You obviously have a heightened awareness of your security here in SA. A lot of expats (and others) choose to live in a security village, which is a complex of accommodation which is fenced/walled in with security personnel often working on the gate 24 hours a day. We didn’t want to live like that – we have never been the kind of people to stay in a big hotel with lots of people around and would often choose the b&b option – it’s just more “us”. We felt like this was kind of the same deal – we wanted to live in a house on a normal street, without the cushion of the complex.
To do this we needed to ensure a few things for safety, other than setting up Home Alone style traps for intruders. Garages for the cars so that they are not on the street, an electric fence, bars on the windows that are accessible from the street, and a house alarm that we arm before we go to sleep and whilst we are out. We hold a set of keys each that the school caretaker would be jealous of as each door in the house has a lock. We also have infra-red beams in our garden hooked up to our alarm. When the alarm is tripped from the fence, beams or within the house we get a phone call instantly from the security company, and if we don’t give the correct password to let them know all is well, or if in fact all is not well, there is an armed response guard here within 5 minutes.
We know that this works as we have set the alarm off accidentally 3 times in the last 2 days. Doh! The first time we didn’t know that it was the armed response that had opened our garage in the middle of the night and were walking round outside our bedroom window. At first we thought someone was breaking in. It was pitch black and we didn’t know where the light switch was and Rob was hopping around in the nude wondering how he was going to protect us from this intruder. I could think more clearly as I was wearing my PJ’s (it’s freezing in this house!!) and realised that the only person that could access the electric doors of the garage must be the security company! Sure enough, there’s a guy in a bullet proof vest outside my bedroom window.
A couple of people have asked why we don’t value our own safety and think we are stupid for not living in a complex. We made the decision that when we came to SA we weren’t going to live in fear, and as we are not complex style people we would have only lived there out of fear for living on our own. We don’t have any children so don’t have the responsibility of having to be as safe as possible for their sakes. I’m just worried about the cats!
I suppose a major factor was that we wanted to have more room after living in London, which is just so cramped. After years of living in small flats that are on top of each other we just wanted the space of a house. Also, we wanted to live somewhere trendy and pedestrianised, which Melville certainly is. A lot of the secure complexes are in areas where you must drive to everything, whereas we can walk to the shops if we like. This was really important to us.
I read an interesting article before I moved here in which the writer questioned whether you are safer in a complex, or whether you are actually a target for burglary due to complacency. I read a similar article that implied that a lot of the time there are “inside jobs” going on with the guards that work there, who do see if you have anything of value being delivered to your house. I honestly couldn’t comment on how true this is as I have no idea, although I am positive that the majority of guards are honest people just making a living and are not involved in anything of the sort. Sometimes rules aren’t followed as they should be and there will always be someone there to take advantage of that, the world over!
All I know is that we found the perfect kind of set up for us. For some people it would really not suit them to live like this, but we love it. We live at the end of a street that is predominantly B&B’s, and a few of them employ their own staff to stand outside in the evening to ensure that their guests are OK and can get back in. We have a guy called Chi Chi (do not be fooled by his name, he is a BIG guy! With a huge smile :-)) that works at the guest house across the road from us, so we feel like we have our own personal body guard!
For now, my greatest worry is getting our furniture delivered, my phone sorted and that Rob won’t expose himself to any security guards in the future…..