Often Johannesburg is thought of the least desirable South African city to live and work in. However, it is also known to be the place where work is found. This leaves a lot of South African’s in a catch twenty-two, not willing to move but in desperate need of employment. It has been my experience that Johannesburg has become an increasingly trendy destination for 20-something’s ready to take the plunge into the working world.
Upon arriving in the formidable city of Johannesburg, a newcomer is never quite sure of what to expect. Negative perceptions of malls and crime enter their minds. However, as opposed to the general perception, the newcomers are introduced to inner-city places like Braamfontein, Maboneng and endless invites to social events. In fact, people are so friendly that it can make any skeptical person question the validity of niceties. A rather refreshing wave of new possibilities is introduced to the pessimistic new arrival by constantly meeting new people and discovering interesting places in and around the city.
Johannesburg is a city that has never stopped growing. The area grew so rapidly that it was already a functioning city before it was even given a name. It was only formally named in the late 1920s. As with all major industrial sectors, labour is a much-needed resource that attracts people from all over the country and the world. This is still true today; Gauteng is the smallest province yet the most densely populated and boasts of the highest GDP per capita. In the 1936 The Star publication “Like it was” reported on the public’s opinion of Johannesburg. Many referred to the love of money and materialism. However one respondent, S Millant, claimed it to be a city built on the “traditions that enable men from all over the world to live together in tolerance and humanity.”
Today, Johannesburg is a city that emphasises the latter rather than the former—a diverse city. January marks the “mass exodus” of twenty-somethings who move to Johannesburg from all over the country in pursuit of developing their career. When the word exodus is used, you can imagine that most of the people you meet on a daily basis are not from Johannesburg. As a result there is a large population of graduates all in the same stage of life living in a new city.
Johannesburg is trendy because it holds the greatest South African city living experience as a reality. Instead of quite drives from A to B you are flung onto the ring road where drivers are playing Tetris at 120 kilometers an hour between five lanes. The most influential players in the country are calling the shots on country-wide matters; while most Joburgers are fighting the daily battle between fatigue and a growing ambition. Johannesburg is a fast-paced lifestyle that never ceases to create new opportunities for young individuals. Life never slows down.
The most exciting part of Johannesburg is the actual city, the old Central Business District that has the most prominent city Skyline in South Africa. It is both an area where you half fear for your life while excitedly pursue deeper in-between the concrete helms. Once you have entered into the city it is difficult to throw off any invite to return.
In the past year, serious private investments have been pushed into areas of the inner-city such as Maboneng. Trendy apartments, corner coffee shops, street art and creatives have come to be the dominant trend. Maboneng is the Sesotho word for light; a light that is spreading throughout the inner city. The neo-hipsters could not be happier. Moving to Johannesburg is very much like this. It is scary—you find yourself half fearing for your life, but once you have arrived it’s a lot more difficult to leave.
A piece for Archetype Online Magazine. Photo by Dillon du Plessis.