by Howard | September 5, 2014 10:22 am
In a recent survey conducted by CN Traveler, Johannesburg was rated the world’s most unfriendly city. It is said to be more unfriendly than Paris, with all those French speaking people, and Moscow where no one speaks at all. I am not going to mention that Melbourne came out in first place as the world’s friendliest city (because then I might stop getting hate mail from my Australian readers, assuming I have any left after my last article), and our focus here is why the city in which we live could be so acclaimed.
I can tell you without doubt that they didn’t interview anyone who has traveled to Antananarivo in Madagascar which is the single most challenging place I have visited, and am surprised that St Petersburg where although aesthetically beautiful was rigid and unfriendly in the extreme (try find a bathroom for your six year old when a “bathroom break” has not be scheduled on the itinerary), didn’t beat us to the title. One also would have to mention Tallin in Estonia where Nazi paraphernalia is all the rage, which is why it is no surprise that unsuspecting Asian tourists land up innocently touting an SS totes as they board the cruise liner parked just outside, for their shopping convenience.
But back to Johannesburg. It needs to be said that although we might live in a bubble of privilege we do see many visitors who pass through, and the one common theme is how friendly we are. Visitors are amazed that people greet each other when passing in the streets, how friendly the service is (even if its not always efficient), how everyone wants to help, and how people are prepared to extend themselves for others. I would even go so far as to say that some of my best friends are “Jo’burgers”. This is all anecdotal and I have very little in the way of data to back this up but I still have to say that I always thought that we were very nice people.
So how is it that we have managed to achieve this horrible, and dare I say, shameful title, and why is it that Cape Town is apparently so much more friendly when we all know that that isn’t true? They might have the most beautiful city in the world along with the most beautiful people, but given their reaction to anyone with a Johannesburg number plate on their vehicle, I would hardly accuse them of being welcoming. “Jo’burgers” on the other hand seem to be so surprised that anyone would want to come and visit, that they fall over themselves trying to be friendly.
It is not difficult to list what makes Johannesburg a difficult city to navigate. Crime, poor public transport, taxis, beggars at every intersection (except for the one on Long and Northfield if any beggar is interested in that location) and a reputation for limited amount of tourist attractions, probably contribute to its image. And I would have to accept that. But unfriendly is simply not a word that I believe is fair to associate with the city that I both love and hate.
Johannesburg has a dangerous energy and real intensity. It’s a serious place inhabited by the hyper vigilant. It’s a hedonistic playground. It is city with no centre. We have no sea, no mountain and no real rivers or lakes. We have no central parks and our business district is constantly moving and evolving depending on the mood of that decade. It is a place of spectacular sunrises and magnificent sunsets and most importantly it is the home of a kind-hearted people.
It is the home of a people who understand and confront adversity at every traffic light. It’s a city where people keep unused clothing and shoes in their cars to hand out to the less fortunate. It is the city where tens of thousands of people gather for “Walk the Talk” in the suburbs because we can, and it’s home to my family. And if all that doesn’t make us the friendliest city in the world, then I don’t know what does.
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