Moving to Joburg in South Africa


  • Jul 09, 2012 11:39 AM GMT
    Hey Guys

    I'm leaving Delhi in a few weeks, and i'm going to have a short stop over in France because in September I'm changing career and moving to Johannesburg.

    I do not know much about South Africa yet, haven't really thought of it before the opportunity shows up.

    So I'm looking for travel tips, accomodation tips, lifestyle tips, stay safe tips, night life, gay life and tips' tips.

    If anyone got a good guide to recommend, or some local connexions for information....
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    Jul 09, 2012 1:58 PM GMT
    Travel tips: I recommend you buy your own car to get around. The public transport system is unreliable. There are two types of taxis. The ones the tourists use (expensive, but safer) and the mini-bus taxis which go just about everywhere on fixed routes, but are also very, very unsafe.
    Never, ever hitch-hike in South Africa - just trust me on this one. If you are lucky enough to have a bus service to take you to work, consider yourself fortunate.
    Accommodation: Try to live as close to your workplace as possible - you will save a lot of money on fuel or transport. And choose your neighbourhood very carefully - choose a safe one. Do not stay in the cities - it is not safe. Rather try to get a place in the suburbs. Most housing complexes are walled off and have 24 hour security. If an area looks unsafe, it is unsafe.
    Lifestyle - People are very friendly and are used to diversity in Johannesburg. There are people from all over the world living here.
    You can live openly as a LGBTI person and there are many gay clubs, bars, baths in Johannesburg, Centurion and Pretoria. Our constitution recognises gay marriage, equal rights no matter what your sexual orientation is.
    You can live a very comfortable life here if you have a decent job.
    Most South African gay men are very friendly and will initiate conversation with strangers just about anywhere. Don't be surprised if a total stranger starts a conversation with you out of the blue in a lift or in the queue at the supermarket. Just go with the flow - they are just being friendly.

    Stay safe tips:
    1. Stay away from dangerous, run-down areas. If you feel uneasy in any place, get out as quickly as you can.
    2. Lock your vehicle and close your windows when you drive. Make sure your vehicle has airconditioning.
    3. Carry your mobile phone with you at all times and phone for help if your car breaks down or if you need help.
    4. Keep valuable items (wallets, mobile phones, cameras, jewellery...) out of sight.
    5. Never offer a bribe to any government official - they will come back for more.
    6. Always, always carry condoms with you and always, always practice safer sex. Our HIV+ rate is one of the highest in the world.
    7. Have one/two alcoholic drinks when you go out on weekends and then wait 2-3 hours before you drive. There are roadblocks all over Johannesburg, especially on Fridays and Saturday nights. If you are over the limit you will be arrested and will only be bailed out on Monday morning. Our holding cells are not the safest places to spend the weekend.

    Most people of european origin get together at their own clubs. I know there are dozens of Portuguese, greek and Italian clubs. I am sure you can find a French club or organization. It is important to find out where your community of origin hangs out. They will be able to offer support and networking opportunities which may come in handy if you get yourself into a difficult situation.

    Tipping: Restaurants - 10-15%.
    Always tip the guys that guard your vehicle wherever you park. 2 to 5 rands is enough.
    At the petrol station: If they check your oil, water and tire pressure, give them about R10.00. They will be very grateful and will rush to help you when you go back.

    My last piece of advice: When dealing with government officials, there will be a lot of bureaucracy. There will be looooooooong queues. The forms you fill in may be lost a few times before you get results. Sometimes your requests for information will be met with an expressionless, blank look of disinterest. Don't give up. They may send you from pillar to post and back again. Just be friendly and don't raise your voice at them. It will only make matters worse and if you make them angry, they will tend to lose your paperwork again.

    Good luck! I promise you will love Johannesburg. Just use your common sense to keep safe and your patience with the bureaucracy. Things are much better now than ten years ago, and they are improving.

    Also, if you get homesick for something a bit more french, you could also hop over to Reunion Island for a week of rest and relaxation.
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    Jul 09, 2012 2:06 PM GMT
    If you did your research and you're still going to Joburg, you're mad! Hundreds of thousands of people ave left the country because of crime. If you must live in SA, move to Cape Town.
  • Content

    Posts: 6

    Jul 09, 2012 2:46 PM GMT
    Although I live in Cape Town and would not want to relocate in Jo'burg, I grew up there and its not that bad. Some people love the energy of Jo'burg. The long post earlier is very useful and correct. You should get the hang of the place fairly soon - try to get someone at work to show you the ropes for the first few days or try to live with someone from work you trust for the first week or so. Generally follow you gut instinct - the one thing that makes South Africa fairly easy to navigate is the spatial inheritance of apartheid: unlike most places in the world especially Asia, you are unlikely to find say a posh hotel, next to a rundown shack. Areas are either quite obviously very nice (read: usually suburban) or quite clearly not.
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    Jul 09, 2012 3:23 PM GMT
    Johannesburg has earned its "most dangerous city" designation for a reason, but you just have to learn what to do and what not to do.

    First piece of advice: always wear a condom (for sex) and always wear your seatbelt (in a vehicle). This is one of the highest HIV prevalence countries in the world, and also one of the highest for traffic accidents.

    Crime Rates: these have significantly dropped since 2009 due to increased policing and civic pride surrounding the 2010 World Cup, so much of Joburg's bad rep came from times prior to 2009. That being said, there is still crime and corruption. You can check the crime stats at the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) website: http://www.saps.gov.za/statistics/reports/crimestats/2011/categories.htm

    Where to Live: northern or northwestern suburbs, depending on what you can afford. Melville, Ilora, Melrose Estate, Zoo Lake, Houghton, Northcliff, Parktown, Randburg, Morningside, Weltevreden Park, etc. are all nice places. check www.gumtree.co.za for apartment rentals

    Transportation: get a car, and not a flashy one. Also note: Volkswagon Citi, Polo, etc are the most hijacked cars in SA because the criminals know the engine inside/out, and can strip it for parts within minutes. You can do mini-leasing at AVIS if you can't afford to buy a car immediately. You will need your passport and your work visa.

    GPS: buy a Garmin at Cape Union Mart (a common outdoor outfitters shop) to help you get around the city and the countryside. Maps are unreliable, and street names change frequently.

    Driving Safety: roads are excellent in SA, signage is not great. Keep valuables (wallet, cell phone, briefcase, back packs, purse) out of sight. Put them under your seat or in the boot (the trunk) of the car. Thieves are known to smash-n-grab valuables while cars are stopped at intersections. If you are lost or feeling nervous driving at night, stop at a petrol station. There are many all around, attendants are always there, and very helpful. Also note that traffic accidents are extremely high (I have seen more than my share of horrific traffic accidents with screaming bloody bodies strewn across the roads), wear your seatbelts, drive defensively (especially at night and on public holidays when people are driving long distances and celebrating by drinking. Inefficient public transport and ill-repaired vehicles and drunk drivers are to blame for accidents.

    Hijackings / Hold-ups: if it ever happens, just give them what they want and walk the other way. SA is a place of the greatest inequality in the world, with people living on less than $1 a day in a tin shack, to people living like royalty and rolling in Lambourghinis - this causes a great deal of desperation, and add the presence of guns and you have a dangerous situation. Ocassionally you will be stopped by police for no good reason, and they will question you and try to stress you out, looking for bribes. Be polite and courteous always. They are armed and many are corrupt. Its possible to talk you way out of it, but never lose your cool, and try to be friendly. If it fails or if indeed you are guilty of speeding or whatever, you can ask them to write the ticket or you can offer to "pay the cash fine" (which is their way of asking for a bribe).

    Gay Life: There are gay/gay-friendly bars/clubs/saunas/sexclubs/sex shops/bookstores in Joburg, Randburg, Melville, Fourways, and Sandton. Also nearby in Centurion, Pretoria, Boksburg, and so forth. You can check Mamba Online http://www.mambaonline.com/hotspots_list.asp?prov_id=1 for listings or pick up the gay magazine at any of these venues which has print listings.

    Bureaucracy: SA is not as bad as, say Zimbabwe, but its much worse for bureaucracy than European or American countries. Many still function on paper processes, and are in the midst of converting to computer systems. So you will notice some places outfitted with the most modern technologies, while others are using carbon paper and rubber stamps. This will be frustrating. Forms need to be filled out in triplicate. They may need to be authenticated at a police station. They may need to be verified by administrators. They may take hours or weeks or months to process. Some queues (for example at Dept of Home Affairs) will be hundreds to thousands of people long. You have to be patient. You're in Africa.

    Food/Wine: There are great grocery stores for SA's excellent food: Pick-N-Pay is a very accessible level, and Woolworth's Food is top of the line. SA produces excellent organic foods and is a major world producer of wines which are all available for very affordable prices at the local grocery and bottle shops. Finer restaurants are accustomed to serving local and seasonal. I was not for want of good food and drink in SA. There are options to please every palate. 44 Stanley, Melville, Melrose Arch, Parkhurst are all great places to dine and hang out.

    Shopping: You can get most major brands in SA, however prices can be high for imported luxury goods. Malls are everywhere, and excelent quality clothing, shoes, sporting goods, and house wares are available without problem. You will feel like you're in a very developed country in this regard. However not everyone can afford these things.

    Tipping / Parking: standard to tip 10-15% for service in restaurants and R5-R10 at petrol stations. On most streets, the parking is free, but there will be a small army of men who will "look after your car" while you park there for free. They normally expect R2 - R5 coins for this "service" - consider it as such. It seems like a racket, but they are in some way keeping criminals from breaking into your car.

    Be mindful of the beggars on the street corners - they are usually harmless, but they are desperate. I usually carry food in the car (bananas, apples, oranges, etc) and give them out at the regular intersections that I drive through, because they remember faces. Over time you may recognise them yourself, as they tend to occupy the same street corners. try to smile or be non-judgemental if you can't be friendly.

    Art & Music: "Jozi" (as the hip call it) is home to a thriving music, art, and culture scene in SA. Main Street Life, Arts on Main http://marketonmain.co.za/, Market Photo Workshop http://www.marketphotoworkshop.co.za/, the Bioscope independent cinema http://www.thebioscope.co.za/, SterKinekor movie theatres http://www.sterkinekor.com/, Melville, Zoo Lake, the Alliance Fran├žaise http://www.alliance.org.za/branches - all have thriving arts communities.

    Sport: Sports are huge in SA, especially football ("soccer") and rugby, but also water polo, swimming, diving, scuba, surfing, boating, etc. Gyms and fitness facilities are all over the country. I belonged to Virgin Active http://www.virginactive.co.za, and half of my membership was paid for by my health insurance company.
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    Jul 09, 2012 3:29 PM GMT
    Joburg is a hectic place, and it empties out at Christmas/New Years time (summer in SA) as people head for their homelands or to the coasts for a holiday. Cape Town is a short 2hr flight to the south west, and Durban a short 1hr flight to the east.

    Joburg's vibrant energy is largely influenced by creative and entrepreneurial Joburgers with a steady inflow of inspiration from abroad, and there is a large expatriate community in Joburg and Pretoria (40min drive to the north). It is an exciting place which you will come to love, after living there for a couple of months. Try to get someone to show you around. People really are very friendly there, and you can feel free to strike up a conversation with anyone in the shops, in the lift, at the petrol station, etc.
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    Jul 09, 2012 3:53 PM GMT
    swimguychicago saidIf you did your research and you're still going to Joburg, you're mad! Hundreds of thousands of people ave left the country because of crime. If you must live in SA, move to Cape Town.


    And many of them are coming back from Oz and New Zeeland, Portugal, Italy, Greece and the UK. Not to mention the number of young Israelis, Chinese, Turks, Egyptians and the hundreds of thousands from the African countries that flood in every year.

    There has been a drop in crime levels the last two or three years. There is police everywhere. They are now patrolling residential areas right through the day and night. They are not hidden in their offices eating Nandos and KFC the whole day. And any Joburger who is honest will tell you that some of us now can be seen stopping at intersections with our windows open.

    Things are not as good as we'd like them to be, but they are improving. Your research needs some updating, bru...
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    Jul 09, 2012 4:04 PM GMT
    swimguychicago saidIf you did your research and you're still going to Joburg, you're mad! Hundreds of thousands of people ave left the country because of crime. If you must live in SA, move to Cape Town.


    Yeah its not that bad, hey. Don't go fear mongering for what you don't know personally. We have 3 people in this thread who lived in Joburg and are telling it like it is. Me, I live in both Joburg and Toronto, so I know the two end of the spectrum, so to speak. I really love both places. Yes of course, Joburg takes getting used to, but with good precautions which will become second nature, its possible to live there quite happily, while enjoying spectacular sunsets, great weather, unparalleled access to nature and wildlife, fantastic food/drink, be inspired by culture and creativity, and make friends which will last a life time. Its a special place, and the sad part is that its bad reputation overshadows all else. I'm not saying ignore the danger - of course not, bad thing happen - but find a way to minimise risk and make good attempts to connect with what the city has to offer.
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    Jul 09, 2012 4:37 PM GMT
    swimguychicago saidIf you did your research and you're still going to Joburg, you're mad! Hundreds of thousands of people ave left the country because of crime. If you must live in SA, move to Cape Town.


    Have you ever actually visited SA? I have, it's a very beautiful country. I had no problems there and completely enjoyed myself.
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    Jul 10, 2012 3:16 AM GMT
    blkbodybdr said
    swimguychicago saidIf you did your research and you're still going to Joburg, you're mad! Hundreds of thousands of people ave left the country because of crime. If you must live in SA, move to Cape Town.


    Have you ever actually visited SA? I have, it's a very beautiful country. I had no problems there and completely enjoyed myself.


    Same here. You just have to have your street smarts on, and have some empathy and compassion in your way.
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    Jul 10, 2012 3:39 AM GMT
    Holy shit.....this place sounds like hell on Earth! No job in the world is worth risking your life for. Fuck that!

  • Jul 10, 2012 4:36 AM GMT
    Hohoho

    Thanks a lot for the feedbacks !

    I'm happy because only few people say " don't go " most of the feedbacks I get through friends and network are " go, people are nice, it's a wonderful place"

    Of course crime + HIV are a bit scary, but well... I lived in New Delhi where corruption, rapes and crimes are legion too.

    I bet on my dusky blue eyes to call mercy on my future attacker. I think that people doing suchs things are actually victims : victims of their addiction, victims overwhelmed... easy money is barely the push for attacking someone.

    Anyway.



    So, my office will be in Sandton, near Rivona something something.
    I was thinking of checking out bachelor accomodation in Melville or Bryanston or Park...town? Parkhill ? Something with Park ?

    Some friend recommend Midrand, but it seems a bit far off everything.


    Also, to my understanding, people have early evenings and don't drink to much... ... is that true ?

    Do you have easy access to safe food ? Living in India, i'm a bit paranoid with meat, eggs, milks, fruits and veggies... are the supermarkets of international standard...

    I'm so excited to come to Joburg !
  • kew1

    Posts: 1595

    Jul 10, 2012 11:12 AM GMT
    frenchexpatdelhi said


    Also, to my understanding, people have early evenings and don't drink to much... ... is that true ?

    Do you have easy access to safe food ? Living in India, i'm a bit paranoid with meat, eggs, milks, fruits and veggies... are the supermarkets of international standard...

    I'm so excited to come to Joburg !


    Hmm, South Africans don't drink a lot? Just fell off my chair laughingicon_smile.gif

    I've been to areas where everyone seemed to be in bed by 10pm , others (e.g. Long Street, Cape Town) seem to be open all night .

    The supermarkets are fine, been there a few times & have never had any trouble with food quality. Try Ostrich (meat, not the egg unless you want an enormous omelette).

  • Jul 10, 2012 11:19 AM GMT
    kew1 said
    frenchexpatdelhi said


    Also, to my understanding, people have early evenings and don't drink to much... ... is that true ?

    Do you have easy access to safe food ? Living in India, i'm a bit paranoid with meat, eggs, milks, fruits and veggies... are the supermarkets of international standard...

    I'm so excited to come to Joburg !


    Hmm, South Africans don't drink? Just fell off my chair laughingicon_smile.gif

    The supermarkets are fine, been there a few times & have never had any trouble with food quality. Try Ostrich (meat, not the egg unless you want an enormous omelette).


    Ostrich, tried it already, and LOVE it.
    Heard we can do " Ostrich Riding "... if it is true... it's an absolute must for me.
    I totally see myself reaching the office and parking my Ostrich on the motor bike section...
  • kew1

    Posts: 1595

    Jul 10, 2012 11:27 AM GMT
    Ostrich riding - go to Oudsthoorn (where my Cheetah pics were taken) , it's full of Ostrich farms. If you're under about 80kg you can ride one.
    When you're there, go to the Kango caves .

  • Jul 10, 2012 12:01 PM GMT
    kew1 saidOstrich riding - go to Oudsthoorn (where my Cheetah pics were taken) , it's full of Ostrich farms. If you're under about 80kg you can ride one.
    When you're there, go to the Kango caves .




    80 kg... hmmmm...
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    Jul 10, 2012 12:04 PM GMT
    frenchexpatdelhi said
    So, my office will be in Sandton, near Rivona something something.
    I was thinking of checking out bachelor accomodation in Melville or Bryanston or Park...town? Parkhill ? Something with Park ?

    Some friend recommend Midrand, but it seems a bit far off everything.

    Also, to my understanding, people have early evenings and don't drink to much... ... is that true ?

    Do you have easy access to safe food ? Living in India, i'm a bit paranoid with meat, eggs, milks, fruits and veggies... are the supermarkets of international standard...

    I'm so excited to come to Joburg !


    Melville, Bryanston and Parkhurst are all lovely places to live. I prefer Melville because that's where I live! Check http://www.gumtree.co.za for listings of apartments for rent. Midrand is very far and boring.

    People do have early evenings, but people drink a lot in SA!!! Be careful with the drunk drivers and the police!

    Food is very safe - supermarkets are of international standard (Woolworths Food). Read my post above about grocery shopping, etc.

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    Jul 10, 2012 12:04 PM GMT
    I have a UK friend who was sent to Joburg for 3 years. He's living in London again and desperately wants to go back to Joburg because he loved it - weather, people, lifestyle, food, everything.

    I def prefer Cape Town as it's more European, but Joburg does have more work opportunities and higher salaries. Plus it's Afropolitan, the New York of Africa. A truly unique experience. Compare it to Sao Paulo in Brazil (if you'd consider living in Brazil, you can definitely live in SA - crime levels in Brazil are higher).

    Do yourself a favour and explore SA when you're there. There are cheap flights to all over the country. It's an amazing country. So much to see and discover. Neighbouring Mozambique and Namibia have some beautiful sights too.

    There is a very modern high speed train operating there called Gautrain. It only has a few stops but it serves quite a long range and there is a bus system linking up to the stops. Check it out too. Might be easier you living nearby a station in your early days, if you don't have a car organised for you already.

    I think you'll have a great time for sure. icon_smile.gif
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14372

    Jul 10, 2012 4:31 PM GMT
    I have been told that Joburg is a very beautiful, modern, progressive city. It would be nice to see some photos of it on here.
  • roadbikeRob

    Posts: 14372

    Jul 10, 2012 4:46 PM GMT
    ct461 said

    Plus it's Afropolitan, the New York of Africa. icon_smile.gif
    Why does it have to be the New York of Africaicon_question.gif Why can't Joburg be the Chicago of Africa or the Los Angeles of Africaicon_question.gif NYC is not all what it is cracked up to be.
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    Jul 10, 2012 6:36 PM GMT
    Why does it have to be the New York of Africaicon_question.gif Why can't Joburg be the Chicago of Africa or the Los Angeles of Africaicon_question.gif NYC is not all what it is cracked up to be.


    Because that's how the media often refer to it. It's the most populous city in South Africa, skyscrapper-ridden, a cultural and historical hub, the gateway into the country, where the stock market is based, etc... any resemblances yet?

    Here are some pics:

    city skyline
    jun10wallpaper-1_1600.jpg
    te_-_joburg_skyline.jpg
    sandton
    3582448688_72edc1eed6.jpg

    nelson mandela square
    cbea07d3c6598ec36c5306964aee8384.jpg

    melrose arch
    Melrose-Arch.bmp

    swimming-pool.jpg

    something else you'd better start getting used to...
    icon_biggrin.gif they're amazing:
    lightning-joburg.jpg

    and these kinds of sunsets too...
    3569bfc272f5.jpg

    it's also known to be an urban forest thanks to its high concentration of tree-lined streets and gardens in the residential areas. the most popular tree is the jacaranda which blooms purple flowers in the spring and literally paints many of the northern suburbs' streets purple as you can see below... it's amazing if seen from up a hill.

    large_bf86764b513dfa30d072.jpg
    CABAA-IBIBG-BFDAF-EI_thumb.jpg

    and when you're ready, you can venture on to cape town...icon_wink.gif
    _R0I7826_WEB.jpg
    Camps_Bay_by_Sivan_Miller.jpg
    (i just had to put those in there icon_razz.gif)

  • Jul 11, 2012 4:03 AM GMT
    OMG... Loved the post with the pictures !!!

    I read a lot about Melville, I think it's nice...

    Sandton looks goof for offices, but not for people... right ?

    How is Bryanston ?


    How is Parkhurst ?


    I started browsing Gumtree... however, all the bachelor appartment seem to go very fast, so everything that is online now is for the 1st of August... I'm more looking for accomodation available on the 1st of September ( 3500 to 4500R per month, furnished ) ... do you guys think I can make it in one of these areas with that budget ?

    Today and Tomorrow are my last days of work, and I must say, the idea of doing a reboot in Joburg starts making me very enthusiastic !


  • Jul 11, 2012 5:36 AM GMT
    Another question I see many adds saying " Cottage House " ... does it mean it's in the back of the Garden of a private house , eventually the landlord's house ?

    Is it ok to live in the ground floor ?


    Is it common to have studio or 1bedroom+ 1 living appartments in Joburg...

    I'm more lookingt for something urban, than these cottage things...
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    Jul 11, 2012 4:03 PM GMT
    Well, Sandtonis the name of an area with a lot of suburbs within it... the CBD of Sandton itself is very office-based but there are some flats within that area too, but they're very expensive these days.

    It all depends on where your work will be based... Don't just look at Bryanston and Parkhurst (both very nice btw, esp Bryanston). In the Sandton area, you could also look at Benmore Gardens, Parkmore, Rivonia, Sandhurst, Morningside...

    Greenside, Victory Park, Parktown, Rosebank...also got some great spots and all quite close to Parkhurst and Melville (check it out on Google Maps). You'll see what I mean.

    Bedfordview is nice too, but again, depends on where you're going to be working. You don't want to spend 2 hours in Joburg traffic every day just to get to work.

    Just remember, you'll need a car. If not...it might take you a lot longer to get from A to B if you're using buses and Gautrain.

    Garden Cottages are normally attachments within some of the bigger residences. A lot of the times, these cottages have their own entrances and cark parks, you literally just share the garden. But sometimes it can be a bit weird if the owner themselves are based in the main house. Although, it's not a bad ooption if you can find something short term before finding your feet in Jozi.

    1Beds and Bachelor's are around, and becoming more popular as house prices increase in Joburg. Ground floors are definitely ok if you're within a gated/secure complex. It's not Somalia, so don't panic. icon_smile.gif

  • Jul 11, 2012 4:28 PM GMT
    Hmmmm I see, thanks for the input.

    My office will be in a street next to Mandela Square, like... right on it...
    So I guess looking for something around as the districts you quoted wouldn't be stupid...

    But one more thing, I don't see myself having my windows giving on a garden with a family playing with the puppy and the teenagers every week end... I rather see a highway or another building :-)))

    What do you think of my budget ? Is it reasonable to think I'll find something in that range in these areas ?