Namrata: Mia Musings
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to South Africa, etc.
Until 2012, I was the usual everyday Indian, working for a big investment management firm and living in the huge metropolis of Gurgaon. Then in 2013, my husband and I took a leap of faith and we moved to Johannesburg! And that’s when my other life took off – that of an expat, a blogger, and an adventurer.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Even before I moved to SA, my friends used to ask me to write a blog on travel. But somehow that never took off. Apart from the usual hotel reviews, I never got past writing much. However, after moving to Joburg, with all the new experiences, new stories and the amazing places, I realized that the only way to capture everything about SA would be through a blog. This led to the birth of Mia Musings but not before dilly-dallying for almost a year!
And why Mia Musings you ask – well, naming my blog was very circumstantial. We had just adopted this adorable little Afrikaner puppy and named her Mia. She consumed my days and nights (still does), so when it came to naming my blog, the only thing that popped up was Mia!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
It’s difficult to pick just one because most of the posts are written with a lot of passion. But if I were to choose just one, it would be one of my very first ones – about the Graffiti tour in Newtown. The tour kind of marked the beginning of my love affair with Jozi’s inner city and it is not difficult to see why. The vibe, the art and the buzz is totally different from what you find in other parts of Jozi. Another favourite is Mia’s letter to Santa!
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?
One of the things that really catches you off guard when you land in Joburg is the sight of high walls and electric fences. This takes time to get used to and does the fact that you cannot just walk out anywhere at any time. Travel plans need to be a little planned especially since no public transport is available. So one can’t just hail a taxi on the road! While precautions need to be taken with regards to safety, it is not as bad as it sounds. In fact the ground reality is very different and once you get used to how things work, you are very much settled in.
There was no culture shock per se. More so as language was not a problem – English is spoken by almost everyone. People are warm and friendly and the fact that the Indian community is quite big also helped.
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?
For the most part, our move and transition from India to Jozi was pretty smooth. The relocation agency had pretty much prepared us on what to expect and I had done a fair bit of research myself. The only thing that wasn’t made very clear was how difficult it would be for me to get a job and a work visa. We were under the impression that once we got to SA, getting a job for me would not be such a challenge. However, it has been and my advice to anyone planning to relocate is to sort out a job and visa before you move. Even if your spouse has the requisite visa/permit, yours might never work out. So plan accordingly.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why traffic lights in SA are called robots! And everytime I heard them addressed as such, I could not help but smile. So I find this quite hilarious.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in South Africa?
- Don’t be overly worried about safety and security issues in Johannesburg. Not everything you read is credible. In fact, the reality is very exaggerated and I can vouch for it. So don’t pass up an opportunity just because you read it’s unsafe. I get queries every week regarding this very aspect.
- If your spouse has a work permit and you would like to work as well, make sure you get a job or find a company that is ready to sponsor your visa BEFORE you come to Joburg.
- Try not to have preconceived notions. Let the city and country surprise you – in a good way.
How is the expat community in South Africa? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Joburg is quite big and very diverse. There is a reason why Jozi is called a melting pot! Since most expats tend to live in designated suburbs of the city (Dainfern, Fourways, Sandton, etc.), and we don’t, we usually end up meeting expats only when we go for events organised by InterNations, Meetup, or on city walking tours etc. But not being surrounded by expats does not bother us. Over the last two years, we have made a nice set of friends, both local and international.
How would you summarize your expat life in South Africa in a single, catchy sentence?
The adventures of a trailing spouse in sunny South Africa!