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Head to Head – Moving to a New Home

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Making the big move to a new home? Heading from high school to university anytime soon? Then that probably means you’ll be looking for a new home too. So if you’ve been asking yourself what the difference between living in a digs versus a res is – you’ve come to the right place.

I would like to begin this discussion by quoting the German playwright, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said,

“He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.”

Before I continue, I must insist that you adequately appreciate this gentleman’s middle-name, which – if you’ve forgotten – is Wolfgang. That is the single most badass middle-name ever, second only to that derogatory word used when referring to your stepfather. However, I must warn you that a quick Google search of ‘wolf gang’ will only result in disappointment and this unexplained photo:

head to head

Besides Goethe’s middle-name, I think he grasped the concept of a home rather nicely. If you disagree with that understanding, there are endless amounts of quotes for you to choose from. Joe Moore said,

“Home is where you can say anything you please, because nobody pays attention to you anyway.”

According to Channing Pollock, home is “the most popular, and will be the most enduring of all earthly establishments.”

John Clarke, rather repetitively, said

“Home is homely, though it be homely.”

And Clifton Fadiman plainly put it as this,

“To feel at home, stay at home.”

Clearly the definition of what a home is – or how a home is meant to be experienced – is not as easily defined as Oxford would like us to think. But even though defining the word ‘home’ may be impossible, the very fact that there is such a variety of definitions and quotes for us to choose from, suggests that the concept of home is an important one for a lot of people.

So what do we know? We know that Wolfgang is a badass middle-name, the concept of ‘home’ is difficult to define, and to have a home is important. That last point is particularly pertinent for students who are starting their university careers. The majority of these students making the big move from high school to university, do so by moving out of their parents’ homes for the first time, and – as it turns out – students of the University of Cape Town are no exception.

I recently interviewed 25 random UCT students about their experiences in digs and residences. Every student I interviewed said they had moved to a new home in their first year of studies. So the debate between digs or res goes far beyond pride and egos, it is a legitimate question that needs to be asked, because the answer may prove the difference between living in a house or a home.

To help answer this important question, I pitted the two options against each other to see which would come out on top in the ring. By comparing them in terms of security, living environment, convenience and cost, I think I may have found the answer.


Digs: 0 – Res: 1

In Round 1, results showed that students in res felt more protected from intruders, but where digs gained the upper hand was that it provided students with an environment of greater trust for their flatmates. However, on the whole, students felt safer during both day and night when staying in residence rather than in a digs – regardless of address.

Living Environment

Digs: 1 – Res: 1

Digs smashed res in the face in Round 2. Students preferred having their own space, found it easier to sleep, enjoyed the people they lived with more, and in general reported to be happier than their res counterparts. Even in terms of their studies (which, if you remember, is the reason they’re at university), students in digs experienced a more conducive study environment.


Digs: 1 – Res: 2

After the embarrassment res suffered in the previous round, it came back swinging. Students in res felt that getting to campus was significantly easier than it was for students in digs, largely due to the fact that Jammie Stops were nearby their rooms.


Digs: 2 – Res: 2

In the final round, digs had to lift its game; and it did. Students in digs found their accommodation more affordable than students in res. This, despite the prepared meals provided by most residences.

So who gets the belt and the bragging rights as best accommodation for UCT students? Neither… or both, it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, whether you decide to live in a digs or res, both are just buildings. Choosing which one suits you, has more to do with who you are, how you have lived, and how you will live, than with the cost, convenience, security, or position of the building.

Because home is what you make it, and ‘Wolfgang’ is a badass middle name.

Tips for You

So now that you know the answer, here are some pointers for finding accommodation in Cape Town if you choose to either move out of Res or skip it entirely.

  • Start looking early. If you’re hoping to find a place next year, start looking latest September.
  • There’s still hope. Having said Point 1, don’t lose hope if you still haven’t found a digs by January. Lots of accommodation becomes available in late December/early January as other students begin to move out for the New Year.
  • Choose a house over a flat every time. You have more freedom in houses than in flats and your parties can last longer.
  • Double-check your flatmates. Just because they’re a good friend doesn’t mean you can move into a home with them. No matter how well you may get along, the rules work differently inside a home.

EduConnect 2cents

Whichever option you take, talk to people who have made the same option their home. Ask them for tips and tricks. For example, they might recommend a cheap moving company, or a kitchenware and furniture store with good deals, or little things that a certain accommodation requires and you didn’t initially think of – for example that you need to budget for washing powder from now on.

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