February 29, 2016

So You've Been Held Up By South African Traffic Police? You're Not the First One.

Last week, I told you how to go about transferring your foreign driver's license to a South African one. Or how to just go ahead and use your foreign license if you're only a temporary resident and can't get a South African license.

Today, we'll take a look at what might come next.

So you've done your homework. You've followed all my advice, and you start happily driving on South African roads. Until one beautiful Sunday morning - it always happens on a Sunday morning - you come to an abrupt halt.

Road block. 

License please! You proffer your foreign license to the outstretched hand, somewhat confidently.

"Aaaah, you from USA!" says the policeman.

You beam at him.

"It's such a nice car you have, Mami," he goes on. You can tell he is leading up to something. "Can I see your Traffic Register Number," he goes on.

Bam! Right into the thick of things.

Now, I don't want to get into Traffic Register Numbers here. But you should know that you are not required to carry this document with you. It can't hurt to have a copy in your car, but it's not required. (For advice on what exactly you should carry in your glove compartment, read Plan B for When the Cops Stop Me Again.)

Because you have paid attention, you know this, and tell the policeman that you know it and that he should know it too.

But oh, he's a wily one. New tack:

"Your husband, where he works, Mami?"

You have no idea why this is relevant, but you tell the policeman the place of your husband's employment.

"Is this car registered to your husband?"

You admit that yes, it is. You take silent note that some sweat has formed under your arms.

"Then where is the written permission from your husband to drive his car?"

At this point, you might be forgiven to feel a slight sense of panic. Don't.

Instead, you patiently explain that no, there is no such permission letter, and that no such thing is required. Your answer should be the same if you're asked for any number of other documents you supposedly need, like your passport, a marriage certificate, or perhaps a letter from his Excellency the American Ambassador to South Africa allowing you to drive on its roads.

Whatever you do, please, oh puh-leeeeeeease do not pay a bribe just because your patience is wearing thin. In fact, a bit of patience is all that's required to weather this particular storm. You've made it this far, and now you wait him out, you show that you are that rare breed, a white woman with time on her hands, to slightly rephrase the words of one of my favorite African authors, Peter Godwin. Don't worry if he threatens to take you to the police station or even jail. No expat has ever been taken to a South African jail as a result of a traffic stop.

How do I know this?

Because I would have heard about it. I've become the go-to expert for South African traffic cop stories, whether they are my own or those of other people. So far, no jails. It would be far too much hassle for a traffic cop to make good on this threat (read the first comment below to see this confirmed.) But I'd love to be proven otherwise, so if you've recently spent time in a South African jail as a result of a traffic violation, please tell us your tale!

And now I wish you safe and happy travels on South Africa's roads.

February 22, 2016

How to Convert your Foreign Driver's License to a South African Driver's License

Of all the bureaucratic headaches assaulting you when moving to South Africa, perhaps none is as fraught with angst and speculation as that of the driver's license.

But don't despair. It's really not as big of a problem as it's made out to be. In fact, most likely it won't be a problem at all for you. I remember fretting about my driver's license to no end both prior to moving and during the first months of our life in Johannesburg, and in hindsight it wasn't a big deal at all.

Before we even get into more detail, let me say this:

If you are in South Africa on any kind of temporary visa (such as business permit, work permit, study permit, retired person's permit), you do not need (and actually cannot have) a South African driver's license. Period.

Sounds simple, right? But oh, you will say, how do I then drive in South Africa? The answer is, you use your license from back home or from whichever country issued the license currently in your possession. The rules are such that for temporary residents residing in the country, South Africa honors any driver's license that a) has their picture on it, b) is valid, and c) is issued in the English language. If all that applies to you, read no further. While your license hasn't expired, you're good to go. (If you'd like to hear the story of how I arrived at this conclusion, click here.)

A perfectly fine driver's license for South Africa

If your driver's license is not issued in the English Language

If your driver's license is not issued in the English language, you are best served with obtaining an international driving permit. In the U.S., that is easily obtained at AAA, for a fee of $10 or $15. You have to obtain this permit in your home country. But the thing is, if your regular license is already in English, you do not need an international license. It's an unwieldy piece of paper that looks nothing like a license, and most South African police officers will regard it with more suspicion than your regular credit-card sized foreign license.

The other trouble with an international driving permit is that it's only valid for one year. At the end of which time you'll have to get it renewed in your home country. So again, I'd only advise getting one if your original license is in a language other than English. (Or, for that matter, in a language other than one of  South Africa's 11 official languages. If your license was issued in, say, Southern Sotho, you're in luck!)

If you are a permanent instead of temporary resident of South Africa

This is where we get to the actual topic of this blog post. If you're a permanent resident of South Africa, not only are you now able to obtain a South African driver's license, you are obligated to do so. You do, however, have a one-year grace period to make this happen. Oh, the irony. You've just gone through months of tedious paperwork, you've almost despaired over the obduracy at the Department of Home Affairs, and now that you finally hold that coveted 13-digit South African ID number, you get saddled with more paperwork!

The good news is, you won't have to take any driving or even written test. You can simply convert your foreign license to a South African one. I know this from one of my readers who is American and lives in South Africa. I assume this is true for any other valid foreign license, but I can't guarantee it. I will just repeat what she said about her particular case:

"You have to get a letter from the state (all available for a fee online for Florida) your license is from, detailing what your license allows you to do (vehicle weight, etc.). You take your license and this letter to the SA driving license bureau who sends it to the capital of the province to be verified [Johannesburg in the case of Gauteng]. One month later +/- you get a call and you go for your eye test and photo. Two weeks later you get the hard copy as they don't do it immediately. You don't lose your USA license [as I've heard is true in some European countries when you transfer your license], they make a copy and they issue you a temporary certificate before you get the laminated version. My driver's license experience in SA was EASY EASY EASY in comparison to dealing with home affairs."

But it's South Africa, guys - no two licensing offices are going to have the same rules

The above is how it should work, in theory. But if I've learned anything during 3 years in South Africa, it is that not all government offices are created equal. Every one of them seems to fly by their own set of rules, and perhaps a yet other sets of rules depending on the day, or the weather. This seems to be confirmed by a comment from another reader:

"A colleague of mine is trying to do the conversion in Joburg (Marlboro) and he has been there 5 times trying to do it. And he was told he has to turn in his Indian license and still take the driving test. They tell him the only advantage is that he doesn't have to wait in the longer line. The whole thing makes no sense to me at all... he does have that letter from the Indian DMV but the lady in Marlboro is still saying he needs to take the driving test, she says how do we know if you can really drive or not? It sound like Marlboro is creating their own rules, he showed her what it says about the exchange on Home Affairs site and she said that doesn't have anything to do with them, they are not Home Affairs."
I can just picture the whole scene and the frustration to go with it, and it makes me miss South Africa one teensy bit less. I dimly remember Marlboro being mentioned in another South African bureaucracy horror story. I always did okay with the Randburg licensing office, relatively speaking. But sadly you don't actually have a choice of where to go, as it's based on where you live.

If your foreign license expires while you're still in South Africa

The best scenario would be for you to attain permanent residence in South Africa before this happens, and go the route described above. However, you may be a temporary resident longer than your foreign license is valid, and in this case you will need to renew it to continue driving in South Africa.

Again, my first reader shared some valuable information about this:

"I've renewed my Florida license from South Africa with special permission. I had to email a copy of an eye test done here and a reason why I couldn't come in person, and the Florida DMV sent both my husband and me new licenses. All done online. We used a friend's address because we don't have a mailing address in FL, but the DMV mailed to our SA address for us (and we got it in ten days unlike Christmas cards that are still arriving). Apparently they have it all set up to do for military personnel that find themselves in a similar predicament."
This process is confirmed by another reader who did the same in Colorado:

"I renewed my Colorado license online the same way. In Colorado you may only do this once before you need to have your eyesight checked, etc."

Sounds pretty straightforward. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to assume that most other states, or even countries, have similar procedures. It would be a good idea to research all this with plenty of time to spare. And above all, don't leave for South Africa without renewing your license right then and there, so that you have a good number of years left before having to put the renewal process to the test.

On the rare chance that you don't have a driver's license at all (or let your old one expire) and find yourself arriving in a country that has really bad public transport, you may have to obtain your South African driver's license from scratch. To know how that's done, read the comments below - one reader shares a wonderful story about her ordeal to become the proud owner of a South African license at age 50!

All this might still not be enough when...

...you actually start driving in South Africa.

But that's a story for another day.

February 17, 2016

Getting my African Safari Fix at Everglades National Park

Much has been said in the expat community about culture shock and its sneaky twin, reverse culture shock. Meaning you come home thinking you’re glad to return to all that is dear and familiar, and instead you find yourself desperately missing that crazy foreign land with all its bumps and warts.

I knew about that kind of culture shock. I thought I was prepared for it. But in all honesty, something much simpler afflicts the expat returned from Africa: You miss your safaris.

Perhaps I was particularly fortunate to have traveled so widely, and not everyone is as spoiled as I have been. When I think back to Africa, I think of a place where you can wake up to a baboon’s bark; take pictures of giraffes striding across an orange-streaked sky; or glide through the reeds in an ancient mokoro, steered by an almost as ancient Tswana guide, and watch elephants swim across the Okavango with their trunks held high for air. The more time goes by, the more glorious these images appear in my mind, and the harder it is to find something here that can live up to that experience.

What set these safaris apart was a combination of two things: breathtaking scenery and that jolt of adrenaline you experience when coming face to face with pointy teeth. And this, my friends, is precisely what I got treated to on a recent visit of Everglades National Park, about as far from Africa as you can be.

The scenery:

Exploring the Everglades by Airboat

The adrenaline:

It’s hard to believe I’d never been to the Everglades before, since I’ve been to Florida many times. But somehow we always ended up touring that other Florida attraction where, come to think of it, adrenaline is not in short supply either, and where you just as doggedly pursue your quarry for that perfect photograph as you do on an African safari, except you also ask it for a signature. (Somewhere in our basement, a collection of autographed princess pictures is gathering dust.)

Everglades National Park was established in 1934 to protect the dwindling wetlands of Southern Florida, and today only covers 20% of the original Everglades. And yet it is still the 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It's the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and the largest wilderness area of any kind east of the Mississippi. It's not only home to countless species of birds but also much more exciting creatures, like the Florida panther and the American crocodile. No, I'm not making a mistake. There are indeed crocodiles in the Everglades, though you probably won't trip over one anytime soon, as they've only recently been taken off the endangered species list.

What you will, however, most likely trip over as soon as you enter the park, is the tail of an alligator. I was visiting my brother who’d made his temporary home in the Fort Myers area to escape the Northern European winter, and on our very first morning we drove to Shark Valley, one of four visitor centers for Everglades National Park. With untypical simplicity, we rented two bikes and set off along the path to the park's interior. It was untypical in that all we had to do was leave our driver's licenses at the window and grab a bike each. No complicated disclaimers to sign, no lectures about any dangers that might lurk, no warning signs admonishing us to take gallons and gallons of water. It felt like I was back in Africa.

It looks like it's disappearing into the water, but in fact they were just laying there like that
with their butts turned to the road.

Same picture with bike so you can see how close we passed by them.

We hadn't even pedaled one minute along the path to the observation tower deep inside the park, when I came to a screeching halt. I'd almost gone over what looked like the shredded rubber of an old truck tire sprawled on the side of the road. Instead, it was an alligator tail, its owner lazing in the sunshine with its head resting at the water's edge. What excitement to park our bikes and take pictures with an actual alligator in the background! Back on the bikes we climbed and went on our way, only to stop again just 50 yards down the road, because here was an even bigger alligator. We soon realized we couldn't possibly take pictures of every one of them, as they were simply everywhere. It was winter in Florida, and these gators were enjoying the warm sunshine outside of the chilly water.

As time went on, we got more cocky and walked right up to them to get a better shot. Except they are never really fully asleep. If you come too close, they open up one eye and follow your every movement. It's a look that says "come one step closer and you'll regret it, lady!" Most of them want to be left alone and will lumber into the water to get away, but I can tell you that the sudden movement of an alligator you thought was sleeping is enough to make you want to pee your pants.

If coming so close to a predator you could count his teeth wasn't enough, then the sweeping landscapes of the Everglades did their part in transporting me back to Africa. To Botswana, to be precise. Like the Okavango Delta, the Everglades are essentially a vast river system covering a large area of land. You might think of either of them as a swamp if you've never seen them, but nothing could be further from the truth. The water is completely clear in both places; instead of stagnant like in a swamp, it moves surprisingly fast. The  difference between the two is that in Florida, the water travels all the way to the coast where it seeps into the ocean, whereas the Okavango Delta has no outlet, making it the largest inland delta in the world.

Another difference? The kinds of water-dwelling mammals you come across.

Hippos in the Okavango, Botswana 2012

Manatees in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida 2016. (Just to be clear, these manatee pictures were
not taken in the Everglades, though they do live in its coastal areas as well.)

I can highly recommend an outing to Everglades National Park. It's a whole lot easier to get to than the Okavango Delta, but once you're there, you'll feel that same serenity, that sense of remoteness. And the sense of gratitude that your guide knows where the hell he is driving that boat.*

*Airboat rides are not offered inside Everglades National Park but there are many providers just outside the park gates.

If you've liked this post, you might also enjoy Dewees Island: Safari on the Beach.

February 8, 2016

Finishing Matric in South Africa - Then What?

If you've been a reader of this blog for some time, you'll know that I have written plenty of blog posts about education at South African schools. I've covered the debate of international vs local private school, I've talked about the value of foreign language instruction even in such "exotic" languages as Zulu and Afrikaans, languages admittedly not very "useful" in the Western world, and I've even delved into the virtues of a different approach to sex education.

What I haven't delved into, however, is higher education, i.e. going to college. South Africans call it varsity. If you have high school age children and are moving to South Africa from abroad, or already have been living there and your children are approaching the end of their school career, it is most likely a topic that causes quite a bit of anxiety in you.

If you're an American expat family in South Africa, should your high school age children plan
to apply to an American university or a South African one?

I know this because we had nearly arrived at that point. It was 2012, our oldest was halfway through 10th grade, and it was time to start looking at university options. To be clear, I didn't really feel like it was time quite yet, but following from afar I could tell that my American peers - meaning my friends and fellow mothers - were busy as beavers building their child's resume and diving headlong into what I had privately dubbed "The College Prep Rat Race." Any quick scan of Facebook reminded me daily that so-and-so's son was applying to summer school at Harvard and that another's daughter had taken the SAT for the third time and scored a 2,300. (I further explore this "college application from afar" dilemma in my recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Expat College Admissions: A Bit Like Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.)

We are now back in the United States, and our oldest is in his first year at the University of Tennessee, our new home state. All is well and he is happy there.

But three years ago, it wasn't at all clear that he would, in fact, attend an American university. As the time drew nearer to start taking the first SAT test, to start looking up universities online, to perhaps tour a campus or two, I felt like we needed to take some first steps regarding his university education. South Africans seem to be much less crazy with worry about where their offspring will end up - even though it's a fact that it is much harder to score one of the few university spots in a country that has much catching up to do to educate its entire populace - and so our local school, even though we were happy with it, wasn't much help.

Where would our son be better off going to university? South Africa or the United States?

If you graduate from a high school in the United States, the choice of where to apply for college
seems straightforward. Not so when you attend high school overseas.

I decided to get an expert opinion. To this effect I contacted Andrea van Niekerk with an organization calledCollege Goals based in California. Andrea got her undergraduate degree in her native South Africa and went to the United States for graduate school. I thought that she might be able to give some valuable advice based on her work as well as her own background.

I found her advice interesting: Where your kids are best off going to university depends on many factors, of course, but aside from anything else, Andrea's main criteria was what field of study the student is interested in. If it's very specific, South Africa would be a good choice, she felt. If he or she is leaning more towards liberal arts, the United States would probably be the better option.

Please find below our entire email exchange, which Andrea has kindly permitted me to share with you:

Joburg Expat: We have four kids, the oldest of them now in grade 10 at a South African private school. Our idea was always to have him attend a U.S. university, but the longer we live here, the less I’m sure. If we stay another two years and he finishes matric here, I don’t see why he might not want to attend a South African university instead. My plan is to have him start visiting some campuses in the U.S. this August when we are there, as well as start visiting some campuses here to get a better understanding of both scenarios. What do you think of a South African education vs a U.S. one? I must say, I’m quite happy to be away from the U.S and the stress of university admissions, but as you say also quite anxious whether we’re missing out on anything. We’re definitely planning to have him take the SAT, either this year or next (or both).

Andrea van Niekerk: Nice to hear from you. I think your questions are pretty typical for many American expats when they are living in countries like South Africa, where the tertiary education is good and the language accessible. Many do in fact choose exactly what you have suggested, sending kids to school in SA. South African universities are very good and those kids will be in good shape to enter American graduate schools after they are done. In that sense, they have the best of all possible worlds. UCT and Wits will inevitably be the best choices under these circumstances, not least because they rank the highest on the continent in world rankings - in fact Max Price, the VC of UCT was here at Stanford a couple of months ago as part of a fundraising tour, given that there are so many UCT alumni around. In short, I think this is a perfectly rational choice.

The question is not so much about the quality of the education, therefore, as the quality of the experience. I would stack my education in history from Wits against the very best in the world, but in the process I did not have the chance to study geology or neuroscience or anything else that i would have loved to explore. If your son studies in the US, of course, that is an option. I think the decision should therefore depend quite simply on whether he wishes for a liberal arts education, or not. if not - if he knows exactly what he wants to do and has little interest in exploring other fields - then SA is a great option: cheaper, shorter and very good. But if he wants the breadth of a liberal arts education and the very specific experience of a residential education, then he may want to think about the US.

Another consideration that I encounter amongst many international families with whom I work, is where the child may win admission. In other words, you may also want to ask, if your son is likely to get into UCT, for example, how that weighs against what his admission options may be in the US depending on his academics.

Finally, another question may also be about the family's plans in the coming years: if you are in SA to stay for several more years, then of course SA universities may be a good option. But if you may relocate to the US in the next year or three, then of course there seems little point to having a child stay behind.

Other people whose advice you may want to seek out, are the US Education Advisors in South Africa. They are themselves Americans who live in SA - Martha Bridgman in Cape Town, for example, has kids who study in SA, and I cannot remember where Susan Knowles in Durban had her kids attend university. You can see their biographies at http://www.usapglobal.org/sa/advisors.htm Hope this helps!

There are more resources to check out on our website at http://collegegoals.com/resources/index.html The blog may have some postings too that could be useful.

If you're Head Boy or Head Girl at a South African school, your chances of getting into a
prestigious South African university such as Wits or University of Cape Town are quite good.

February 3, 2016

55 Tips for the New (and Seasoned) Expat

A while back I started an "Expat Tip of the Day" Twitter campaign to give advice to fellow expats.

Some of these were specific to South Africa (All expats/foreigners HAVE to apply for a Traffic Register Number to buy a car in South Africa), and some were universal expat concerns (Make a spreadsheet of family passport numbers and expiration dates; schedule expiration dates in your calendar).

Since Twitter is not really my thing, this never got a huge following. But I diligently collected all my Twitter tips, thinking I'd one day have enough to publish as a list.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

Until just a few days ago, I came across the hashtag #expatproblems. I thought that #Expattips would make a nice complement to that. Got problems? I got tips!

Except I couldn't just publish the tips as they are. I had to annotate and expand with some snide remarks and more tips. I hope you enjoy this slight departure from my typical expat blog post format.

Without further ado, here is my collected wisdom from collectively 5 years of expat life in Asia and Africa:

#ExpatTip 1:  Make a spreadsheet of family passport numbers and expiration dates; schedule expiration dates in your calendar.

#ExpatTip 2: Make (and keep in a file on your computer) a moving checklist; check out this sample http://bit.ly/1algyph

#ExpatTip 3:  If you don't have a visa, you're not a person, at least in South Africa; apply early, Home Affairs is slooooow! http://www.joburgexpat.com/2014/11/applying-for-south-african-visa.html

#ExpatTip 4:  Carry a passport copy with you when signing up for new services; In SA you'll also need your lease agreement.

#ExpatTip 5: Fly with a folder of family documents (birth certificates, immunization records, etc) rather than shipping them in the container. This is also a good place to mention things you should NOT be putting into your container. Like potatoes. Since they will arrive as #rottenpotatoes #ewwwholdsnose http://www.joburgexpat.com/2014/10/what-expats-shouldnt-let-packers-put-in.html

#ExpatTip 6: All expats/foreigners HAVE to apply for a Traffic Register Number to buy a car in South Africa.http://bit.ly/1alhpGq

#ExpatTip 7: Expats in Johannesburg: apply for a Traffic Register Number (TRN) for your car at the Randburg Licensing Office on Wednesdays from 7:30 to 10:00 am. This at the risk of them changing the times yet again, and some reader yelling at me that I gave terrible advice. To which I can say, you get what you pay for, guys! Donation to my blog, anyone?

#ExpatTip 8:  Make a spreadsheet with all personal numbers (ID/passport, drivers license, health insurance)

#ExpatTip 9: Foreigners can't obtain a South African driver's license unless they are permanent residents.

#ExpatTip 10: A foreign driver's license is valid in South Africa (if in English, current, with picture) http://bit.ly/1a4bk6H. The challenge is to keep it current. You may have to travel half around the world to renew it!

#ExpatTip 11: Don't drive in South Africa without a copy of the SA National Road Traffic Acthttp://bit.ly/1alinT4 

#ExpatTip 12:  Keep a postal address in your home country and have sensitive information (bank statements) sent there http://bit.ly/1a4cf70. Or you will have someone intercept your mail and next thing you know, your overseas bank rep, who, being German, is a very diligent bank rep, call you and wants to know, do you REALLY want 11,000 Euros transferred to an account in Nigeria?

#ExpatTip 13: Do not send anything valuable (any package) to South Africa via regular 
post http://bit.ly/1aljdzd

#ExpatTip 14: Do NOT bribe a cop who is telling you your foreign driver's license is not sufficient; wait it out. Who knows, you might get lucky so you can finally blog about a South African jail from the inside. http://www.joburgexpat.com/2015/04/should-i-bribe-south-african-cops.html

#ExpatTip 15: Keep an address, bank, and credit card in your home country.

#ExpatTip 16: Start exploring immediately; don't wait till the last box is unpacked and your house is perfect. Or you will leave three years later with a perfect house but no exciting adventures to show for. If you're looking for travel tips for South Africa, here is a start: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2014/12/top-10-must-visit-places-in-south-africa.html

#ExpatTip 17: Make a list of attractions in your new city/country for visitors; see Joburg Expat's list http://bit.ly/1aljOB1

#ExpatTip 18: Even the bad parts can have their charm; it helps to write about them. 

#ExpatTip 19: Start a blog for your future self and people back home; and remember, the crappier your mishap, the better the story! Become an #expatblogger. Wordpress or Blogger? That is the question. I have both. http://www.joburgexpat.com/. and http://evamelusinethieme.com/.

#ExpatTip 20: Buy yourself and your kids a Kindle before moving overseas. Not every country has nice libraries. http://bit.ly/1k8jq17

#ExpatTip 21: Go out of your shell to make new friends. Other expats are in the same boat and happy to meet you.

#ExpatTip 22: Reduce your baggage. The less you have, the easier it is to move. And you'll learn that you don't really need all that stuff.

#ExpatTip 23: Don't wait to find a doctor and dentist until you have an emergency. Do some research so you know who to call when you need one: http://bit.ly/MrFRjI

#ExpatTip 24: Don't be #GrumpyExpat; be #SuccessfulExpat. Here's how http://bit.ly/1k8nfU5

#ExpatTip 25: Enroll your kids in a local school if that's an option; continuity is overrated; novelty and adaptability provide better life lessons.

#ExpatTip 26: Understand which voltage is used in your new country. U.S. = 110V, most of rest of world = 220V. http://bit.ly/1k8o6Es

#ExpatTip 27: When in doubt, laughThe difference between dysfunctional and quirky is only a matter of mindset. Can I enter this into a philosophy contest?

#ExpatTip 28: When the power goes out, have coffee with a friend. Here are some Joburg locations: http://bit.ly/MrH62h

#ExpatTip 29: Research a new country using a website catering to expats such as @expatarrivals http://bit.ly/1k8oX82

#ExpatTip 30: When your container is packed, set aside an empty room in the house for items outside of the packers' reach.

#ExpatTip 31: Discuss with your kids who gets which room before moving, or you may never hear the end of it in future years. In fact, it might be best to take notarized statements from everyone.

#ExpatTip 32: Expat spouse? Sign up for services in YOUR name, or you may not be able to access your account: http://bit.ly/1k8pqqS

#ExpatTip 33: Think of the bright side. I may never have received a promised callback in South Africa, but our toilets were never clogged!

#ExpatTip 34: If renting a house in South Africa, take a water and electricity meter reading as soon as you move in. http://bit.ly/1k8pPcE

#ExpatTip 35: Make sure your passport contains several blank pages. A tale of warning if it doesn't: http://bit.ly/1k8pXsJ

#ExpatTip 36: Have a choice between expat locations? Pick the one where you can get domestic help!

#ExpatTip 37: Be informed about hiring domestic help. Here is what it looks like in South Africa: http://www.joburgexpat.com/2012/01/hiring-domestic-help.html

#ExpatTip 38: Find a provider for Uncapped Internet, or you might run out of data quickly. http://bit.ly/1k8qk6P

#ExpatTip 39: Remember that if you want a house with sun exposure in the Southern hemisphere, it needs to be a North-facing house.

#ExpatTip 40: Research and make a list of things to buy before moving. http://bit.ly/1k8qwmm

#ExpatTip 41: DVD players (if you still use them) have different region codes. Best buy a multi-system one before your expat move. 

#ExpatTip 42: Open a local bank account in your new country. 

#ExpatTip 43: Buy plenty of universal adapter plugs and extension strips before your move - see http://bit.ly/MrIrWV for a great model.

#ExpatTip 44: Buy a cheap prepaid cell phone when you arrive in new country; research the perfect plan later when there is more time.

#ExpatTip 45: Before you buy a new Kindle charger for your new country, see if you don't have a Blackberry or Samsung one. They all use a USB compatible charger.

#ExpatTip 46: If you plan to travel in South Africa, let the agent know you are Sout African residents and not from the U.S.,or you'll be overcharged. Ask for the South African price!

#ExpatTip 47: How to make sure you have the right Kindle charger in South Africa http://bit.ly/1gQAK4c

#ExpatTip 48: Get to know your city - a great way for #Johannesburg is the Johannesburg in your Pocket guide http://bit.ly/1gQB1nP

#ExpatTip 49: Research pet import rules to cut down on costs, even if you use a relocation service. South Africa pet relocation advicehttp://bit.ly/1hlV9mM

#ExpatTip 50: What should be on my Expat Moving Checklist? The ultimate list: http://bit.ly/1algyph 

#ExpatTip 51: Don't listen to your mother. DO talk to strangers! http://www.joburgexpat.com/2014/04/do-talk-to-strangers.html

#ExpatTip 52: How Much is Enough - Expat Tips on Tipping http://www.joburgexpat.com/2014/06/how-much-is-enough-expat-tips-on-tipping.html

#ExpatTip 53: Regarding travel again, when visiting Namibia, fly to Windhoek & book rental car FIRST b4 booking flight. MUST get 4x4 vehicle.

#ExpatTip 54 on #petrelocation, check with airline if size of crate fits into cargo hatch. More on moving pets to SA: http://bit.ly/ZHdxju

#ExpatTip 55: Choose the right post office box location wisely. http://www.joburgexpat.com/2012/01/expat-tip-how-to-choose-your-post-box.html

I hope you've been able to find something useful on this list. As always, please leave a comment if I've forgotten anything or accidentally gave the wrong information. Good luck to all future expats in South Africa and beyond!