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Authors: Andrew Donaldson, Josef Talotta, John Wardall, Rick Crosier, Tim Richman
Why I’ll Never Live In Oz Again is a pro-SA stab at the flaws of the supposedly greener pastures that many South Africans have fled to in recent times; specifically, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada.
Five South African journalists have written about their respective experiences living overseas: the result is a collection of essays on cultures and countries that – whether over-regulated, mired in mediocrity, insidiously bigoted, lost in disturbing priorities or just plain boring – we thought we knew, but didn’t really.
Only a Saffer who’s lived there can really know... Though the intention is to paint South Africa in a glowing comparative light, the investigations of other countries give meaningful insight into their ways of life.
So you've thought about packing it all in and emigrating. But do you really know what's in store for you if you head overseas for good?
Five South Africans who've lived abroad have discovered the reality:
• The UK: rife with teen thuggery and insidious classism and bigotry
INTRODUCTION: GOODBYE PERTHURBIA
Cape Town’s Child:
The South African (UK):
The Property Magazine:
Andrew Donaldson, Sunday Times notable, who spent two years reporting for the newspaper in London.
Hands up all those who've thought about emigrating. Oh yes, that includes you at the back pretending not to hear the question. Thank you.
A common talking point in South African daily life - whether it's dinner-party conversation, chatter around the office water cooler, serious talk with our partners late at night, or merely the voices in our heads - is the one about moving on. To a "better" country, a "safer" country, a country that offers our children "more opportunities".
It happens everywhere and every day. At times, it seems to be a constant barrage. And while it might once have been an idea that was firmly associated with the privileged white population, the so-called chicken run, it's pretty well accepted now that the notion of moving on has more to do with money and skills: if you've got them, then you've got the luxury to consider emigrating; if you haven't, you're probably too concerned with the basics of finding a job and a house.
But if you do have the means, then chances are you have at the very least thought about life in another country. In fact, I'd venture a guess that there isn't a person in this country who has the means to emigrate who hasn't at least pondered the idea of nice life in Perth or Sydney or Auckland or Toronto or wherever - Perthurbia, I like to call it.
There are, of course, the one-eyed patriots who tell us they're committed to South Africa forever and it's actually good that those who've chosen to leave have done just that. "The fewer people here in South Africa then the more opportunities for the rest of us," you're likely to hear.
Or they scoff at the idea of emigrating. "Who wants to live in a country where a dog shitting on a lawn makes front page news?" they might ask. "We're watching history in the making right around us in South Africa. It's boring everywhere else."
But all that reasoning like this tells us about the person spouting it is that they themselves have grappled with the thought of moving on; that they've made the decision to stay and need constant reassurance that it was the right one. They might even toss in a comment like, "Our friends Dave and Julie moved to London last year and you know what? Someone broke into their house the first week they were there and stole everything they owned."
Somehow it diminishes our crime statistics in a flash. Our ever-transparent Ministry of Safety and Security would be proud. And this constant justification is the exact opposite of what the ex-pats will argue once they've moved into their quiet home in suburban LA or Vancouver.
Every time they're invited to a dinner party with locals, the topic will come up and they'll rattle off a recent horror story they picked up on the net or from phone calls back home, or they'll relate the latest economic figures (but only if the rand has just taken a hit). As with the South African who stays, the South African who goes wants to reassure himself - and everyone else - that he's made the right decision...
Every country has its share of people who move on to live elsewhere, looking for a new and different life, but there can't be many nations in the world as wealthy as ours where the possibility of emigration underscores daily life so emphatically. There are millions of Brits, Germans, Swiss and others who don't even contemplate leaving the country of their birth, while the few who do decide to ship off overseas are seen as modern-day adventurers.
To us, the immovable people seem like boring stay-at-home types - they've probably never spent more than a week or two at a time overseas. But the mere fact that these types are in the majority provides a sense of stability in those societies that simply does not exist in our lives here.
If a family moves to another country, it is a major event to them; for us, it may be disappointing to lose friends, but these things happen. All the time in fact. Meanwhile, it's unlikely that many Americans even know that other countries exist, let alone consider emigrating to them. But that's enough with the American bashing. At least until later in the book.
So why is it that South Africans seem to live in this constant state of flux, never sure which of our friends will be the next to announce that they're off "for the sake of the children", or indeed if the next people in our circle of friends to utter those words might be us? Why this constant idea of moving on?
Perhaps it's because we are a nation of immigrants ourselves - Europeans, Indians, other indigenous Africans. The Xhosas migrated down through southern African, the Afrikaners trekked into the unknown interior, the English arrived off the boats in the 1820s. There has always been social flux in our part of the world; perhaps we see moving and moving on as a logical extension of who we are and how we were created as a nation. It's natural.
Unlike the Brits, Germans and Swiss mentioned earlier, who are bound to their countries by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years of heritage, we all come from stock that has no special regard for remaining in one location.
South Africans also seem to consider success abroad to be that much worthier than success at home. We venerate locals who have made it overseas, like Charlize Theron or Dave Matthews or Gary Lubner of Autoglass or Brent Hoberman of lastminute.com, as proof of what Saffers can achieve in the "bigger" world, elevating them above those who have achieved the same levels of success at home.
It's as if South Africans who've done well in England or America are winning in the premier league while the rest of us are still plodding along in the second division. We revel in the idea that there are hundreds of thousands of South Africans (more, according to Andrew Donaldson) taking over London/New York/ Sydney as further proof of how our nation can thrive anywhere it chooses.
And, of course, even our president and many other of our political leaders were moulded outside of our borders. So who's to argue that moving on is a bad thing? [...]