Surviving Knysna

A standing joke in our little town, is that if you want to leave town with a million bucks, you’d better arrive with five. Yet, in about February and March of every year, they arrive.

They have a wide-eyed innocence about them, and start every sentence with, “Hi, we’re new in town…..” As if we didn’t know. It is also obvious that they are dressing down, but don’t feel very comfortable, and definitely look nothing like the “locals”.

I might just stop here for a minute, and define what a “local” is, in the context of Knysna. We have two varieties. Those who were born and raised here (the minority) and immigrants who have survived more than say, 5 Winters.

“Winters”, you might quip, what a quaint old word, why use it to define locals?

Well, as they say in the classics, “What’s long and hard and f$&@s newcomers in Knysna?” WINTER !!

It’s cold, miserable, and there is very little to do. That is of course, if you haven’t discovered the forest rides and hikes and cosy little pubs with fires blazing.


But then again, we don’t tell the newcomers about these winter gems, we just let them freeze to death in their homes. Added to this misery, of course, is that they have probably bought that quaint little coffee shop or curio shop that was buzzing during the season, and now sit despondently, day after day, watching the cobwebs gather over the door.

Yep, it’s a hard life in paradise, but by Spring they emerge, awe-struck, poorer, but starting to “chill”. Sure, they had to sell the big Pajero to cover the overheads, but season’s on it’s way and even the “locals” are slowly starting to recognise them.

The newcomers come in roughly the following forms.

Stressed out Sandton corporate couple. Fall in love with Knysna over season and on a wim, sell up everything, and move down with about 6 months living expenses after settling everything. Buys a Coffee/Curio shop. Survival Index – 3/10.

Business Failure (or scandal) in another town or city. Arrive in the dead of night with their clothes and their car. Let’s make a new start. Survival Index 0/10.

Commuter. Moves the family down to Knysna. Buys a house in Knysna and rents a flat in Jozie. Commutes over weekends. Survival Index 7/10.

Single/Divorcee. Arrives alone or with the kid’s in tow. Immediately takes up a sport or joins a club. Travels to P.E. or Cape Town regularly for a “big city” fix when needed. Survival Index 7/10.

Retiree. Normally an early retirement “Golden Handshake” from a large listed company. Boredom normally sends these packing, but we have the exceptions. Survival Index 4/10 – 7/10 (depending on how much money and boredom).

I intend writing a “Survival Guide” one day and intend expanding on my Knysna Map (on the sidebar of this blog) to highlight some more interesting places.

I leave you with this bit of advice.

If you have an extremely strong relationship, more than enough financial resources, a sense of humour, tolerance, a love of nature and the outdoors, a survival instinct and don’t mind getting your hands dirty. KNYSNA IS FOR YOU !!


7 thoughts on “Surviving Knysna”

  1. Hi I am the owner of a brand new shop in Knysna. Your article about surviving Knysna is to me in bad taste! Not very welcoming for a tourist town! Just because you survived your 5 winters does not mean you have to be so critical about new comers trying to make it. By the way how did you get here?
    Having new comers in your town should be a good thing, stop bragging cause you made it and rather try and help and encourage new comers.
    I don’t understand people who sit and complain because someone new has come in to contribute to your economy! SHAME ON YOU!

  2. Aha, some response at last. This “light-hearted” article was written from my personal experience of 7 hard winters, and is certainly not bragging.

    This is a beautiful, but tough, little town to survive in, but with the right frame of mind I’m sure you’ll thrive.

    Pop your flag on the map of Knysna and let me send you some business.


    P.S. In reply to how we arrived here. I commuted for a year to keep the income stream flowing and once established, joined my family about a year later.

  3. Please don’t shoot the messenger. I am also a Knysna resident and business person-Synaptoman tells it like it is folks, no jokes. Check out how many “newish” businesses have closed in this town recently! No names no pack drill. If you can make it in this town, you will be able to make it anywhere in this country. How “old” is the new Knysna Mall ? And it already has casualties!! However, don’t let this dampen your spirit. Never lose sight of your goals and dreams, despite circumstances or public opinion. Give it everything you’ve got. Just not personal surity, is all. May success always be your partner. Sincerely.

  4. Too bad we could not stay as Knysna is beautiful but there were greener pastures. We have kept all the properties we bought in Knynsa- we bought them all several years ago and you know how the property market has just escalated . They are all rented so we have a steady monthly income while we can tend to “surviving in the greener pastures” We will return to retire in Knynsa so keep the place as charming and as quaint as always.

  5. I take my hat off to everyone that takes a chance to start a new fresh life in Knysna. I for one would love to pack up and relocate to one of the cleanest & neatest quaint little town. I just dont have the balls to take the chance. No free easy rides in this life…. “Those who dare” nornally win, yet i hybernate in my safe little world (still have my problems). Well done “synaptoman”, you had BIG balls, took the plunge and suceeded in Knysan. You tell it like it is and well done to you and your family for making it. Good luck to all the new Knysna “FRESHIES”, hope you all make it. To all prospective people wanting to relocate, remenber, Knsyna is a “RETIREMENT VILLAGE” & holiday resort. and thats what makes it such a wonderful place .

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