Expat stereotypes. We all know them. We all love them. We all love to hate them. I previously wrote about three stereotypical expats who are unlikely to survive expat life. And before you get all excited up on that high horse of yours, just take a little chill pill and know that this is entirely tongue in cheek. After all, there is bound to be a little bit of the ‘doomed expat spouses‘, Hilda, Pauline and Nellie, in all of us. Equally, many of us have had our Charity, Emma and Betty moments. We all need to take ourselves with a pinch of the proverbial. So sprinkle that salt and read on about three expats you are almost certain to meet on a posting and might want to avoid.
Charity by name, charitable by nature. She is the well meaning expat who goes everywhere with a bleeding heart dripping from her sleeve. Armed with her trusty book of raffle tickets, she goes into battle determined to save all the orphans, all the homeless and all the desperate and disadvantaged of the entire planet single handedly.
Charity means well, her bleeding heart is made of solid gold. She works tirelessly for all the causes. Fatigue is something that she never experiences, but occasionally, just occasionally those around her do. Sometimes, we run when we see her coming with her earnest eyes, dripping those trembling gold tears from that bleeding heart of hers.
We love and respect Charity, but sometimes we just want to have a margarita and dance like nobody’s watching without having to buy a raffle ticket first.
“Hi Charity, yes, I’ll take 25 tickets please, thank you very much.” Cheers to Charity.
Victoria Falls is a gigantic earth rending waterfall, It’s neither the highest, nor the widest in the world, but it’s one of the most impressive (we were extremely impressed, EXTREMELY impressed). Vic Falls also makes CNN’s list of 7 Natural Wonders of the world. If you have the opportunity, you should absolutely go.
Victoria Falls has been inching up our bucket list since we moved to South Africa and finally made it to the top. We followed in the footsteps of explorer David Livingstone, albeit in a great deal more comfort.
There are plenty of things to do close to the falls dependant on water levels, your appetite for adventure and the age of any children you have in tow.
Here’s what we managed to squeeze in to around 48 hours. All of the activities (except for the nighttime moonbow hunt) were family friendly and probably best suited to families with children aged 6+.
I’ve allocated points to each location, the tougher the location the more points you get. You then multiply the points for each location by the number of years you lived there, tally them up and bingo, you have your Badass Expat score.
My current score is 111.
Worst Country for Expats as ranked by Business Insider
Points Earned Per Assignment Year
Number of Years in Country
Badass Expat Score
What’s the most challenging thing you had to do to earn your badass expat stripes? Did you deal with constant power and water cuts? Police check points? Wildlife? Weather? Culture? Language? Traffic? Lacklustre supermarket offerings? Crime?
Do you think any of the countries on this list shouldn’t be on it? Which country is NOT on this list, but should be?
It takes a special person to follow their partner to the armpit, ars*ehole or ends of the earth. A very special person indeed. One in a million in fact.
One of my favourite expat quotes EVER was coined when a British couple moved to the small island of Okinawa, Japan. At the time (aside from a formidable US presence on military airbases, which was a self contained community with their own on-base shops and cinemas and social life), the sum total of the expat population was around 10 people and most of them had Japanese spouses and were there on a fairly permanent basis.
It’s almost certain that the British couple were the only non-military expat couple on the island. Okinawa’s population at the time was around the 1 million mark and thus quipped the wife to the husband whose job had taken them to this tiny isolated dot in the Pacific Ocean:
Have you heard of Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route? It’s a South African gem, less polished than Cape Town with its sapphire waters and its neighbouring wine lands with their citrine and ruby wines, less well known than the emerald green Garden route, less of a rough diamond than Johannesburg, but a gem nevertheless. It’s an area often sidelined as an overnight staging post for a trip to the almighty Kruger Game Reserve, but it’s absolutely worth a visit in its own right. Here’s why… Continue reading →
Icebergs, people, cacti….you can’t always see the full picture, maybe because your perspective is skewed or obscured. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile and dig a little deeper (in this case inside my wheelie bin) to get the full story.
These large cactus ears popped out from behind our chimney over the Christmas break. I thought they looked about the size of a human head each.
I let our landlord know and a man with a ladder duly appeared to remove them.
I meant to ask him to let me see the cactus before disposing of it, but it had already gone in the wheelie bin by the time I’d walked the dog. I smiled and pretended that was exactly the answer I had wanted to hear. It wasn’t though, I am inquisitive by nature and really wanted to see the cactus and confirm whether my human head estimate was accurate.
I waited for him to leave and the minute his car turned out of sight I was rummaging in the bin and ended up tipping the contents all over the driveway to see what I could see.
Johannesburg’s Ponte Tower is infamous, notorious and really really interesting. It embodies the former decadence, ensuing decay and current regeneration of the City of Gold. It’s a brutalist, concrete hollow cylinder of a building in the city’s Central Business District (CBD). The tallest residential building in Africa, it rises 55 stories tall and along with the Telkom tower is an instantly recognisable feature of Joburg CBD’s skyline.
Glamour: Ponte started life in the mid 1970’s as luxury real estate dubbed the ‘Vegas of Africa’, where the plushest apartments spanned three floors and had built in jacuzzis. To see a smattering of photos from those bygone I only found this one article: Buildings are Geological Agents. There are only a couple of images and you have to scroll most of the way down through the post.
Garbage: When decay set in and the original hipster residents moved out, the empty buildings were broken into and hijacked. Ponte became a complete no-go zone. It was an overcrowded den of iniquity with a direly severe rubbish problem in the 90’s. There was no running water, no electricity and when the rubbish collections stopped, residents would lob their waste into the central void. Unfortunately, there it stayed until it rose a festering 14 stories high (or 2 or 3 or 5 – I’ve read different things and I’m not sure which is factually correct, but 14 is the number given by our guide on the day). Ponte was a slum in the sky.
Gritty Regeneration: In recent years, Ponte has changed again. The illegal tenants evicted, the rubbish has gone and the building has been refurbished to a good standard and is now home to a mixture of families, students, working and middle class residents. It is possible to tour both the inside (marvelling at the views from the top) and the eerie core with a circle of sky high above. Continue reading →
For a city as gritty as Johannesburg, you might be surprised to find out just how many fab hiking spots there are in and around it. My friend, American expat Becci Monge has kindly written a guest post with her top local hiking picks.
Becci got hooked on hiking last year when she decided (and by the way successfully succeeded – enormous kudos to you Becci and the rest of the Jo’burg based She-Trek team) to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. In preparation for Kili, the She-Trekkers explored (and continue to explore) the best hiking spots on offer in our local area.