Study Abroad in South Africa: I love Johannesburg

buildings in Johannesburg

| Can’t resist the Jozi Vibe |

I love Joburg.

When I first came to South Africa, people in the Western Cape would always warn me about Johannesburg.

“Joburg is very dangerous”
“Joburg has the highest crime rate in the country. Don’t go there”
“People in Joburg are not friendly. People there are too busy to stop and talk to you”
“The traffic in Joburg is crazy. People drive like crazy.”
“There is nothing to see in Joburg. People go to Joburg for work, not travelling. It is the place where people make money.”

During the first few months of my stay in the Western Cape, I didn’t have a chance to travel around SA because of university. I only travelled within the Western Cape. But as I heard the same negative comments on Joburg over and over again, I started to see Joburg negatively as well. I even started to tell people that I wouldn’t go to Joburg because it is ‘dodgy’ – even though I had never been there. Sometimes you cannot underestimate what kind of impacts people’s opinions can have on you.

Now, after the end of the first school term, I finally had the chance to travel around South Africa. After I came back from Zimbabwe, I was supposed to stay in Johannesburg only for 2 days max and then travel somewhere else. But since things never go as they plan (at least in my case), I ended up being ‘stuck’ in Joburg for more than a week. Of course at that time my first reaction was like “Shit am I going to survive Joburg by myself?” But things went completely the opposite to what I thought my life in Joburg would be. Although Johannesburg is not the most beautiful city ever, it has its own charm. You can even say the downtown of Joburg is quite ugly, but it is beautifully ugly. Johannesburg, in my opinion, is an exciting city. It is the place where I met one of the friendliest people I have ever met, who came into my life and made me see Joburg from a different angle. Johannesburg is a city that many visitors of SA would try to avoid, and its bad reputation scares off a lot of people. Yet, to truly experience Johannesburg, you cannot only stay there for a few days. You have to stay in Joburg as long as possible so that you give yourself enough time to breathe and understand the city. I am not saying Johannesburg is not dangerous, but South Africa in general IS dangerous. You can get mugged in Stellenbosch or in places you would never thought you would be a victim of crime. I have heard bad stories regarding the safety in Johannesburg, but the same applies to anywhere in SA. Again, you need to know what you are doing, and with that awareness you become alert to your surroundings and interactions with people.

“I love Joburg” is a sentence that I always say whenever I talk about my travels in SA after I came back to Stellenbosch. People would either laugh or look at me as if I were a weird species that they have never seen in their life. Some of my local SA friends would tease me a little bit for saying that. But what I found strange is that people’s comments actually also changed. They would reply me “Yeah…Joburg is actually not that bad”. But whenever new exchange students ask me about Johannesburg, I tell them they must see it themselves instead of believing 100% in what people say, or else they will miss out a lot of fun.

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