Living abroad in Johannesburg: Expat Interview with Marion & Bernhard

I am glad to announce that twentyninesomething’s category “living abroad” will be enriched by another facet: Expat experience interviews, presenting insight stories about how it is to live in a country far, far away with all it ups and downs.


Living abroad in Johannesburg: Marion and Bernhard’s Expat Experience

The first interview is about Marion and Bernhard, a very nice couple who was living for quite a long time in Johannesburg (Joburg) and just returned back to Austria. Both of them love to travel the world and are always in exploring mode regarding people, food, culture and lifestyle.

What are the coolest places to hang out in Joburg? Which challenges were they facing in their day-to-day life and what did they learn about themselves? Check out Marion’s and Bernhard’s story and find out more about their South African expat experience!

Where did you live as expats and what brought you there?
We lived in South Africa’s biggest city – Johannesburg – for 1,5 years. Bernhard’s employer offered him a job as Service Manager. We stayed in a secured area in the heart of city, meaning with a guard, electric fence, CCTV, … But to be honest, we got used to this places after a while!

What did you like most about living in Joburg and South Africa?
The friendliness and openness of the people in Joburg: Experiencing that so many different cultures are living together in a peaceful way is just incredible!

What we really liked most about South Africa is the fact, that a country can have so much diversity! On weekends it’s all about “bush” and “braai” time, which means you take a ride with your bakkie (off-road vehicle) into the wilderness to see some animals and to have a BBQ with your friends!

Also interesting: Even if people have nearly nothing – they smile! It is the attitude of life that counts!

What did you find most challenging in terms of cultural differences?
In our private, day-to-day life: Living so calm and without stress the whole day and to accept that if something doesn’t happen today, it “may” will happen tomorrow….

Doing business in South Africa is quite similar to Central Europe: Demanding with a high pace. Also interesting to know: Face to face meetings are very important for South Africans!

Which three Austrian products did you miss most?
Water, Water, Water and sometimes a “Germknödel”

If you could beam yourself back to Johannesburg, what would you do first?
Meeting our friends, go cycling with the guys from the mountain bike club and eat a steak – South Africa is “the best steak country ever”.

What was your favorite spare time activity in Joburg and South Africa?
Were went cycling trough the wildest areas and often visited different markets on weekends, trying all kinds of food. We also traveled through the whole country: South Africa is so big and offers you a broad range of activities! Our highlights: Game drives, shark cage diving, fat bike riding, township visits, food markets, whale watching, hiking and mountain bike races.

Which (insider) places would you recommend visiting?

  • The Neighbourgoods Market in Joburg: It opens its doors every last saturday of the month and also offers live concerts.
  • The Apartheit Museum is a must, as it helps you to understand the country’s history and its people better.
  • Hitting the road and getting to know the South coast by car, especially the Garden Route! Don’t forget to bring your hiking shoes!!!

What local music acts/artists did you discover and want to share with us?
Well, there is a lot of life cultural music around and we really enjoyed listening to it: The rhythm and beat is quite intoxicating and triggers a certain feeling as the music evolves – the whole body starts to vibrate and shake immediately 🙂

Two local artists to recommend are “Nonku Phiri” and “Kwesta”.

What did you learn about yourself?
Accept different ways of how to getting to the point and how to commonly reach a goal when working and living together with different cultures! We loved the aspect to live together with people who have different religious backgrounds, which helped us to be more open-minded and to accept different views.

What is the most beautiful memory that you will treasure forever?
Marion: Every time we discovered something new and sharing every new moment together with my husband during this fantastic journey.

Bernhard: The best things in live aren’t things ;O). For example, standing in a queue at the bakery and witnessing how people take their time to chat and exchange views in a friendly and peaceful way – these are experiences and memories you will never forget.





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