Monday, 12 July 2010

World Cup legacy scores a winner with expats

With the World Cup over and the vuvuzelas put firmly away until Brazil 2014, we take a look at how major sporting events can impact on life as an expat in host nations.

The link between expatriate life and major sporting events may appear tenuous at first, but with any international sporting affair, expats in host countries often have to endure great changes in the city or country’s infrastructure years before the world’s television sets even start to tune in.

How has the World Cup affected expats in Africa?

With the massive infrastructure investment that has been poured into the region over the past four years, expats in Africa can now benefit from an improved transportation network. Whereas public transport was near to non-existent prior to the games, the Gautrain- the country’s new high-speed train has revolutionised travel in the Johannesburg and Pretoria areas. Journeys from Johannesburg and the airport take just 15 minutes to complete and the journey between the two cities has been reduced by more than half when compared with the previous peak hour drive.

Upgrades to South Africa’s main airport also mean that Tambo International is now capable of handling 28 million passengers a year, making air travel to and from expat’s home countries much easier.

As well as changes in the city’s infrastructure, expats in host cities may have witnessed social changes in their lifestyle. The World Cup bought in ample opportunity for expats to further integrate and immerse themselves with the local community be it participating in Football Fridays at work or watching the games with locals in a bar. Stephanie Katz, editor of
Expat Arrivals said in recent blog post, “I’m proud to be South African – only, I’m not South African at all – not even a reluctant member of the Commonwealth, in fact, it’s worse – I’m American... there comes a time in every expat’s life when you finally abandon the iron pilings of past for the pride of a locale at present.”

So what next?

Both Beijing and London have witnessed major improvements to the cityscape and their transport systems since hosting or winning the bid to host the Olympic Games. For these host nations that have endured this major change, it will be interesting to see how expats views on the quality of life and ease of integration in Beijing, Johannesburg and even London have changed before and after the games. The 2010 Expat Explorer Survey may shed some light on how the expat community in these countries rate their experiences. Watch this space.

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