The Proud South African's Guide to living in South Africa's big cities

The Proud South African's Guide to living in South Africa's big cities

Private Property South Africa
Private Property Reporter

South Africa is an ecologically diverse and multicultural country. The population of South Africa is made up of about 58.8 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and religions. This diversity is fully expressed and displayed in various geographical locations, especially in the cities dotted around the country.

South Africa has 5 cities with more than a million people, 49 towns with between 100,000 and 1 million people, and 162 smaller towns with between 10,000 and 100,000 people. The bigger cities, however, have become major drawcards over the years for locals and foreign migrants due to the lucrative career and business opportunities as well as the attractive lifestyle and facilities they offer. South African cities have therefore become melting pots of culture, lifestyle, business and trends.

Depending on which part of city you are living in, you will experience the city a bit differently. People residing in the inner city or city centre will experience more traffic problems as compared to those living on the outskirts. The cost of living is highly influenced by the city and location you choose to live in. Location also effects the availability of services such as healthcare, community development centres, public services and social services. Life in a small town will be different as compared to living in a large city.

City living has both pros and cons, some of these advantages and disadvantages are as follows:


• There are often roads of a better quality and well-built houses in urban areas.

• Transport facilities are highly developed and often receive regular funding for updates. It can be faster to get from place to place in a city or town.

• Due to better public transport, you can save money on buying a car.

• Most amenities and entertainment venues are easy to reach. Clubs, restaurants and cinemas are more prolific in these busier areas and you often find new attractions will open in a city before anywhere else.

• Hospitals and clinics are close by for easy access to healthcare or aid in an emergency.

• Cities and towns tend to have a greater mix of cultures and ethnicities, which can help when making new friends and meeting people.

• There are a greater number of jobs available in urban areas. Starting a new career could be far easier if you move to a town or city.


• In the city, salaries are higher than in rural areas, but this does not always help with the high cost of living expenses. The prices of the commodities are also higher due to the large concentration of people and huge demand.

• Living in urban areas has brought a large number of people in the city. There is a huge demand in the rent prices of the housing units due to home scarcity.

• Although there are huge numbers of job opportunities in the city, there are also several people who are competing for a single post. This can be frustrating during job searches, especially when the economy of the city is low, you are likely to remain unemployed even though there are thousands of job ads in the newspaper.

• Traffic is one of the biggest nightmares in the city. Most people use private transport, thus, making it is impossible to avoid traffic in the urban areas. You always have to leave home early due to this.

• In the city, the rate of crime is higher than in the countryside. People are more tempted to rob due to increased poverty in urban areas.

• Pollution is another city issue. Smog, high carbon emission rates, polluted drinking water and high decibels of noise are some of the reasons for air, water and noise pollution in the city.

From the hustle and bustle of the inner city to the more tranquil pace of life on offer in the suburbs, there are some common ground rules and experiences you have to keep in mind. These include:

Language: South Africa has eleven official languages, which puts it in the world’s top three countries for number of official languages. Most South Africans are bi-lingual or multi-lingual, but are very proud of their individual mother tongue and are keen to use it as much as possible even in the city.

Food: South African cities are extremely diverse. Aside from making it tricky to know which language to speak, it also means that the variety of food on offer is exceptional. A walk through the streets of any South African city will reveal several culinary delights from different cultures.

Salary: Jobs in cities are generally more high paying than rural jobs. However, your salary will depend on your industry, qualifications and experience.

Housing: You have two options when choosing a home – renting or buying. Many people coming to the city for the first time choose to rent a place while looking for somewhere to buy. House prices in South Africa increased by an average of 3.6% in 2019 which was slightly lower than the 3.8 percent year-on-year growth in 2018. Factors that influence property prices are affordability, political uncertainty and a sluggish economy.

Utilities: The main utilities for any home would be water and electricity. Of course, an internet connection is also considered essential in this day and age. Water charges in South Africa is anything but straightforward. Residents are charged on a sliding scale per kilolitre (1000 litres) – the more you use, the more you pay – and tariffs are further influenced by a property’s value. To add to the complexity, charges are not standard across the country. Electricity prices, just like water prices, are calculated on a sliding scale.

Transport: South African cities all have a fairly developed public transport system with trains, buses, taxis, cabs all being part of the mix. New or used cars are easy to find. There are hundreds of dealerships countrywide as well as many online.

The guidelines provided above, if well implemented, will assist you to relocate efficiently with minimum stress, helping you settle in to your new life so that you and your family get the most of city life and experiences.


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