I ushered in 2016 by packing up my little family and moving from the “city” to the “burbs” in search of better security, nearby preschools and more communal/family-style living. I must say the distinction between city-living and suburban-living, while clearer in the Western context, is often blurred in the African context, where rural versus urban makes more sense. While there is some blurring of city and suburbs in Johannesburg, you can attempt to make some distinction for example, by judging how long it takes to get an uber :). So I think I can safely say that I’ve left the city for the burbs and so far, it’s a worthwhile move and yet a bit of a cultural shock. If you’ve never been to Jozi, or only passed through on business trips or only heard scary stories about its urban crime, then some insight into a suburban lifestyle might help balance your perspective… or make you cringe… Hey, the burbs arent for everyone!
Lifestyle estates have become very popular in SA. In fact, they are in high demand. People are willing to endure a longer commute to work in order to feel safer, live in tranquility and enjoy recreational activities such as playing tennis, golf, cycling, etc. within the confines of a gated community. I wasn’t one of those people but I had a child and everything changed. So, I did some research, visited a few places and got sold on the concept.
The first thing you will observe about these estates is the heavy arm of security. Entry to the estate will have to be pre-cleared by the person you are visiting (you cant just rock up to somebody’s door). You will also see security guards patrolling the premises day and night. This is over and above top notch security installations and burglar proofs that people have in their homes. It may sound too much, but this is SA and believe you me, armed robberies still take place.
Once you access the estates, the first attraction is the beguiling natural beauty of the surrounds. I can’t say enough about this. The lovely parks, well manicured gardens, walking trails, lakes, etc are captivating and reflective of the general landscape of this beautiful country.
Facilities may include: a club house (a space that can be booked to entertain friends), a communal pool, sporting facilities, children’s play areas, a creche, schools and more. Some of the large estates even have clinics, gyms, grocery stores, restaurants etc within the walls of the estate. So, you could live happily in a bubble (excuse the sarcasm). For me, its about finding a good balance between the joys and security of suburban living versus living in isolation.
A very nice surprise after 11 years of living in South Africa and never really knowing my neighbours, is the community-feel that comes with estate living. A lovely couple across the street took the time to visit and offered help with anything I needed. Whaat?? People generally like to hang out in the parks or take walks in the mornings or evenings and every now and then say more than a hello and goodbye. To be fair, my son is a little flirt and has half the women in the estate flocking to pinch his cheeks. So, that’s how I make friends… Hey, no shame in my game. There are also social clubs and activities for children and adults for example, a photography club, cooking classes, mums and tots and others so, plenty of opportunity to make friends.
So, here is the bit about the culture shock and my slight (very slight) discomfort. It all seems too perfect. EVERYBODY walks, runs, or cycles every day with their perfect hair, and perfect dogs. Even the little ducks that come out of the lake make me feel like I’m living in a children’s fairy tale. I described this feeling to a friend and she asked, “Is it like the Truman Show?” Hahahahaha. Maybe, I’m in a reality show and everyone is in on it but me.
Peace and love
Photo credits: kyalamiestates.co.za, estate-living.co.za, silverlakes.co.za, woodhillestate.co.za