Expat Voices: Sine Thieme on life as a Joburg expat

Expat Voices: Sine Thieme on life as a Joburg expat

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Housewife Sine Thieme shares her views and insights on life in South Africa.

Name: Sine Thieme
: American
Country of residence
: South Africa
How long have you lived here?
1 year
City/town of residence
: Johannesburg
Date of birth
: 1967-7-17
Civil status
: Married
: Housewife
Reason for moving to your new country of residence
: My husband's assignment

What was your first impression of your new country of residence?

I thought it was much more "civilised" and "normal" than I was led to believe. The people were friendly and the weather fantastic. The street vendors at every intersection seemed very exotic to me.


What do you think of the food?
A meat lover's dream. There is a wide variety of great restaurants and the prices are very decent. However, I think Cape Town has even better restaurants than Johannesburg.

What do you think of the shopping?

I'm not a big shopper so am probably not the best person to ask. Grocery shopping is easy--you can find most everything you'd expect from Europe or the U.S., but you might have to go to several stores to find all you need. Woolworths has some of the best quality food I've ever shopped for. Grocery prices overall are a bit higher than in the U.S.

What do you appreciate about living in your new country of residence?

The beautiful weather, the smiling people, and the opportunity to see some of the most amazing wild animals up close just a few hours from here.


What do you find most frustrating about living in your new country of residence?
Having to deal with some government agencies or even companies that are extremely bureaucratic. Nothing ever seems to happen on time, and on some things you simply have to give up.

What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?

I'm most puzzled by the fact that South Africa has some of the highest unemployment in the world, yet a serious skills shortage. In almost all industries, it is hard to find dedicated hard-working labour. You would think that such high unemployment would drive people towards doing their very best to keep a job. What I miss most is American comedy shows on TV, and a decent newspaper.

How does the quality of life here compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?

If you have the money (or your company contributes to your living expenses), the quality of life in South Africa is awesome. Being able to employ domestic help is a huge bonus and, combined with the great Joburg climate, this makes for wonderful opportunities to use your spare time.


If you could change anything about your new country of residence, what would it be?
I would make the postal service reliable so that nothing gets stolen anymore, and I would start Amazon.co.za to make shopping easier. And I would double the lanes on just about every road so that we could say goodbye to traffic jams.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?

Make sure you get your visas early, as you need to have that in your passport before you can do many other things, like buying a mobile phone or a car. Also, don't listen to fearmongers telling you that South Africa is a cesspool of violence, because it is not.

Would you like to add anything that we haven't addressed in the questionnaire?

If you have kids, you will have many schooling options. In addition to the several international schools, consider some of the South African private schools, as they provide excellent and well-rounded education.

Click here to visit Sine Thieme's blogspot Joburg Expat. She writes on the "trials and tribulations" of living in South Africa with her family of six.


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