What I’ve learned after a week of living in South Africa
Updated: Feb 15
What a week it’s been staying in Somerset West in the Western Cape. We moved to SA thanks to my husband’s Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa. As his dependent, I am unable to work. So I’m spending my time writing, looking after our Basset Hound, Snoop, and figuring out our new lives in this amazing country. Below are some of my observations and learnings after a week of living here as an expat.
1. Whether you are asking for directions or the time, South Africans are always happy to help. They’re the first to strike up a conversation and are so proud of their country. I’ve lost count of the number of helpful tips and braai invites we’ve received!
2. In the UK, people tend to be more formal with communication. After all, we’re characteristically known for our etiquette, good manners, and overly apologetic nature. We’ll happily spend time putting together a well-composed email to get across our point of view or to ask a long-winded question. This is not the done thing in SA. Instead, the preference is for a WhatsApp message (yes, even to businesses) or, even more, mind-boggling to me, sending a voice note. Let's be honest, who wants to spend time on a call listening to someone ramble on, especially when we all have busy lives, and it drains our credit when you can quickly record what you want to say and then ping it across in a message? Being the typical self-conscious Brit I am though, I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to reciprocate on the voice note front. Maybe in time.
3. Driving in SA is a whole different ball game. There are cars in all colours, but there seems to be an obsession with white cars - they are everywhere! Traffic lights are also confusing. Namely, because they are also called “robots”.
A “bakkie” is what we know as a pick-up truck (see below pic). The South Africans are proud bakkie and SUV drivers. Automatic cars are also in abundance, which is helpful when it comes to the amount of traffic you experience here.
4. Monkey gland sauce. Sounds like an unappetising monkey testicle, but you’ll be pleased to hear it’s a deliciously sweet and sticky sauce mainly made up of chutney, tomato, garlic, onion, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. The perfect accompaniment to a burger or steak on the braai (aka BBQ or grill).
5. South Africans like to say the word “shame” a lot. Whether it’s talking about the weather, travel plans, traffic, or just general chit-chat, it can be meant in a good or bad way and used multiple times within the same sentence.
6. Checkers nailed the assignment when it comes to grocery delivery. The rest of the world take note. You can get up to 30 items of food delivered to you within 60 minutes thanks to the Checkers Sixty60 app. They even recycle the brown paper bags your goodies get delivered in. Game and waistline changer.