Planning to move to Cape Town for work? Read the experiences of 3 people in this bustling city in South Africa. Living and Working in Cape Town
“This is why Cape Town is called the ‘Golden Prison’ “
Matthijs Mulder (34), Marcelle Mudde (31) and Sonny Vriends (32) live as an expat in Cape Town and talk about how it is to live and work in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Matthijs is an Account Manager at Shell and has been living there since 2012. Marcelle and Sonny are a couple and have been living in Cape Town for a year and a half. As a Marketer and Sales Talent, they have jointly taken over the marketing company Label Orange Agency. With this, they recently launched an online winery guide on South African vineyards.
1. What do you Need to Arrange Properly before Leaving for Cape Town?
“A work permit is the most important thing,” says Matthijs. ‘Obtaining a work permit is only very difficult because government policy stipulates that when applying for a job, the black population first comes into consideration, then the “colored” – that is, the mixed population groups – and finally the white population. If you are applying as a foreigner you are therefore at the bottom of the pile. Except if the company can prove that you have “critical skills”; then you do have a chance. In some cases – for example, in call center work – speaking Dutch or another language can be. ‘ Matthijs furthermore points out that in Cape Town you have to arrange almost everything personally at counters, and you can hardly arrange it online.
Marcelle’s reaction is of the same nature as Matthijs: ‘You must have a very good plan when you come here because it is very difficult for foreigners to find work. Paperwork is also something you need to prepare for. We brought in a company that helped us with the visa, but it still cost a lot of money and patience and we spent a total of one year working on it. Even if you have arranged a job in Cape Town, take enough time to arrange everything around the paperwork properly! “
2. How affordable is the City?
Affordable, all three find the expats. Matthijs: “Although rents have risen enormously in the last five years, it is still affordable.” Marcelle and Sonny, for example, live for around 900 euros in a double apartment – ‘a beautiful loft’ – with a shared swimming pool. Groceries are slightly more expensive, says Marcelle. Matthijs describes those costs as compared to the Netherlands. Eating out, on the other hand, is a lot cheaper, “almost one-third of what you would pay in the Netherlands,” says Marcelle. “That’s why we experience the city as affordable, because you get quality here, while you don’t pay the main price.”
“Because salaries are on average lower than in most Western countries, Cape Town is sometimes called the” golden prison, “says Matthijs. ‘You can live a very good life here with your salary, and the city is beautiful. But it’s hard to leave because everything is expensive outside here. “
3. How do you Get a House?
“Via Gumtree, that is a website like Marktplaats,” Matthijs mentions first. “Or of course with the help of a broker.” Foreigners often live in the ‘Citybowl’ – the center – in the vicinity of Atlantic Seaboard, Claremont and Blouberg, or in the good neighborhoods of the suburbs in the north and south of the city.
4. Where do you meet other expats and Locals?
‘You meet expats everywhere’, is Matthijs’s experience. ‘And you can easily look up Dutch people through the Dutch Association. For example, it organizes golf events, bridge tournaments, happy hours and ladies lunches. ‘ Marcelle and Sonny say that they have a Dutch group of friends who regularly visit each other. Marcelle: ‘As far as Dutch people are concerned, it is coming and going. We have met some nice locals, but they are of course a bit more independent because they see expats coming and going. “
Matthijs: ‘It is important to know that you have many different population groups in South Africa, and what makes it complicated is that twelve languages are spoken. Afrikaans is the first language, Everyone has English as a second language, and then you have eleven other languages. In Cape Town, it is the Xhosa, which also includes the “clicks”. In the beginning, I did volunteer work in a township. I noticed that they like it if you delve into their culture, which makes the conversations more fun and deeper. “
5. What do you need to know about work Culture?
A big difference that Marcelle and Sonny’s note is that people in the Netherlands often have a huge hands-on mentality: ‘You can achieve a lot in Cape Town with that attitude because things aren’t going so fast here. So, on the one hand, you can take advantage of it, that you get a lot done. But on the other hand, you can also get frustrated why someone doesn’t e-mail back or pick something up or respond. “
Matthijs calls the work culture a mix between Europe and Africa: ‘Everything takes a long time. The government is terrible to work with. There is also the statement “I’ll do it now-now”, which actually means that it will be done later. It is easy to start as a foreigner in a company because people are used to cultural differences because of the different cultures in the workplace. That is why people accept cultural differences more easily. “
6. What is Typical Cape Town?
“Don’t have an agenda,” says Marcelle. ‘Living by the day and spontaneity are number one. I don’t have a social agenda, but I do fun things every weekend because nobody really makes plans. A weekend feels like a holiday – you do what you want. We often meet our friends at a local market to start the weekend. Sometimes we go hiking or have lunch at a winery. That way of life really appeals to us! ‘ Living and Working in Cape Town
7. How can you be Positively Surprised?
Matthijs: ‘The openness of people. How they receive you, they are very cordial. Even after five years I am still regularly invited by locals whom I met to come and eat. I get the only cutlery, and they serve Smiley, which is a traditional delicacy in South Africa, the best piece of meat from the sheep.
Sonny and Marcelle also mention the friendliness of the people: ‘If you have to wait a long time, for example, to arrange paperwork at the bank, you can have a nice conversation with someone. I sometimes missed that in the Netherlands. People are not rushed here and generally a lot happier. I think it may also have to do with the weather, that the sun almost always shines here. And of course the beautiful surroundings. “
Matthijs also mentions this: ‘Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I don’t think that alone, you often see that in lists of best holiday destinations. Table Mountain is breathtaking, two oceans come together, nature is amazing. Hiking is therefore very popular.
8. Can the ‘coming’ partner easily find work in Cape Town?
“That is very difficult because of the work permit,” says Matthijs. ‘There are arrangements that you can go as a spouse. Good to know is that they don’t know part-time work here. Furthermore, it is not easy for an entrepreneur to get a work permit. You have to invest a lot, then you can. “
9. How child-friendly is Cape Town? – Living and Working in Cape Town
“Kind of kid-friendly,” says Matthijs, “but I wouldn’t let my kids grow up here, because Cape Town can still be dangerous. It feels very safe, but I do know a good number of people who have been robbed once. The city is very livable, but you also have to be on your guard. “
10. What is the biggest challenge of living in Cape Town? Living and Working in Cape Town
“The balance between salary and life,” says Matthijs. “Cape Town is a kind of” golden prison “. It is a magical city; you have everything, you can do everything. But because the salary is lower compared to Europe, you cannot do many things. Growing up in your career as a foreigner can also be difficult due to the positive discrimination of certain population groups. ‘ Living and Working in Cape Town
Marcelle: ‘It is not easy to do business here because everything really takes time. Trust in yourself and therefore for others in you will come, but it will take some time. We are new as entrepreneurs and we are proud that we can say that our company is growing. We have to work hard for it, but we see many opportunities in South Africa. “