Poll: What Were Your Main Reasons For Leaving South Africa?

Over the past 20 years, hundreds of thousands of people, and by some estimations, more than a million people have been leaving South Africa and settling in other countries.

Some might say, “So what? People have migrated for thousands of years and will continue to do so in the future!”

The thing is, South Africa’s emigration rate has been higher than what can be described as “normal migration” and there has been significant concern over the so-called “brain drain” – skilled people leaving.

Given the audience of this website, many of the readers of this blog fall into the category of people who have left South Africa in recent years to build a new life in another country, including the United States.

Ever wondered why? What are expats’ main reasons for leaving South Africa?

To all of you South African expats who have permanently settled elsewhere, I ask this… (Pick up to 2 answers, but if you have only one reason, pick only one.)

What were your top 1 or 2 reasons for leaving South Africa?

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  • Stumbled on this site; left SA 20 years ago.

    Best decision ever.

    Go back about every 4 years for family visits.

    What a shit-hole the place has turned into, run by a troupe of baboons.

    Nothing works there anymore, World Cup or not.

    • Cannot agree more. Returned to Sydney Australia on Sunday. The crime and corruption is escalating by the day. I go there every 2 years and you can see the deterioration – big scale! Gautrain the only futuristic thing they have…when it works and the electrical cables are not stolen!

    • Could you put your real name and photo here so we can show your employer and community the kind of comments you post online.
      By a troupe of baboons, you’re referring to the black government right? And in saying this you are are making a blatent racist statement
      Trust me guy, SA is happy to see the back of people like you.
      Too bad the US had to pick up another one but I guess you fit right in with current administration
      Here’s a history lesson for you and all the other white South Africans making an embarrassment of themselves on these forums.
      No. 1
      You’re white, which means you started with an unfair advantage in SA
      No 2
      You think your problems are bad? You think your old neighborhood is bad. You think things have gone downhill for you?
      Have you lived in corrugated iron shack before without running water or toilets? No I didn’t think so. Now imagine your mom and grandmother living like that
      Unbearable thought hey. Now just remember as you read this, someone’s grandmother is living in a shack in SA
      Did you do anything to help with this problem before the ANC? No you didn’t. Are you doing anything now? No you aren’t
      No. 3
      South Africa was never safe, with perfect everything. It was always messed up and unsafe in black areas
      It came into the white areas and all of a sudden everyone freeks out
      No 4
      Shit hole? You Are just as much to blame for that state. You, your mommy and daddy, grandpa and grandma. Yes all of you who voted for segregation. You who run away rather then help clean up the mess that all of that created.

      Don’t worry. The rest of us will stay and make things work as best again so that when you come back on your trip, you have vineyards, restaurants, car rentals, an airport etc

      Now you and everyone else who commented negatively about SA, dismount you white privilege high horse and come back to reality

  • I still love South Africa and feel very homesick when I see beautiful photos or hear an old SA song. I miss the simpler life and the moral values. I would love to go back, but its out of the question.

    I am pessimistic about the future of the country and crime is way out of hand. I hope things get better.

  • I’m here now 31 years old… And I been wanting to leave for the past 6 years and now it has come to the push and point of doing what I wanna. I’m afraid of having a family here in SA

    No future here and everything is getting run in to the ground and taxes fuel toll roads I’m sorry I can not any more here. I do love south africa but its starting like zimbabwe! regards WESTLEY south JHB Rosettenville

  • If I see another expat complaining about South Africa, I will gladly put him in his place. This is stupid and ridiculous. The violence is a result of hate that hate created. Most of the people who complain about the crime were content living under apartheid and just left because they wanted to bring back apartheid Nazism. Any country going through change will have a period of instability. Russia is still trying to recoup after the fall of Communism. Germany received foreign aid to rebuild itself after the War. So many of these South Africans sound like cowards who want a reason to justify apartheid.

    • Very nice, Jason… open up with a threat!

      This particular poll was about asking people why they left South Africa. Very few people leave a country if they are happy with it. So, by the nature of the question, the answers were going to be about negative things.

      South Africans, including expats, don't want to bring apartheid back, as you say. In case you don't know, in 1992 there was a nation-wide whites-only referendum in South Africa where the overwhelming majority of votes were in favor of ending apartheid and reforming the country. Many expats were still living there back then. So to say that expats want to bring apartheid back, is simply ludicrous and ill-informed. People want a fair, safe South Africa where everyone has an equal shot. That's what the 1992 referendum said.

      About instability in changing countries, some countries remain unstable and are eventually run into the ground. Zimbabwe got their "freedom", but Mugabe raped and pillaged the land for his own personal gain, leaving many Zimbabweans so destitute that they take their chances against crocodiles while swimming across the Limpopo to make their way to South Africa. If something is wrong in a country, its citizens have a right to speak up.

      • well said, John. Although I have to say, South Africa is very tempting as a destination because they have such gorgeous scenery and great weather without the enormous price tag of a home in say Southern California, which is the closest comparison I can think of.

        • South Africa has too much crime at least 71% bad I think. South Africa has very good education but there’s a lot of shooting here. I do not like this country at all. People litter too much here.The vuvuzala is too noisy. I am very disappointed in this country. I wish I could leave this country to go to Mauritius which I am going to open a cafe in Mauritius see you guys there.

      • Let's be honest. You only voted against apartheid because of world pressure. There were embargos and boycotts of South Africa which affected the economy. It wasn't because of some GODLY decision because if it was you would have voted against apartheid a LONG TIME AGO. Until you make atonement for apartheid and the massacres that were committed, NO JUSTICE NO PEACE as far as I am concerned.

        • Youre ill informed, look at South Africas industry and military production which is some of the best in the world. Look at Iran and other countries under sanctions, it makes them stronger. From my experience most South Africans just want a life like we had before the A.N.C desroyed civilisation for all. South Africa is still a beuatifull country and i think all races work hard to keep the country together but reality is the government is like every other failed african state and only the old government infastructure is holding the country up from collapsing like the rest of Africa.Under apartheid did we have baby rape,drugs,international criminals and aids galore as well as the most savage criminals who thrive on murder sprees. Where is South Africas healthcare gone and once powerfull military and police force.If you have a weak communist,godless government then the population will follow to the ways of Sodom and Gommora and God help us all.

      • Yes they have that right but it's a shame cause the few that experience problems are the only ones commenting in this forum. Shame that life has been so unlucky to you all. 11 years in South Africa and I must say as a foreigner I'm IN LOVE with YOUR COUNTRY!!!! Speaks volumes don't you think? I heard that South Africans are very pessimistic and after reading this forum I agree.

      • Oh I so agree with you. I’ve lived in SA all my life and love this country, BUT now want to immigrate to USA…………..and don’t know how???

    • Jason. Get an education… pack your bags, take your family, and move to South Africa. Rosettenville, Johannesburg should suit you well, or perhaps Thokoza.
      If you still lucky enough to be alive a year later please feel free to return to this site and post another comment.

    • You are so wrong… Wait until one of your family members get killed. Well, not just killed but mutilated as well. Then we will hear your hysteria. No, we are not cowards. We had the money and the means to go. And the courage. 20 years of ANC rule proves of going backward – not forward. Wake up! You are in the boiling frog syndrome!

    • I would also believe what you are saying is true if my knowledge was as limited as yours I am black I lost 2 children to crime one over a mobile phone and the other in a robbery. Open yours eyes and stop blaming everything else SA is becoming a shit hole and the intelligent ones (not just whites) are leaving takes there brains and money with them! It is idiots like you that will be left behind to face the pending civil war. Good luck.

      • its true it’s not just white people leaving I’m coloured the situation is out of control I’m not prepared to raise a family here I’m leaving the first chance I get

    • You must have stayed in a really unsafe area!! I moved to south Africa from America in 2001 and I haven't been attacked yet ….. I guess I'll patiently wait in my house.

  • We left 2001 partly because of safety issues and partly for better career prospects. When the opportunity after 7 yrs, came up for us to come back – we took it with open arms. Now after being back for 3 yrs and one toddler later – things have shifted for us again – we want to move back oversees. I want this country to succeed but if the rulling party cannot even control one of their own,…… then I m afraid the next zimbabwe we will become.

  • I wonder how many of the’ expats ‘here from SA ,were the very leftist agitators that lead to the RSA’s downfall? Pretty typical of leftist elitists to destroy a nation and then flee their handiwork! If however your thinking of doing the same here in the name of “globalism”? I will war you. This time you might want to move on while you still can. We are headed for civil war and the “house cleaning” in this nation will be extentsive! The very globalist elites are the enemy of civilization! The Media,the UN the World Council of Churches, The Unitarian Universalists,and the quakers? They all screwed Rhoedesia ,and the RSA terribly! Now they don’t want to talk about how their “rainbow society ” is in fact nothing more than a marxist dung heap! Much like the RSA is becoming! And they damn sure don’t want the story of the farm murders in the news! Much less footage of Mandela singing “Kill the Boer”! Of course now the very same marxists are now trying to destroy the United States! Well 100 million gun owners will say otherwise! If you were a Leftist agitator in RSA? You deserve to live in Zimbabwe! We have no other place to go , so if you won’t FIGHT them here? Then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out! If you will fight? Then welcome to the United States! 🙂

    • I've been in touch with many South African expats in the US and I can't think of a single one that would qualify to be labeled a "leftist agitator", as you call them. The South Africans I have met here are not political activists of any kind. They are merely ordinary people who assessed a situation and implications of the situation for their children, and decided to move elsewhere to make safe living. Granted, I haven't met all South Africans in the US, but I would think that would've bumped into a few "leftist agitators" by now.

      • You'd be shocked at the number of US expats live in SOUTH AFRICA. I'm one of them !! So shut up moving is a personal choice.

  • I'm proudly South African !!!!!!!!!!!!

    Im a South African Citizen living in London, most of my friends here are like me, Young professional South Africans. I've been here for 8 years now and at some point almost my whole team at work consisted of South Aricans and we speak Afrikaans all the time. I guess being South African in london is different from living in USA.

    In london you can meet people from 10 diffrent countires in one day !! that is soooo cool. but what it also tought me is that while others are realistic about the short comings of their countires, no one else put their country down like South Africans do. I really hate that.
    We have a realy great fantastic county and while there are very serious shortfalls and real reasons why people left including me… It is so awesome to go back home and just recharge the batteries.

    AND it still catches me offguard when someone talks to me on public transport 🙂

    • I am so happy to read a positive post – Perhaps people should read the novel "The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh" to get a full perspective of our past.

      The SAfricans that have stayed behind are trying to make a difference.

  • Hey I am proudly South African and I love staying here. I can`t understand all the negativity I read all the time. I live in Port Elizabeth, which is a great place to be. Friendly people, safe and fun. People can`t see the wood for the trees. In our areas where the community policing is working together crime is under control, Streets and everything area fine. What really is the problem with South Africans. Just want to bitch and be negative.

    • Proudly South African…yawn.

      I actually find it insulting that South Africans can be proud.

      Let's be honest here all the people that are so fiercely "proud" of this country, what we're proud of is 10% of what we know South Africa to be. We don't belong to the 90% that is the true South Africa.
      We're proud because of the safety we can afford and instal – the fact that the township down the road is experiencing rape and real life horror EVERY day doesn't matter, it's not our world so why should we feel ashamed, no proud how we feel. It's so much easier to see the pretty scenery and be blind to the poverty that is hidden by high walls. Do you even see that anymore? Have you ever?
      Have you every really taken the time to look and I mean LOOK at what is going on beyond your utopia and see South Africa from the eye's of 90% that don't live in your world. Because it is a VERY different world than what you're experiencing and that is nothing to be proud of.

      • Gemm, who are you and what makes you an expert on all things South African? South Africa also belongs to the 10%ers, in fact it is the 10%ers who will not quit that keep the lights on. keep you self righteous attitude to yourself until you are ready to make a contribution. Go SA!

        • South African – born and bred. Contributing every living day of my life.

          Don't misunderstand me Peter – I'm not being self righteous. Just because I'm not proud of the fact that most of us whites live in pockets of heaven doesn't make me wrong. It makes me angry that we find the divide between the rich and poor acceptable and something be to "proud" of. That was, after all, my argument was it not?

          It's people that so fiercely defend their way of life here that is self righteous. When we live in harmony, ALL of us together, united THEN we have the right to say we're proud.
          Not saying I won't fight for that day but until that happens and we're all equal it's impossible to be proud of our situation – you do understand this right?

  • I’m a South African living in Italy with wife & children. We moved here to ensure we would see our daughters grow up without the constant fear of being raped or us being robbed and murdered. We visit SA about 3 times a year and love it in “holiday doses”. I am too young to have anything to do with apartheid so rasicm is not an issue. But when my family and I were held at gunpoint in our driveway, my kids ripped out of the car struggling to free themselves from their seatbelts – it dawned on me that as much as I love my country, my parents & friends – nothing was worth putting my children in that kind of danger.

    We live in a big city in Italy and though one sometimes hears of mostly petty crimes I manage to sleep each night without waking up with every little noise. I live my life without fear – the amazing thing is I also feel less stressed & aggressive now too.

    If crime was not an issue I would move back home tomorrow, but until then I will do what my forefathers did and find a land abroad that offers my children a better future.

    • I'm a girl of16 and I've lived in south African my whole life and haven't been raped -.-
      So don't make it seem like there are people out for YOUR children. Rape is unfortunate and if you lived in south Africa you would know that the big rape case going on now is of a WHITE male who rapes girls on Sundays. So happy living in Italy.

    • Hi Richard, I too live near Milan Italy. I visit each year and see my graduate children who did everything right in terms of education and loans they had to pay back, struggle to make ends meet. They gew up under the illusion of the rainbow nation, and what a lie that proved to be I never saw a completely dark rainbow have you.
      Until the govt has exhauseted all the huge resources south afica has nothing will change and crime will impact more and more people black and white. very sad. If youd like to email ill send you my address.

  • I worked overseas in Switzerland, New York and London from 1997-2011. Coming back last year was the best decision I made.

    South Africa has major problems. Corruption being the biggest. Wealth inequality being next. Left unchecked those two issues will certainly become a tinderbox. That said, the SA naysayers have been naysaying for over 20 years and the country is WAY WAY better off than it was in 1994.

    1. South Africa is not exposed to the banking crisis. It may have issues because the countries it exports to are in the doldrums (UK/Euro etc), but it's not broke.

    2. Terrorism is not an issue here.

    3. Opportunities in the UK and Europe are awful right now. US is only good in certain industries (tech). Enjoy the double dip people.

    3. Schools are excellent here and 1/4 what I was paying in the UK.

    4. The weather and outdoor lifestyle is hard to beat. Maybe Vancouver…

    5. Crime is way down from when I left. South Africa is more stable than when I left in 1997 and a lot more stable than when I was at University!

    6. Opportunity. South Africa has plenty of it and people work fast and like to try things. My company was given opportunities that it simply wouldn't have received in the UK or US due to it's small size. Here blue chip companies took a chance on us and we succeeded on our merits. If you are an entrepreneur, it's great.

    Overall, if you have skills and some money it's a great place to be. To those who left and have nice lives. Super. But please don't continue your outdated, negative ranting to justify your decision.

    @DJ Stein why was your racist comment not moderated?

    • He only said the country is run by a "troupe of baboons". If that is racist I have good news for you.. The racist is in your mirror

  • the world has many places of opportunity where you have freedom to live safely where there is tolerance of different ideas where race is not such a big deal ,where you can be free to be yourself if you are going to move do it when you or your kids are as young as possible canada argentina australia new zealand the uk europe even asia welcome skilled educated south africans …even namibia and botswana maritius seychells samoa and tonga would have less crime venom and hatred …tie your pension to stability do it for your kids one positive thing about multiculturism is the afrikaaner churches and well adjusted south africans flourishing around the world adapting yet not losing the best of their cultures i moved in 1975 love south africa but never regretted the move its a personal choice

  • I'm still in South Africa, I'm just a kid- still in school. When I get the chance I'm getting out of here. I was born after apartheid, therefore I have nothing to do with the racial hardships South Africa has had in the past. I have friends from all different cultures and races and it really makes no difference to me. For all of the above posters that are reprimanding the people that decided to leave, you people cannot save South Africa, it's the minority against the majority and guess what? The majority votes for the ANC. What are you actually fighting for? The environment? The environment that's getting torn down everyday for office blocks? Innocent animals that are being butchered for a meaningless cause? Maybe if you want to bring about change get off the internet and do something about it. Don't bring others down because they want a better life for themselves and their families. For a young South African like me, my chances of going to university and going after my dreams are becoming slimmer everyday. My future doesn't seem so bright in South Africa or should I call it "the next Zimbabwe"? Like I said before I'm leaving when I get the opportunity…

  • i am a coloured woman with three beautiful daughters – however my hubby and i are considering leaving because of our daughters. what kid of future will have if their job opportunities are limited because they are not black? we are still living inn apartheid – it just filled around. I dont think steyns comment was racist at all – a bit harsh, but not racist – i think that south african blacks need to stop flashing the race card and own up to the mess that this country is in.

  • I am a proud south african and still living here in Durban. People might leave Africa but it never leaves
    you. I love it here but dont blame people for leaving….the way things are going right now, it is only
    feasible for parents and young people to leave. Many of us stayed and were really hopeful, but each
    day makes us think we are disillusional. We need proper governance and leaders who stop raping
    and pillaging the country. If apartheid was an embarrasment to us (which it was) then these present
    day leaders are even worse. Sad. And I agree, the race card has been overplayed now, and the
    present political party needs to take responsibility for the mess the country is in right now!!!!

  • I'm a black 16 year old south African and I have never seen people who hate on a country like on this forum. It's okay if you moved for personal problems but putting them on this site and acting like everyones children are unsafe in our nation is poor on your side. Be happy that you moved and enjoy a better quality life where ever you are now, but don't make extremist comments and insults. Yes this country isn't perfect but it is still alive. And this view of harshness on black people is seriously upsetting especially because I belong to that race and know my parents are honest hardworking people. Several people have grieverances with south Africa but the way they are sharing them on this forum is truly aggressive, hateful and broader line scary. I could say reading some of the comments on this forum makes me scared for my safety as a black child.

    I wouldn't know much on apartheid cause I obviously wasn't around but I'm certain that there are more gentle ways to air ones problems in this forum. Saying that SA is going through another form of apartheid is very extreme.
    -I don't need a pass to walk around
    -I am not asked to use different amenities
    -I am not forced to socialize with your own race
    -I attend a school I wouldn't be able to attend during apartheid mainly based on the color of my skin and not my academic capacity
    -I am not wrongfully arrested for being in the wrong place due to my skin
    -I am not restricted to the area in which I live due to my color
    -I can not be told that I am inferior due to my skin

    These are some reasons why you might want to take back the comment that south Africa was better off in the apartheid regime maybe life was better for you BUT that is a selfish view as you may have felt better about your living conditions others not so far from where ever you stayed were suffering and being treated as if they were worthless and inferior . If that's the South Africa you miss then do some inner inspection of your views on humanity and equality.

    • Just because people are concerned with the impact on their kids and family members doesn't necessarily mean its due to safety reasons. I for one (being 20 years old) am leaving this 'country' because its almost impossible for me to get a job with my qualification as management. My father has even been told he will be kicked from his position soon because they want to replace him with a black person. I honestly have no hope for this country, its as if they slowly want to reverse apartheid.

    • i will agree that it`s not quite as bad as apartheid,but you must admit,the anc is currently promoting reverse discrimination.Whites are disadvantaged and it`s getting worse.Even universities are being forced to admit more blacks over whites ,and are having to lower the `quality` of degrees to allow for more proffessional blacks in the work force.The anc are actually doing blacks more harm than good by teaching them that they don`t have to work and study to hard.They`ll get jobs because of affirmitive action and getting a degree will be a breeze,ultimately not leaving them very skilled at all.If you disagree,how do you explain that things haven`t improved at all in the 18 years anc have been in power?

      i love s.a and most of it`s people of all races,but unfortunately with the current government ,heading for communism fast with a greedy dictator leading the way,i cannot see a bright future for me or my kids.The anc are using propaganda and taking advantage of the uneducated majority to keep them in power,still blaming whites for their problems.We`re done being made to feel like we should feel guilty about the past ,and i don`t see why my child,or even i ,should have to pay. can`t wait to be in u.s.a 🙂

  • HI we are wondering if you folks can help me with some historical type info. My husband is South African. His family emigrated to Canada in 1965.( My husband was a little boy at the time )
    His family is Black, The father supposedly had South African papers that said "mixed". (Here in Canada we would call them Black or African American) any how, they some how were able to leave the country with the wife and 8 children which seems odd because of Apartheid Laws and also his father was able to take very large amounts of money out of the country. Both parents are long since dead. we are just curious how this was able to occur… can anyone help?

  • I am 35, working in the technical field (still in SA).
    I'm looking to get a transfer to the US (Austin, TX) only in search of opportunities for my family and for myself.
    I don't want to be "that guy" that knocks our country down.
    Yes, there are huge problems in SA, and I'll be among the first to admit it, but I'm not looking for justification to move to the US.

    I like to think I'm doing the right thing and I'm really just trying to be as honest with myself as I possibly can. I'm probably going to miss more about SA than I think…
    Friends and family for one, but the amazing weather, the phenomenal beauty our diverse country has to offer, the wine routes, the scuba diving, the just the people in general. South Africans are awesome – admit it 🙂

    I've been to the US for a total of 4 months on business, spread over numerous weeks at a time, in a few different cities. I liked the feel of TX, and the people.

    So now I'm reaching out… Whether what you have to say is positive or not, it doesn't matter. Any pointers would be super valuable.
    I would love to know how people feel having left SA (where do you live?) – what is the weather like in Austin? Winters in Austin? How are the people? Friendly? Clicky? How easily did you make good friends? Property? Where should I look to live (currently live in Fourways, JHB) that is a nice suburb but not stupid expensive?
    How is the financial climate?
    What 3 major items did you and/or your family struggle with, within the first year?

    Thanks in Advance! Might be able to meet some of you if things work out for us 🙂

    • Hey Chris – you'd probably have better luck at the SAUSA forum – there are people from TX that might be able to help answer your questions..

    • Chris, we have been living in the Austin area for more than 10 years. When we first came here to check out the place, it was people's friendliness and hospitality that sold us on the idea of moving here. People here are really nice! It didn't take us much time to make any friends, both South African and American. Austin's summers can be quite hot (35C+). Winters are generally mild (around 12-18C), but we do get colder spells for a few days at times when temperatures can drop a few degrees below freezing. Neither of these are a problem indoors since homes are equipped with central cooling and heating. It is only when you're outside that it can get rough. Spring and Autumn has great weather. I think the best areas to live are west, northwest, and north of Austin. Places like Cedar Park, Leander, Round Rock come to mind. The financial climate here is pretty good. Austin is known to be one of the Texas cities least affected by the recent economic downturns. I hope this helps you.

  • I am still living in SA. I have been Hijacked, had a second attempted Hijacking and broken into twice in 5 years.
    Furthermore I work directly with crime everyday and I see the effect it has on everyone lives regardless of their skin colour.
    If you ask me, SA is a sinking ship and there is not much more that can be done to stop it.
    For those of you who are lucky enough to move out of here, its prob the best decision you have ever made!

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