10 Reasons We Love JoziJohannesburg, South Africa

Often people hear my accent and ask me where I’m from. When I say Canada, most of the time their response is…”Soooo… what on earth are you doing in Joburg?” The truth is, we weren’t planning on staying in Johannesburg when we arrived. AJ was born and raised here, did the UCT thing and then travelled through Asia where we met. She had no desire to return to Joburg in the years she was away. Towards the end of our time in Hong Kong, something in her changed and this desire sprung up in both of us to spend a bit of time in Johannesburg on the way to Canada. At the time, we were filling in AJ’s immigration papers and the process was well under way. In our minds, Joburg was a pit stop on the way to Toronto.

Three and a half years later we find ourselves asking the question, “What happened?” Well… Jozi happened. That’s probably the best way of explaining it. We got caught up in it’s madness and it’s magic. Here are ten (of the many) reasons why we love living here.

1. The people.

We don’t have the mountain or the beach but boy do we have beautiful people! These smiles are in a league of their own. The diversity of people, the different stories (both good and bad), the faces, all have such depth to them. Joburgers are some of the friendliest people we have ever come across, never afraid to chat to strangers and share a laugh. Here people have many fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters. We see the face of God in all the colours, cultures and vibrant expressions.

In the other cities, the plethora of outdoor activities seem to make it harder to connect with people. We have outdoor activities in Joburg, but it seems people want to do these things together. Jozi feels like a big family! Here, so much activity revolves around family, friends, drinks and the preparing and sharing of food around a table.

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2. The creativity

Johannesburg’s creativity is attracting the world’s attention. Creative people are flocking and finding limitless possibilities here. The street art, the exhibitions, the photography, the music, the designers, the architects and other makers are producing world-class work. There are creative people everywhere, but when a city acknowledges them and gives them space to express themselves in the public eye, something magical happens. People take ownership of their city because they have been given an opportunity to leave their mark on it. They have participated in making it the beautiful and unique place that it is. One look at a Johannesburg events calendar and you realize that there is always something on here!

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3. Urban renewal

We were in New York City a few months ago and my uncle shared the city’s history with me. He talked about how in the 70’s, people cleared out of the city in order to live the American dream – a free standing home, more land and a white picket fence. Ultimately parts of the city were left vacant and as a result, vagrants moved into empty buildings, drug use became a major problem and most of the inner city became unsafe. Some years later, people started moving back into the city, despite the danger, because real estate was so cheap and they saw its possibilities. Over time, New York was restored from a run down, dangerous place into a city that attracts millions from all around the world. As he told me the story I was bubbling with enthusiasm, knowing that here in Johannesburg we are in the midst of our own story in the making. We are in the space New York was in 30 years ago!

What’s happening in Braamfontein, Maboneng, Kramerville and other areas is incredible. The borders of these precincts are ever expanding into spaces where people don’t feel afraid anymore. As fear disintegrates, and we realize we are all one, barriers in our minds and walls of division start to fall down. These are places full of young people with a beautiful vision for the city. People who don’t believe in the word “impossible”.

I love how an app like Instagram has gotten so many people walking through the city, capturing the beauty that has always been there.

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4. The possibilities

Johannesburg is a place of infinite possibilities. People come here from all over Africa (and other countries) because they hear the rumour that Joburg is a land of opportunity. I experienced this feeling as soon as I landed in Joburg. You just feel like anything is possible. You feel like you can succeed and make a difference here. There is so much creative energy, which stirs people to dream big. With this feeling in the atmosphere, good stuff happens. Lives are being transformed, babies are being rescued, good NGO’s are starting, small businesses are taking off and people have hope. I get the feeling like people are on a journey together. There is a sense of “I can help you and you can help me, so let’s work together.”

5. The food & coffee

Like I stated earlier, so much revolves around food and relationships here. It helps that we have amazing coffee, incredible restaurants and new places opening up all the time. The urban food halls and markets allow us to taste street food and other treats from around the globe, and they make you feel like you are partaking in a big family dinner. We have set a goal this year to try a new restaurant every week! I think it’s doable, considering all the new places that keep popping up.

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6. The sunsets

There is nothing like the African sky. As photographers we find ourselves quite active during the golden hour, so we get to see our fair share of sunsets and they always take our breath away. We love the way everything takes on new life as the sun is in its final visible moments. The sunsets here are like living paintings that are ever changing. If you look away, you’ll miss another unique blend of colour and light.

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7.The storms

Is there anything like the extremity of a full fledged Gauteng thunderstorm? It’s always a rush to unplug all the electronics and close the windows and doors when a storm suddenly hits.

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8. The skyline/buildings

Joburg has such a variety of buildings. Old and new. Abandoned and restored. We love them all. It’s a great adventure to find new vantage points from which to view the city! There are lots of rooftops with amazing views that you can access right in the middle of town too. The buildings all have stories behind them. We wonder who lived in them before they became rundown and what they were like in their day. We wonder how many people live in them now and what their stories are. The buildings reveal the history and the unfolding story of this amazing city.

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9. The parks and tree lined streets

There’s something magical about these old trees lining the streets, especially when the Jacarandas turn purple and the leaves blanket the roads. It is like an imaginary world that we really are a part of. Getting up high and seeing this enormous man made forest leaves you awestruck.

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10. T.I.A.

Joburg has a way of constantly reminding you that “This Is Africa.” Its smorgasbord of cultures and situations throw predictability out the window. From load shedding to mattresses strapped to roofs of small cars, there is always enough to keep you shaking your head with wonder or having a fat chuckle. People get irritated with these situations but always remind yourself that T.I.A. and you will end up having a good laugh. I find myself frequently asking questions like, “How did they get so many people in that car?” Or “How is that door still attached to that taxi?” If you have a sense of humour you will end up kind of appreciating these situations. They remind you of how unique Joburg’s people really are.

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  • Cyni said:

    love you guys and your view of JOYburg! Thanks for sharing it with your stunning photos xxx

  • Lumari van der Merwe said:

    Great writing and interpretation of my Home City - a refreshing article amongst all the sad and worrying one's - especially for an expat that wants to come home xxx

  • Correne said:

    Kris this is incredible! I just LOVE your positivity and outlook on our beautiful city, especially for someone who is from one of the safest countries in the world! As the saying goes, "behind every cloud is a silver lining". I needed this. I'm so tired of only ever reading about the bad things in our city - not many people ever focus on its beauty and diversity! Thank you!

  • Matt said:

    Just moved out of Joburg after a year there, and I'll miss it dearly. The people really and truly are fantastic. I have trouble explaining to American family and friends that it's the most brilliant city I've lived in. Jozi you're something special.

  • Megan said:

    This actually made me cry, I spent 12 years away from jo'burg and the first time I stepped foot out if the airport, my heart swelled and was immediately full of love and awe and I had been away since I was 10. I remembered some of it, but never really knew just why I didn't fit in in the UK and why I never felt happy or comfortable there, but the day I stepped off that plane for a visit 9 years after I had left, I knew why. I moved back two years after that and married my childhood friend. I am so happy here, we have had incidents of crime, yet I still love this place and I understand that the poverty is what causes it. I am always trying to encourage people to stop the negativity and live for this beautiful, wonderful place. I know there is nowhere else in the world quite like it. Thank you for your article and beautiful pictures! :-)

  • sorin said:

    Really interesting and positive thinking article, nice artistic pictures, carefully chosen for posting. But, far from the real life. Unfortunatelly, the truth is different. Better said, opposite. What about being robbed, at 6 pm, on Smit Street? What about being afraid to walk, mainly after 5 pm, the streets in Braamfontein, Park and surroundings? What about the dirt in Joubert Park? What about the absolute architectural buildings that became living ruins? What about being afraid to talk on your cell phone whilst walking the street? Some might say I am showing too much negativity. Not at all, there should be a balance in everything, see both faces of the mirror. As someone said, too much poverty. Jozi is a symbol that's becoming obsolete. No intention to offend anyone, but something needs to be done. Visiting Jo'burg for days or weeks might produce the wrong impression that it is a normal environment. It is not. Normal is to feel free, no fear, no turning heads at every corner. And Jozi inhabitants can change that. Only them! Good luck!

    • Page & Holmes said:

      Hi Sorin,

      Thanks for your thoughts. Please note that this post is entitled, "10 Reasons We Love Jozi". We have been here 3 1/2 years, my wife grew up here. We have seen crime and had incidents in our immediate family but we can see amazing things happening in this city. The article wasn't meant to be a full analysis of the positive and negative situations in Joburg. The negative is being proclaimed daily in newspapers, tv, radio and most people's conversation. Often this stops people from seeing any good when there is lots around us. If this blog has inspired one person to appreciate this city then it was worth it. Cheers!

  • Page & Holmes said:

    Thank you for your heart felt thoughts everyone. It's amazing to hear the stories of others who appreciate this city and its people like we do!

  • Adi said:

    Thanks for posting this. It's great to see some positives amongst all the negatives that we hear daily. Nice to see tht you guys have stayed. Also beautiful photos.

  • Karyn Todd said:

    I adore Jozi! As you say, the people are truly amazing! I was born and raised in Jozi but left in my 20's as we were transferred to Port Elizabeth and then to Cape Town. I lived in Cape Town for 24 years but then moved back to Jozi and fell in love with the city again. I lived there for almost 3 years and can honestly say I met the most awesome people, went to some amazing places and never felt threatened or unsafe. Yes, I took the normal precautions but never felt I had to keep looking over my shoulder!
    Cape Town is truly beautiful, but I find the people to be most unfriendly, most of the time! Jozi people are the BEST!

  • Clare said:

    Thanks so much for this. I'm migrating to the Eastern Cape, but it was good to read, anyway. When my family moved here 20 years ago I got funny looks from other white people when I boarded taxis, much of the city centre was a no-go zone, and I thought the Chinese shop in my local shopping centre was exotic. I am glad and thankful that these aspects have changed.

    I wonder if you've been to the Mexican restaurant in Maboneng with the Taiwanese proprietor?

    • Page & Holmes said:

      Hi Clare we just had dinner at Mama Mexican last week actually! Very good food at amazing prices! It must be amazing for you to see the ongoing development and renewal happening in the city.

  • Lumka said:

    This is beautiful....just like Joburg

  • Doug said:

    Inspiring!!!

  • Vic said:

    Great post! It's been 3 months since we left JHB to follow God's call to Canada - the only reason to leave such an awesome city. We're hoping to keep our Jozi DNA in a nation & city which also celebrates diversity, while at the same time, allowing TO/Canada to also reshape us:)

  • You gave me goose-flesh with this post!!! Thank you for restoring my faith in our beautiful city. With all that is happening its like a breath of fresh air.

  • Bron said:

    Brilliant! I moved away from Joburg to get married to a Capetonian and now we have followed God's call to London for a season, hoping to head home soon to visit our stunning country(and family&friends). London is stunning in it's diversity but it can't compare to SA. I do miss our beautiful African sunsets! And the people are just truly so warm,lively and lovely- especially after being exposed to the London culture of avoiding eye contact on the tube! :P Haha, I still try give a few smiles to share my "South African-ness"! :) Thanks for the article,I really enjoyed it and now I really can't wait to get home for a visit! :) Love hearing about the good! Stunning pics!

  • Jackie said:

    Based on the responses so far, and the stirring in my own heart, I think you guys need to do more of these posts and share them until they are viral. Joburgers need to be encouraged about what makes this city unique, and beautiful. Everyone's so tired of all the bad - and, as you know, there is much - but to find the beauty in the midst of it: that gives hope, you know? Love your images and your perspective. My absolute favourite is the one where you're looking up the side of the building, with the paint peeling off. Just brilliant.

    PS: "Found" you by way of Maboneng's facebook page. Officially a fan.

    • Page & Holmes said:

      Thank you for your words Jackie. They resonate deeply with me. We would love to do more posts like this. I find it amazing that when we put words to what we see and feel, people just emerge out of all these different places and walks of life and say, "Yes! This resonates with me. This is what I see and feel too!" These are very exciting times to be in Joburg in our opinion. Thanks again!

  • edwina said:

    Jozie, I love you already & can't wait to get to know you more intimately and enjoy your beauty and diversity. Reading about you has aroused my curiosity & enthusiasm. Thank you Page and Holmes for sharing your deep feelings for your city. A city flourishes when its residents love and care for her! See you soon!

  • rachel zinserling said:

    loved every bit of it..

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