Diana: A Girl in Africa
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to South Africa, etc.
I am from Colombia and have been living in South Africa for 8 years now. We moved to U.S. in 2011 one year and we moved back again. I came to SA because of my husband’s job. He is from Spain and we met each other while he was working in a project in Colombia. I have worked as PR and Communications Director in Companies like Dann Carlton Hotel (awarded as best hotel in the country) and Estudio de Moda… before moving to SA I was working as the PR and developing the Communications Strategies for international brands such Diesel, Marithe & Fancois Girbaud, Custo Barcelona and Kipling for Colombia. Now, I live in South Africa and own a clothing label called My Latina and in August last year I launched my Blog called A Girl in Africa. I also work as part time model and have done jobs for brands like Corsa, Knorr, Skip Intelligence Southern Sun, Voltaren, Colgate, etc.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It was something that I wanted to do for a long time, as my friends who live in other countries were curious about South Africa and always wanted me to send them pictures and share experiences. They also were fascinated with the stories I told them about this country. So I thought it would be interesting to document about it, plus I love photography, fashion and traveling. So I find it cool to tell stories with these 3 ingredients in a more professional way.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Hmmm, it’s a difficult request because I love them all but here are some of my favorites:
- What I Wore for Congolese-Austrian Wedding;
- In one of the most beautiful places of the world...just like heaven;
- Reconnecting with mother Africa, weekend away in the bush;
- African fashion in the heritage month.
Tell us about the ways your new life in South Africa differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in South Africa is different to life in my country, although there are some similarities, but I believe every country is unique… as I moved here, I meet a group of expats that were very negative about this country but slowly I started discovering that this country is not that bad but the opposite …maybe my adventurous spirit and coming from a country like Colombia made me see South Africa with a different perspective. I am a positive person and like to see the good side of things. I know South Africa has lots of problems but also lots of good things and I prefer to look at the positive aspects like weather, kindness of people, outdoor lifestyle and wild life amongst others. Did I experience cultural shock? This is the type of country where you experience something different everyday, even after 8 years, and it is a learning experience I do enjoy… I always understood that things in South Africa are made in a different way and I accept that.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in South Africa? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think I was somehow prepared, I read a lot before moving here and I always had a good feeling about this country. My husband came here before and told me good things about it so I already knew it was going to be good.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My first week in SA, we were at the bank opening an account and I saw a man inside the bank barefoot walking from one office to the other, and I was in shock thinking he had been assaulted and all his belongings had been stolen, even his shoes! and how he was at the bank blocking his cards… weeks later I noticed that people in South Africa love walking shoeless in the streets, shopping centers, supermarkets, etc.. even the kids and I found it so funny and interesting.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Africa?
- Don’t pay too much attention to negative comments but be always alert and keep your eyes open;
- Be patient and tolerant with people that work in any company related with hospitality or services, otherwise you will feel frustrated;
- Go out and explore the city and the country, you will be fascinated with the beautiful places you can find in SA;
How is the expat community in South Africa? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The Expat Community is large and vibrant in SA, especially in Johannesburg. For me it was very easy to meet foreigner friends and I have a large and diverse group of friends from different countries whom I love and consider my family here.
How would you summarize your expat life in South Africa in a single, catchy sentence?
“A beautiful, wonderful, exciting and surprising country to live and explore… a well-kept secret”.