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Big city living

Liezl Hesketh in Life skills 

Surviving in big city

Surviving the move from town to city

“Growing up and watching my brothers come home for the holidays, the way they talked and what they’ve experienced in the city, made me want to see the big lights and buildings for myself. Even though I planned it over and over in my mind, when that day finally came I was not ready to leave the village behind. But I knew it had to be done in order to better my life and the lives of those around me.  I asked my brother if I could join him to Johannesburg and although I was anxious about the trip, being with him helped eased my fears.

The sights and sounds of Johannesburg were overwhelming. At the taxi rank, hundreds of marshals tried to persuade us to take their taxis away from the chaos. Once on the road, people pushed and shoved as they tried to get in and out of the taxi, while impatient drivers hooted non-stop to grab the attention of possible passengers. Traffic was a nightmare as we made our way towards Tembisa and I was relieved to have my feet back on solid ground again when we arrived.

For me, accommodation was already sorted as my brother insisted that I stay with him. That helped a lot as I later learned that if you do not secure accommodation before you leave home, you might end up sleeping at the police station or at a stranger’s house who may take advantage of you. Today, I am used to Joburg and the ways of life here, but I will never forget my first week in the City of Gold.”


It takes guts and a lot of dreaming to leave your town or village and move to a big city. Here are a few survival tips for when you first arrive.

How to survive life in the city

Be realistic. The city may present you with more opportunities to improve your life and pursue your dreams, but life in the city can lack the compassion and support you know at home. You are going to feel overwhelmed and scared, but remind yourself of why you took the leap in the first place and soon the city will feel like your new home.

Know where to go. Even if you’re staying with a friend or relative, have the address of where you’ll be staying written down in a safe place so you can reach them by yourself if need be. If you don’t know anyone, the best option is to secure your accommodation before you leave home because wandering around looking for a place to stay is not a safe option. Phone your landlord a week before you arrive and again on the day before to confirm your accommodation and date of arrival.

Moving around. If you’re not being met by a relative or friend you will need to use public transport, which can be a daunting experience. Taxis, buses and trains operate almost non-stop, but knowing which route to take can be a challenge. If you know where you are going, ask a friend or relative before leaving home which taxi or bus to take to get you to your final destination. If you have a bigger budget, download the UBER App – your personal taxi which will take you from A to B effortlessly.  If possible, try not to ask strangers for directions – rather use Google Maps.

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Stay connected. Charge your phone beforehand and load it with airtime and data so you can remain in contact with people at home or make arrangements when you arrive. In the event of your phone being stolen or lost, it is wise to store a hard copy of the most important names, numbers and addresses in your luggage.

Cash is king but only if you’re sensible. Have some cash available for transport and possible emergencies, but don’t flash it around or it might be stolen. Negotiate with your landlord to pay your deposit and first month’s rent by EFT when you arrive to avoid travelling with too much cash.

Settling in comfortably. Before you leave home, consider where you’ll be living and pack a few things that will help you to survive, or at least make you more comfortable. A blanket or two, basic groceries if you’ll be living alone, something that reminds you of home, enough toiletries and clothes are always good options to consider.

Safety first. Follow the obvious safety guidelines of, not walking around alone at night, not accepting rides from strangers and not inviting anyone into your room who you don’t know. Be wary of strangers and trust your instincts because there are many people who may want to take advantage of you.

There are always people looking for roommates to help share the burden of monthly rent. If you are looking for affordable accommodation, start by registering a renter’s profile from your mobile phone or computer on and stay up to date with the latest listings in the area that you prefer.

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” – Hellen Keller