After 3 years away from the country, here are a few quirky things I’d forgotten about South Africa. In all honesty, they could be local to Uitenhage, the town I am staying in, so sorry if this offends the more urban South African folk out there! Its just my observations of life in this town.
1. Water tastes like water (not chemicals) and kettles have no limescale – joy! The milk is full cream … tea and coffee tastes much better. And most people have a minimum of 3 sugars in their tea and coffee... oh my.
2. The houses are tiled in every room, except the bedrooms. Great for summer, friggin freezing in the winter. Slippers required. Kitchen walls and bathroom walls are often tiled floor to ceiling.
3. Speaking of ceilings – in the living room they are often covered with strip pine boards … yes the ceiling, not the floor.
4. Dogs roam around the streets willy nilly and the sound of dogs barking is always in the background. Often one will start and then the next will get going, and soon the whole neighbourhood is a cacophony of barks and/or howls. It gets worse in windy weather or when there’s a full moon... not so great at 3 in the morning.
5. Loitering …people loiter everywhere – in doorways, on steps, at the front gate, on the footpath, under a tree (even if the tree is in the middle of the median strip on the road), outside shops, around cars, on corners … everywhere! Life is lived outside here, and it is no doubt why everyone knows everyone and their business.
6. I love this – it doesn’t always happen, only sometimes – when you are a visitor and the host serves you a cool drink, they put the glass on a saucer.
7. One ply loo roll. I go from being a 3 sheet girl to a 10 sheet girl. I know it doesn’t add up, but the toilet paper is very thin and there is nothing worse than a part of your hand breaching the paper barrier at the crucial moment.
8. A meal ain’t a meal without rice and potatoes. And chicken. Indeed, if there is someone who doesn’t eat fried chicken on a Sunday then my name is Earl. You should see the Sunday queues outside KFC for those who can’t be bothered to fry their own chicken. There’s two KFCs and a Nando’s in this town (and no McDonalds, Burger King or Pizza Hut).
9. Thumping loud music blares from most cars, and to greet a fellow driver you can hoot the horn or rev the engine, or indeed just stop in the middle of the road and have a conversation.
10. Beer is bought in quarts. Well, why would you bother with a smaller bottle?