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An American expat living in South Africa

Caleb Varner is an American expat, originally from Farmville, Virginia, who has been living in Johannesburg, South Africa since February 2016. He is the General Manager: Retail Finance - Sub-Saharan Africa for John Deere
1. When did you move to South Africa?
I had lived here previously between 2011 and 2013 but moved back in Feb 2016.
2. Why did you move to South Africa?
There was a great opportunity at work which allowed me to make the move.
3. What do you enjoy most about Johannesburg?
The weather, indoor/outdoor lifestyle, cost of living, access to world-class food, wine and entertainment, access to game reserves, Africa, Cape Town, and the African Bush.
4. What do you miss most about your home country?
Friends and family are obvious answers but also efficiency. Being so far from home makes it tough to stay connected with people (distance and time zones).
5.  What are the biggest adjustments that you’ve had to make when settling into expat life in Johannesburg?
Security here is obviously heightened with a much more day-to-day concern than in the US, or other places that we have lived.  I think that most people worry about home invasions and car-jacking. There are huge disparities between the haves and have nots here. 
6. What’s the cost of living in South Africa compared to home?
It’s significantly less expensive by around 40%.
7. How would you rate the public transport in South Africa?
It’s non-existent for expats – for all practicality. Uber works great, the Gautrain to the airport works well too. Other than that there is not much else.
8. How would you rate the healthcare in Johannesburg?
It’s world class.
9. How do you rate the standard of housing in Johannesburg?
Access to world class destinations, affordable domestic help and good weather are all great but security and the need to be more aware than other places in the world are important considerations too.
10. What areas of Johannesburg would you recommend expats to live in?
I’d recommend Sandton and the northern suburbs (e.g. Dainfern).
11.  How tolerant are the locals of foreigners and was it easy meeting people, and making friends?
The locals have been very nice and are tolerant. In terms of meeting people and making friends, I don’t think that it is ever that easy but that said, I don’t think that it is any different here than meeting people in any other largely English-speaking expat environments. 
12. Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit?
There was a very bureaucratic six months’ delay, lots paperwork, etc. but the approval did eventually arrive. 
13. What’s the economic climate like in the Johannesburg? 
South Africa has a vibrant financial services economy but it might be difficult to find a job in that sector given the quality of local talent. However, it largely depends on the sector – some are easier to find work in. 
14. How does the work culture in South Africa differ from home?
Race relations, tribalism, and undercurrents in the culture are sometimes hard to understand, accept, and work within. 
15. Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
I don’t imagine that they would be any different in another English-speaking expat assignment but being a trailing spouse is never easy.
If you’d like to know more about living in Africa as an expat then please contact Catherine Lin.
T: +27 11 303 8309
M: +27714857667