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Living in South Africa

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Arriving for the first time and as a well-travelled individual, the first thing I noticed is that it looked remarkably familiar...but different. This is the same kind of initial impression I had when I first visited Australia and New Zealand. The common theme here of course is that these countries are all part of the Commonwealth and part of their legacies are very similar indeed.

Security and Violence in South Africa are well-documented topics on the worldwide news. The first drive away from the airport revealed a landscape with houses and heavy electric fencing, a very unusual sight.

Then my body and mind started to notice a difference. The seasons are the other way around. This was April. As a European I am used to associate this month with Spring (even if at times the British weather lets you well down). As we are now in the southern hemisphere this is not the case here but instead autumn. It took me a while to get used to that. Also because of its location on our round earth planet, the daylight in South Africa does not wary that much over the year and never goes beyond 7.30pm on the eastern coast yet can expand to 9.30pm on the western coast. South Africa only operates 1-time zone yet physically covers multiple time zones as it is wide. There is also no summer nor winter time. It stays the same throughout the year. The total variance in daylight between the solstices is only a couple of hours as opposed to 6 in the UK.

This was Johannesburg or Joburg as the locals say. This city is the financial heart of South Africa. Think the City in London. A few days later I arrived in Durban on the Eastern coast where the vibe is very different. This is a relax city where holidays makers come to (and yes, the Joburg people too). It’s also the largest population of Indian outside of India. Another legacy from the British Empire as Indians were brought over as labour for the rich Sugar cane farms present all over this province.

Which brings me to people. South Africa has no less than 11 official languages of which English is just 1 of them. All official documents such as a Car registration will have 2 languages displayed side by side (English and Afrikaans) though road signs will be in English only. The mix of cultures is evident everywhere. Just walk in any street and listen to people talking. It’s easy to see why this is considered a multi-cultural society. 

What about the foods? Every country has their specialities, and everyone will something to their liking here especially meat lovers. Oh yes, South Africans like their meat and like to braai it (barbeque to everyone else). Because the climate is kind, outdoor living is extensive and allows for frequent such occasions. Outdoor living is also reflected in the design of the houses and the materials used.

Sport wide, South Africans like rugby the most. I’ve had to learn the game as I was given no choice.

Look on the roads and you will soon realise that there are mainly only 2 types of cars here. Cheap old type or low-cost models and then bakkies as they are called (read pickup truck) with all kind of accessories designed to take on bush driving. Strangely, it is legal over here for people to be carried at the back of them hence why they are seen as ideal workhorses.

The famous local wildlife is another big difference. Visitors are pouring from all over the world to see the big 5 (African elephant, Black rhinoceros, Cape buffalo, African lion, African leopard) with the last one the hardest to spot as it is quite a shy animal. It took me a few visits to a game reserve but finally I made it and it was so awesome so see such a majestic big cat. I consider myself lucky that I can now do this sightseeing at will over a weekend (and I do, not forgetting to braai too of course).

From the sea, whales and sharks are famous regular visitors and local swim beaches have shark nets in place. Back to land and snakes of all sorts are everywhere with the black mamba being the deadliest and the most famous of all. We have a couple of famous snake catchers living nearby and I have their number on my speed dial. Within 3 days of moving into my new home I was faced with an encounter with a bush snake. This one is friendly. Nonetheless my European blood just went rather cold at this point. Monkeys are present everywhere. No one can leave their doors or windows open not for security but to stop them inviting themselves in as they are very clever animals who know how to open a door and a window and will steal your food before you even know it.

Finally, I have had to totally change my clothes wardrobe. The sun is never far away in Durban and temperatures here rarely fall below 20 Celcius so in with the shorts and out with the jumpers. The most popular shoes here are flip flops for men and open sandals for the ladies. We still do have a winter and a summer wardrobe of course but we use it as an excuse to bring in different colours.


South Africa, Thank you for your hospitality


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