, or if Einstein had ended the equation as ‘E=’, we’d have some cause for taking issue. It’s unfair to judge a work, whether a Tome, a Blog or a Cereal advert, before it’s end. And Susan’s argument STARTS with the Thesis:

      “When I moved back to South Africa … it was a culture shock which took me entirely by surprise… During those years of living in a place where egalitarianism is the norm… I couldn’t cope with the children begging at the traffic lights and the thin women with babies who knocked on the front door asking for food… I had to leave the shop; I couldn’t bear it.
      I gave to everyone who asked me. In those early months I parted with vast sums of money… I would stand behind people in queues and pay for all their groceries. I was in despair, and utterly outraged by the wealth surrounding the poverty and the collective blindness everyone down here seemed to practice…”
      Now it would be just as ridiculous for me to use THESE quotes to argue that Susan is a Mother Theresa wannabe, as it is for you to use her (anti-thetical) quote about ‘no random acts of kindness’.

She must be evaluated, by the PROGRESSION of thought she offers. Her Synthesis of these approaches (give everything vs give nothing) is, as said before,
      “You make a decision about how you’re going to give, whether of your time or your money, and then you draw the line. You pay people well, care about their families and behave like a decent human being, but you institute boundaries and you stick to them…
So, what I’ve learnt over the past four years is that I can’t save Africa and, frankly, I’ve started to wonder whether it needs my saving
… this doesn’t exempt us from doing the right thing and giving whatever we can, but it does serve as a type of reminder not to take too much to heart; to step back a bit and observe rather than taking everything on as a personal battle. Practice love. Be a good human being…”

Her position (which you may disagree with of course) is for strategic, specific, and bounded acts of kindness – rather than random acts of kindness. To ignore this synthetic-conclusion, and look at fragmented bits from before in the article, is clearly to straw-man her points.

      (4) The only way that people would conclude that Susan is uncaring, has immunised herself coldly etc. is if they also straw-man her article (‘On Moving Back to South Africa’) in the same way.

(5) So – just to clarify – you ARE saying it was oversensitive after all? “To your point about expats leaving because they looked deeper, I won’t “accuse” you of anything, but yes, I feel that is over sensitive”. That falls under the very first definition of ‘Accuse’ (v. 1. To charge with a shortcoming or error).

(6) I did not accuse you of attacking her personality in the ‘jibe’, but of attacking her personally. You use Rhetorical Hyperbole in your words (‘VAST’ and ‘feel UTTER DISDAIN’) so you cannot seriously make a claim to having been no more than descriptive? It IS personal. 

If I were to say ‘you have NO idea of how JUST ABOUT EVERYBODY thinks your opinions are TOTALLY irrelevant’, it is PERSONAL. It is not a neutral statement (Dave on this discussion board, for instance, is very good at keeping things, mostly, factual and neutral) like, “I would suspect many people who have a difference of opinion have not commented, so our collective inferences are perhaps non-representative”.

Your use of ‘SUSAN YOU WOULD BE SURPRISED’ also personalises the interaction.

      (7) I’m very pleased for you, albeit surprised, that you have not encountered much of the sort of negativity referenced here.

      (8) As for the last point, disagreement never hurt anyone. Well, except in wars etc – :-)


  45. You seem to have some issues yourself as well … if white entitlement (sipping champange / having a maid do the ironing etc.) works for you, who am I to judge … Yes, SA is beautiful, I (we?) all miss it as much as we do not miss some things. Granted that white entitlement is something that many whities take with them when they immigrate, and being grumpy and unreasonable is part of that in this age of social media, what you don’t write about (perhaps doesn’t see) is that many expats are also happy in their new adopted countries.

      1. I have. Still not getting why you have to engage with posttrolling angry expats. Angry posting is part of this new digital era we live in – Twitter, FB, blogs – all nations and type of folk engage in angry posting (here in Holland it is about a traditon called Sinterklaas and his ‘black’ servants called ‘Pieten’ – the more migrants say that they find it a racist tradition – not even that old – the less the majority of the Dutch doesn’t see the racist/colour ‘issue’ – what I’m getting at is that near every topic can be the centre of hefty discussion) get that you love being back home, not slamming any person going back. You just seem – though making many valid points – also perhaps a tat too defensive. But – sincerely – thanks for having this uplifting blog and bringing some happiness into the world. People like you keep the expats in touch with the home country, I appreciate that.

    1. If you lived here you would realize that “entitlement” is less about race now but simply about being in a position to afford the maid and champagne etc. There are plenty of whites who cannot afford such luxuries and a growing middle class of blacks who can. There is still so much to be done to redress imbalances but it is happening, albeit slowly.

    2. “And neither am I saying that some people don’t leave South Africa happily and settle well and never look back…” That’s pretty clear to me?

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