Expat interview with Soorjaneel Chaterjie - Relocating from Johannesburg to Cape Town
April 14, 2015
Which is your current location? How many expat assignments have you completed?
My current location Cape Town, South Africa. With Crown, this is my second expat location, the earlier being in Johannesburg, South Africa. In my earlier jobs as a logistics & quality professional I had opportunity to work in United Arab Emirates and Bahrain where I served long periods as expat.
Why did you decide to begin this adventure? (explain why you moved)
A new challenge always is exciting to me and that generally triggers any move for me. The story of Africa started when my boss Philip Britton, Vice President (RMS) threw the challenge of taking RMS in Africa to new heights, how could I have resisted that.
What challenges did you face during your relocation? How were they overcome?
For us as a family, especially the one where moving is part of life, this particular relocation was especially challenging. Our only daughter moved to United Kingdom for her higher studies in a few month after we moved to Johannesburg making my wife very lonely. This coupled with the fact that she was unable to move freely in Johannesburg and loss of her mother in first few months made her extremely lonely. But the positive side is that it brought us more close than before and we were talking and supporting each other more and more. Our extended Crown family in Johannesburg were a great support as they understood her situation perfectly and never lost an opportunity to invite her over for any occasion. We are really thankful to them. The local Bengali & Indian community and their various functions too were attended by us religiously and that helped us immensely.Move to Cape Town after almost two years in Johannesburg was like a fresh breath. The sun, sea and mountains plus the independence made her blossom again and she is happy to use the new found freedom to the maximum extent.
List some of the positive aspects of your relocation.
Every relocation, I feel brings new set of learning and makes you more strong as an individual. It also opens your horizon and you get a chance to learn new cultures and customs. Every moment is more exciting than the previous one.
What has surprised you the most upon your arrival in your new location?
Coming from India, the first positive thing we noticed was how beautiful South Africa was. The air is so pure and unpolluted. On a lighter note, this was the first place where we could drink water straight from the faucet and not worry about tummy aches.
Have you overcome any cultural differences?
Coming from a land of mixed culture, the difference did not affect us negatively at all. In fact, it was pleasure to learn and experience the South African culture which is open, friendly and caring overall.
Have you any funny or interesting story to share about your experience?
There are many and it will take a lot of pages to narrate all of them but let me share the first day’s experience. Coming from India, where the shops are open till 10:00 pm, on the first day after arriving at Cape Town, we decided to go out and buy groceries at 08:00 pm only to find deserted streets and closed shopping malls. In fact I asked one of the persons whether it’s a curfew to which he looked at me strangely and replied that all shops close by 07:00 pm maximum. We had to eat biscuits and drink water that evening!
Any recommendations prior to moving, during the process and settling-in-tips?
The origin country driving license, if in English and contain your photo and signature is valid in South Africa. Just be sure that the license is still valid when travelling to South Africa and do take a print out of the South African law (Section 23 of National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 supported by Regulation 110(1)) and show it to the traffic cop should you be pulled over and asked about your license. This will ward them off and you won’t have to pay unnecessarily.
Any recommendation on the best things to do in the area for future expats?
Cape Town is a city full of surprises and it will keep you and the family occupied 365 days a year. You won’t be able to cover all the eating places even if you ate in a new one every day. The sun, sea and mountain will keep you occupied and before you know, you will be indulging in one of the sporting activity – I chose walking which I have been told is at the lowest of the rung but still it’s an activity nevertheless.
What skills or personal traits have you acquired through the experience?
The first thing I developed stronger is patience, as a family we developed acceptance and that brings the family closer and bonds us together. While on the move one develops the virtue of giving and learn to thank when you receive from unexpected quarters. Overall, it makes one strong and thankful.