Pros and Cons of living in Cape Town

pros and cons are living in Cape Town
Updated 2019-10-04 09:17

Curiously, opinions on life in Cape Town are often divided: there are those who express reluctance at the thought of living there - often for reasons of security. Conversely, there are also those - students or young adults in particular - who see this part of the world as a place of opportunity and adventure, where anything is possible. They grab their plane tickets in one hand and their suitcase in the other, and cant get there quickly enough!

Of course, the reality lands somewhere in the middle. Cape Town can, under certain conditions, offer one of the richest qualities of life in the world. A little organisation and a good dose of common-sense are necessary, but the benefits of living in Cape Town are innumerable.

Pros of living in Cape Town

The city enjoys an incredible location between the ocean and the mountains, nestled in a natural environment of outstanding beauty. Within a single day, you can take your coffee in the morning on your terrace or in your garden, spot whales and dolphins over lunch, or watch the sea lions basking in the sun on the rocks lining the roads. You might stop to let a family of guinea fowl cross the road at a roundabout in the late afternoon, or be amazed on the highway by a flock of flamingos on its way home. And if the kids get bored at the weekend, you can take a road trip just forty minutes from Cape Town to see the lions. The subtle balance between urbanism and wild nature is perhaps unique in the world.

Despite its 4 million official inhabitants (a figure actually closer to 7 million), the city manages to retain its human quality, perhaps due to its ring configuration around Table Mountain. The city is, therefore, very spread out, offering a real feeling of space for the city's inhabitants.

For six months of the year, between October and March, you will enjoy beautiful weather, sunny and temperate, between 23 and 32 degrees, with the days often softened by a pleasant breeze. From April to September, Autumn and Winter are more wet and foggy, with temperatures dropping to around 18 degrees during the day. Even if temperatures are cooler, days can still be lovely and sunny.

South Africa is in the same time zone as Paris, which is 11 hours' flight away. For half of the year (April to October) there is no time difference with France. The rest of the time (November to March), France is one hour behind: a conversion particularly valuable for family exchanges and for those who maintain professional activity in Europe, for example.

Cape Town is not particularly representative city of Africa in general or indeed the rest of South Africa, be it from a cultural, organisational or service-based viewpoint. In fact, many refer to the city as "Europe in Africa." The global infrastructure and the various medical and banking services, for example, as well as the options in terms of schools for children, are of an excellent level, budget permitting. Mainly, you will find everything you could want in Cape Town.

The city is totally kids-friendly and children are welcome everywhere, with all restaurants being equipped with high chairs or babysitters that will look after and even occupy your children while you dine. Indoor and outdoor activities, parks, the beach and sports organisations abound in the city and its suburbs: it is literally unthinkable to be without options with your children, whatever their age.

As for adults, the city is a haven for athletes: yoga, pilates, kayaking, tennis, rugby, football, swimming, diving, running, cycling, golf, hiking, surfing, kite, horse riding, paragliding, etc.: everything is possible.

Cape Town also benefits from many cultural and tourist attractions: museums, cinemas, temporary exhibitions, bookstores, escape games, nightclubs, restaurants, shows, ballets, etc. The city is dynamic, to say the least. But the main advantage of life in Cape Town lies in the unbelievable wealth of the countryside itself: wine routes and hundreds of vineyards await your discovery within 30 minutes of Downtown; the Blyde River Canyon and Kruger Park just two hours flight and a one hour drive; the Garden Route; the Namaqualand and its astonishing carpet of winter flowers to the north, Orange River and the country's mining history lies to the northeast, the Karoo Desert in the centre, the underwater diving mecca to the east...

The diversity of South Africa can't be overstated, but the magnificent bordering countries add even more possibilities: Namibia and its incomparable dunes, the quiet little kingdom and the ski slopes of Lesotho, Botswana and the Okavango Delta as well as its protected national parks, Zimbabwe and the incomparable Victoria Falls, the beaches and the islands of Mozambique ... It could take years before you successfully explore the region thoroughly.

Seen from the outside, Cape Town can look like Paradise on Earth. In reality, the city does lend itself more to the financially comfortable, who are not dependent on a work visa. Unfortunately, the economic and political situation has deteriorated in recent years, and it is important to be upfront about the difficulties and complications that can arise for those who wish to settle there.

Cons of living in Cape Town

The lack of social and cultural diversity - the Afrikaner, Black, Colored and foreign English communities mix very poorly in this region where apartheid has been applied even harder than in the rest of the country - as well as the blatant gap between the levels of society, can be difficult for some to reconcile. Many respond to this violent reality by simply pretending that the townships, relegated to the outskirts of the city, do not exist. Others try to participate and help, but often end up frustrated with the vastness of the task at hand. It is not always easy to live "in parallel" when you know that your neighbour is suffering and that our means to help him are limited.

Directly related to this situation is the issue of security, which is regularly cited as a concern. For the moment, crime is seen to increase mostly in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods of the townships, where the vast majority of daily issues arise. Privileged neighbourhoods are not entirely spared, but if you seriously respect basic safety instructions - which are explained to you everywhere if you decide to live in Cape Town - your chances of suffering aggression will drop considerably.

The economic situation, linked to the internal inefficiencies and corruption within South African politics, has been deteriorating for the past ten years. The dismissal of Jacob Zuma, the former president who has been facing 783 charges of alleged wrongdoing, has raised hopes in the country. Unfortunately, these are hopes that his replacement, Cyril Ramaphosa has, so far, not been able to prove well-founded.

Inflation forecasts for 2019 in South Africa are estimated at nearly 5%. The value of the rand continues to decline: in less than ten years, it has increased from 9 to more than 16 for 1 euro, a boon for tourism and expatriates remunerated in this currency, but a disaster for the country's economy and people paid in local currency.

According to the South African National Statistics Agency (StatsSA), the 2018 official unemployment rate has exceeded 28% of the labour force. Unofficially, we are talking more than 40%. In spite of the end of apartheid more than 25 years ago and the implementation of positive affirmative action measures such as the BEE (Black Economic Empowerment, which requires recruiters to respect EU quotas), the level of education remains mediocre. The development of a middle class remains a slow and complicated process, leaving social and economic inequalities to thrive, and an exasperated population in disarray. Racism exists in all communities. Attention has recently been focused on recent violence set against the backdrop of legislation on the expropriation (without compensation) of white farms for the benefit of black people in need. Xenophobic killings are also increasing between South African blacks and foreign blacks from Zimbabwe and Malawi in particular, who are accused of "taking South African jobs".

In addition, immigration policies have taken a sharp turn in the past year for visas and work permits for Europeans in South Africa, complicating the professional plans of many expatriates or adventurers in search of El Dorado. Finally, remember that South African taxation is extremely disadvantageous: more than approximately 35,000 euros in annual gross income and your tax rate already exceeds 40%, taken at source.

Cape Verde has also been facing recurring droughts in recent years that have resulted in heavy water rationing. Drastic measures which are quite restrictive for inhabitants were put in place as of 2017. These have paid off, as water consumption has increased from 1.2 billion litres to around 600 million per day. But the problem of supply is still not resolved, hanging like a sword of Damocles over the city. To this has been added a return to load-shedding - or power offloads - since late 2018 that can mean 6 hours a day without power for the city's population, to overcome the lack of energy available in South African power plants. These practical disadvantages certainly impact daily life in Cape Town, discouraging some investors and helping to stabilise or even lower real estate prices.

It can be difficult, therefore, to specifically advise those considering a move to Cape Town, as the situation will depend in large part on your personal situation: expatriate contracts, retired "swallows" who spend half of the year in Europe and the other in Cape Town, a life in perpetual summer… in such situations, you may well have the means to live an idyllic existence.

For many, a lot of consideration and logistical planning will come into play before embarking on a South African adventure, but while this can involve frustration, the city does have an enormous amount to offer its residents.

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