More families moving to the Cape than ever before - here's why, and what it's really like

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Cape Town offers more natural spaces, but can be cold an unwelcoming, according to one family who made the move.
Cape Town offers more natural spaces, but can be cold an unwelcoming, according to one family who made the move.

Semigration (or semi-emigration), the act of moving from one city or province to another within your home country, is by no means unique to South Africa

Still, it has become a prevalent trend since the Covid-19 pandemic sent South African's into disarray. 

This is partly attributed to the increase in remote work and flexible options, making it possible to work in one part of the country and live in another.

We speak to a family who made the move already, another who is moving soon, and hear from the Executive Head at Somerset College to find out more about what motivates families to make the trek south.

Better quality of life and less crime 

"Before Covid, the trend was less obvious, but approximately 30% of our admissions are from families wanting to relocate to the area from Gauteng, and because we have boarding facilities, some send their children ahead. This number has steadily increased since the beginning of the year," Graham Sayer, Executive Head at Somerset College, tells Parent24. 

The allure of the Cape has for many years been the reason many people commute each week, but now that those same people can work from home, there is an ever greater pull out of the big cities. 

"In addition, the Western Cape is perceived to have good infrastructure, better quality of life and less crime," he adds.

Before taking the plunge, it is important to list the pros and cons involved in the big decision to relocate and those who consider semigration have a definite tick-off list, Sayer suggests. 

Three of the most important factors are: excellent school opportunities, options for remote work, and a different way of life where there is less of a rat race and more slowing down.

In essence, the decision to semigrate is a lifestyle choice.

More efficient government services 

We spoke to a mom of one who moved from Pretoria to Cape Town just before the lockdown. Retha shared that she and her husband chose to move due to his job - there were better opportunities and higher salaries available in Cape Town. 

Other attractions included the natural splendor, safety and security, which she says is "way better than Gauteng, which also allows you to actually do things outdoors".

Retha added that they also enjoy the more efficient government services, more interesting nature-based activities for children, and the fresher air. 

The family's work-life balance is greatly improved, too. 

Cold and unwelcoming  

It's not all perfect, though, and Retha says she misses her community. "Cape Town has a social immune system that identifies and rejects foreign bodies," she jokes. 

More seriously, though, in her experience, some areas can be cold and unwelcoming. 

In her experience, some Capetonians will pull up their noses when they hear where she is from or make snide comments. 

"People don't engage with strangers in public spaces like we would in Gauteng - a nod, a smile, an acknowledgement. It can feel extremely isolating."

As for what it was like to start a family in Cape Town, she stresses, "Hell. Do not do it. Have your kiddos at home first, then come." 

This, Retha says, is because of a lack of support and community. "I was really lucky to have found a small group of neighbours who supported me, without which I would have drowned," she says. 

Because Retha's family and social circles are in Gauteng, support is much more available there. 

She says the family seldom visits home due to the distance and expense. Moving back to Gauteng one day is an option, she adds. 

A small price to pay 

A single mom of two, Nazraya tells us that she is moving her family to Cape Town because she sees it as a better quality of life for her children, with safer towns and less pollution. 

"My children will have a better quality of life, where they can play outside and not worry too much about strangers interfering with them. I just feel that it's a much safer environment in Cape Town than it is in Johannesburg, as it stands today," she says.

Nazraya admits she will miss the rat race and the potential of earning a higher salary, or so her perception goes, but that's a small price to pay for a better and safer upbringing for the children, she says. 

She's confident about the decision, sharing that it feels like a good move, one that is much needed. 

"I am a bit uneasy about adapting and settling in, but that comes with any major change or lifestyle improvement." 

She plans to visit Johannesburg once a month for work, for face to face client interactions. "Everything is pretty much online as it stands today and I will without a doubt take full advantage of that, so won't miss out on too much,"  she adds. 

Nazraya says she doesn't imagine ever moving back. "Once we move down, that would be it for us - the next move will be to settle with family in Australia or Europe."   

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