Life and work in Cape Town

14 November 2019

Cristina Meyer, Senior Designer at Tétris’ new Cape Town office, talks us through the big shift from Jozi girl to Mother City local.

Jo’burg vs Cape Town. It’s a common debate between the two rivals and one with no clear winner. Born and bred in Johannesburg, I’ve always embraced the energy and pace of the city, its urban grittiness and friendly people. That said, I’ve never had the opportunity to feed my inner wanderlust so when the Tétris expansion in the Western Cape became a reality (and experiencing life in Cape Town a long-term goal), it presented a gentle nudge to fast forward the process.

I was excited to be part of a strategy to accommodate climbing business growth and improved client service support, building on our already strong capability in Cape Town. Decision made, it was with much anticipation and trepidation that my husband and I packed up our Jo’burg lives – which included our two girls (12 and 8) and our cats – to live, work and explore Cape Town.

So, six months in, what can I tell you? There’s a lot to love, and while no change is without its challenges, it’s been a happy privilege so far. Here are some of the ways life is different down south:

The great outdoors
It’s no secret that Cape Town is blessed with natural beauty, and we are living a far more outdoorsy lifestyle than we did in Jozi. As a family we really are enjoying the beaches, mountain trails, forest walks, wine farms and other al fresco opportunities on our doorstep, and so much of it free! I must admit to getting a silent thrill driving around the city, whether to a meeting or picking up the girls from school, realising that incredible scenery is commonplace – whether it’s a view of the mountain, harbour and sea, or the windswept trees that line the highways, or the mix of vibrant architecture that just feels completely at home in Cape Town.

The healthier choice
Maybe it’s the emphasis on the great outdoors, but it seems that Capetonians are naturally more active, with an unspoken but real pressure to live healthier. There are way more vegetarian restaurants and options on menus. There just seems to be a more in-your-face awareness about sustainability and caring for the planet.

Four seasons in one day
Here’s a truth – the weather is definitely kinder in Johannesburg. And no floaty skirts for you if that South-Easter blows!

It’s definitely worse in Cape Town. Confirmed by a recent traffic measurement index! Fortunately, with a big drive to incorporate a more flexible approach to reduce the infamous rush hour gridlock, and some companies considering decentralisation, there are ways around this. Oh, and parking is hard to find, and if it exists, it’s expensive!

Talking about costs, property prices are scary. If you are looking to buy, expect to pay double for what you’d get in Johannesburg.

Innovation and creativity
Inspiration can be found around every corner and seems to be woven into the fabric of the city. I think that because this one of South Africa’s big tourist attractions, so much is intrinsically geared towards wowing and drawing in the onlooker and user. This is especially true with the incredible choice of eateries on offer, with location, design and food that caters for all the senses. As a designer, this is very exciting and motivating. To date, we’ve had the privilege to work on some great local projects for high-profile clients, including multinational companies and we’re looking forward to sharing our passion for inspired and progressive spaces on other corporate, retail and hospitality assignments in the Mother City.

The misconception of cliques
I arrived in Cape Town wondering about its reputation for not welcoming ‘outsiders’, but I’ve found this to be mostly untrue. Yes, Jo’burgers are friendly, hospitable people, but so are Capetonians. I have experienced a real sense of community – both in the city and in the suburbs. Simply get yourself onto a local WhatsApp group and you’re sorted, whether it’s to find a hairdresser or join a walking group. On the work front, Tétris has built solid relationships with local contractors, manufacturers and suppliers.

Ways of working
The agile world is alive and well in Cape Town. The coffee culture is strong, and work is definitely happening at sidewalk cafés – at least within working hours, after that the wine culture takes over! As a newbie in town, it’s a wonderful change of scenery to take myself and my laptop off for a couple of hours to my favourite café for a good cappuccino and to take in the hustle and bustle of everyone going about their business. Creativity abounds, and it’s exciting to be on the ground in the city to bring our compelling offering to the regional market.