Teaching English in South Africa

South Africa

The following comments are from English teachers who have taught, or are currently teaching English in South Africa.

South Africa is an absolutely beautiful place with so much to offer if you’re a tourist. As a South African citizen like myself I find living in Cape Town a pure dream. Foreigners coming into South Africa will find life here very different especially in terms of safety. However, Cape Town is a relatively safe place, sadly, bad things do happen to innocent people which unfortunately is a reality. Just avoid certain bad areas and dark alleys and you will be fine. If you have already secured a job here the next thing for you to do is find an apartment which sadly is not cheap even to rent due to the large influx of tourists buying property.

Living in Cape Town is not cheap and you will find transport costs for taxi cabs are extremely high so it would be advisable to get a car of your own. Other than that train and bus services are available at low low costs and it’s usually easy to get into the city centre from most parts of Cape Town. South Africa has fantastic high speed internet access services such as Vodacom’s 3G HSDPA which is mobile broadband. I have been to the United States and China and I must say South Africa beats both those countries when it comes to technology. Anyway… I hope this little bit of information helps you. Have a pleasant trip to South Africa.

Leicester, 14 September 2007

Above poster must work for SA Tourism. I just returned from a year in Johannesburg, The internet is terrible, slow and expensive (yeah I used Vodacom 3G HSDPA). I am from the USA and now live in the UK. It stinks in SA. OK but there is more to life then internet right (sort of). Let me say that life in Joburg and Cape Town is quite different. As is posted, Cape Town is relatively safe. Just like how a 747 goes relatively slower then a Concorde; except that they both are Jets! In urban SA you are generally not safe, just the way it is. Such an unequal place. Every race hates every other race. Generally unprofessional especially the emergent black upper class (don’t worry, the existing white upper class is arrogant and ridiculous). Sure I had a great time exploring Southern Africa while there, but take a vacation, don’t move there! I wasn’t sure when I arrived if SA was coming or going. Now I know, it’s not coming. Beats US in technology! Please what a joke. Not even an argument. This shows the arrogance. Bus service takes you around the UCT campus and you can’t count on it anywhere else especially Joburg (very unreliable and not too safe). Local trans are totally unsafe (you can take it on the long trip between Cape Town and Joburg). Capetonians think they live in the best place ever (notice foreign tourist comment) and think their city is great. They all say take the train or bus or taxi (van, not cab). But they will never do these things themselves. Never! They all have cars and they would never put themselves in that situation. It is the opposite in Joburg. There people will tell you that your shadow might kill you. And you know what? It just might. By avoid certain bad areas or dark alleys I think the previous poster meant ‘avoid anywhere that is not obnoxiously wealthy and privately guarded’ and don’t go into the city center. Again Joburg way worse than Cape Town. Cape Town is worth a vacation, but to live? Please. Not safe. No tech. The white people are racist and rude. The black people are lazy and incompetent. It is a racist and unequal mess. Imagining how great the place could have been had they not had 50/100 years of racist policy just makes one sad. SA coulda been a contender…

Anonymous, 6 February 2011

I am from South Africa and it has its positives and negatives such as any country, including the USA. The American that posted before is rude and clearly incompetent. Shall I pick out all the negatives and gangs in America and all the serial killers and the racist KKK – that we actually don’t have here?!! I work in a language school and the people are friendly and I haven’t experienced any violence or misfortune. If you are considering South Africa, there are people you should listen to and others that talk the biggest load of rubbish. We are regarded as having one of the best constitutions in the world. Add being relatively young as it comes to democracy, see how far we’re come as opposed to America. Land of the great or robots? If the writer before me reads this – get a clue and get a life. And if they’re an English teacher, it’s COULD HAVE not coulda?

Crystal, 30 May 2011

The American who posted here has clearly made some sweeping generalizations, and as a Brit living here for several years now, I can say that I disagree wholeheartedly. South Africa is one of the most diverse and beautiful places I have had the privilege to visit – let alone live. To be charitable, maybe the American guy doesn’t attract the right sort of people or get about much. People here are so diverse that I should imagine narrow-minded people might have a hard time fitting in and rather stand in judgement(?). To generalize that black Africans here are lazy is just inaccurate. There are some parts of society that were broken by apartheid – mostly uneducated people over the age of 40-50. But the youth are vibrant and growing up free in a country that keeps evolving. I’ve met far more arrogant Americans than any Saffa I’ve met. I’ve been the victim of far more crime in London than Cape Town and Jo’burg combined, but I lived there for a shorter time! What tourists have to realize is that crime is mainly only a problem in the sub-economic areas – nowhere near they are likely to stay or hang out. Anywhere else usual rules apply. Be sensible and you will be fine. This negative guy commenting here really does seem to have had a rubbish time, but I hypothesize that it has more to do with his own outlook and issues than those of SA. Yes, SA has the issues of being an emerging, post-colonial-apartheid state, but this also promotes a climate of optimism and change making this an exciting country to visit or live in. I have witnessed massive change here in the last 15 years – and my work takes me everywhere from the private schools of the upper class suburbs to the township’s less salubrious schools.

Paul, 22 Feb 2012

Wow! That is one unfortunate American! He came to South Africa (for how long?) and only managed to see the most extreme negative side of things. Has he ever traveled outside of USA before? Did he only acquaint himself with the existing and emergent upper-class? He displays stunning ignorance with his generalizations on the race issue too! And, he didn’t have the courtesy to leave his name. That is one sad dude! South Africa rocks! (but hey, maybe it’s not for everyone, if you know what I mean. nudge/wink)

The Knowledge Workshop, 22 Feb 2012

I think the American guy is spot on. Cape Town became progressively more racist after the Mandela seizure of power.
I was working at Caltex (Engen) in Cape Town and they had a policy of replacing all “whites” by Muslims. Senior management was Muslim to begin with but once the ANC was in power they aggressively pursued a policy of forcing out non-muslims. The black folks who work in the suburbs for the most part are very nice and polite. Among the white Capetonians themselves I agree that there is a lot of arrogance. They still think they are part of the British empire and many boast of their extended family in the U.K. Many have British or European second passports.

Also working for a “coloured” boss is a given, as the “coloured” community is large in Cape Town and growing by the day with the inter-racial marriages. I was born in Port Elizabeth and my folks moved to Cape Town when I was three. It’s a scenic place and I did love the weather, especially the winter, but the people were NOT friendly and the American is right the races are not as in love with each other as some of the other comments state. The coloureds DON’T like the blacks, the Muslims hate everyone who doesn’t bow down to Allah. The whites for the most part are aloof. There are other issues like Affirmative action which promotes people into positions they don’t deserve to be in, quota systems for whites which prevent many of the BEST students from even getting into university.

Also there’s a lot of people of colour with an axe to grind. The place has gone downhill fast. If anyone tells you that life is GREAT in South Africa…they’re lying. Go onto any Expat board frequented by S.Africans and see for yourself why there’s a brain drain from that African Utopia. What a joke.

Dano Maxwell, 14 July 2012

South Africa is so diverse that it’s very difficult to not make evaluative comments that come across as generalizations or sweeping statements.

From my own personal experience, if you come across in a way that you look different (and that might just be the way you are and you can’t exactly help it) e.g. you have a certain condition that causes you to exhibit some behaviour that’s considered to be strange or odd-ball (with me I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and there’s more help for the associated difficulties that come with it than in South Africa), then a lot of people in Cape Town (I can only speak for Cape Town cos that’s where I lived for 26 years of my life before moving to Scotland to get help with my Asperger’s that I couldn’t get there) will judge you and treat you differently from how they treat their “normal” popular peers. But that’s a problem in most any country you live in, and it stems a lot from human nature, upbringing and learning + absorbing of certain fixed, biased mindsets, peer pressure etc.

On another issue, a lot of Caucasian people feel uncertain and uncomfortable around people of mixed race and natives (I call white people Caucasian, coloured people people of mixed race and black people natives cos I don’t want to call them “coloured” or “black”). The same goes for mixed race people – they feel uncertain and uncomfortable around Caucasian people and natives, and the same applies to the natives. It applies to each person depending on their background, life experience etc. The uncomfortableness and mistrust is natural and normal based on the background of apartheid and crime rate being high, and this needs to be fought against i.e. people need to become more open-minded and trusting of people of other race by somehow letting go of their internalized fears and worries. This sure ain’t easy to do, but then it wouldn’t feel like a great sense of achievement to get along better with people of other races if it did come easy, would it?

Maybe the racial tensions in Cape Town are simply a bit more obvious and easier to sense than, say, in Scotland or other parts of Britain. But then the social and cultural constructs of Scotland and other parts of Britain are set in such a way that it’s hard to read things in social situations in the UK (even harder if you’ve got Asperger’s like me), a lot of people are quite private, reserved and subtle around you if you’re a stranger and they hardly even know you (it can be like this in South Africa too, but I think in general to a lesser degree). It’s less likely that you’ll be disliked or mistrusted due to the colour of your skin in Scotland than in South Africa – in Scotland it’s got a lot more to do with how you come across, if you seem polite and respectful, etc.

There are a lot of other issues I could look at, but I won’t for now.

I hope I haven’t come across judgmentally in this article.

Alaister Simmonds, 6 Sept 2012

More South Africa resources

TEFL courses in South Africa
English language schools in South Africa

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