Expat Interview: A Dutchman in South Africa
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
Mark lives in Cape Town, one of South Africa's most popular destinations. A Dutchman, he arrived in South Africa via UK and Barcelona before settling as an expat in Cape Town. Find out what he loves about living in the city in Medibroker's expat interview and read more on his blog, markwijsman.com
Tell us about where you’re from, where you have lived previously and where you live now
I was born in the Netherlands, and coming from a country the size of a breadcrumb I always had an urge to explore other parts of the world. I lived in the United Kingdom and Barcelona for a bit before my studies, and have lived in Cape Town, South Africa for the last six years.
Why did you choose to move to South Africa?
I have always had an interest in other cultures and exploring new places. I became incredibly attracted to South Africa through my travels when I was young. The kind of love at first sight thing. When I had the opportunity to further my studies and do an internship here, I never hesitated. I haven't left Cape Town since.
Before the move, which aspects of planning were the most stressful for you? (eg visas, relocation packages, insurance)
I did little planning in advance, so I got faced with some realities when I got here. I think besides organising visas, which I presume is a bureaucratic hilarity anywhere around the world, other aspects were a walk in the park. It taught me plenty about my levels of patience, that's for sure.
What has been the most challenging aspect of settling into life in Cape Town?
Settling here is generally quite easy, South Africans are such kind people. Since I'm Dutch, I pretty much came out of the womb riding a bicycle. Not being able to cycle here was the initial challenge at first. Luckily facilities have slightly improved, so now I have an old Dutch bicycle I take anywhere around the city.
Do you have any funny stories to share about culture shock or integrating with locals?
Ha plenty! I think the most significant is when South Africans bring out such smooth and confident dance moves, when my dancing looks like I just got shot by a taser. Or when South Africans prove to have impeccable braai skills and can make a fire in an instant, while I, after a three hour attempt, always end up setting myself alight.
What’s the best thing about being an expat in South Africa?
Cultural neutrality. South Africa is already such a melting pot of cultural variety, it's useful to be able to play the 'foreign card' whenever a disagreement between cultures occurs.
What jobs bring expats to South Africa?
I'm no expert when it comes to South African labour statistics, but I'd say in Cape Town specifically travel and tourism are big markets, and nationwide industries that relate to trade, engineering and finance.
What is the healthcare like in South Africa?
Luckily I haven't had much exposure to the healthcare system, but from what I know, the private healthcare in South Africa is of quite a high standard. This in contrast with the public healthcare, which is not outstanding, but understandable considering their challenge with many health related issues in this country
Tell us about your blog!
I write stories that highlight my experiences in South Africa, learning about and adjusting to the different cultures, languages and habits. Like how they happily surf among white sharks, or how their winter makes no sense. Most of the time I don't always understand everything about South Africans, so I write that down too. Since this country is so diverse and beautiful, there is always plenty to write about.
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