30 Ways You Know You’re Almost A Local In South Africa

30 Ways to Tell You're Not New to South Africa Anymore

I moved to South Africa from Canada in September 2016. When I first got here, everything was strange, confusing, and wonderful. Now that I’ve been here almost a year, well, nothing has changed. But I think I’ve been adapting. One of my favourite bloggers, Joburg Expat, compiled of list of signs that indicate you’re no longer new to South Africa here. It’s a great post, and I thought I’d add some more ways you can tell you’re ALMOST a local:

1) You no longer scream like a little girl when you see a mole cricket or a Parktown prawn (but it’s still ok to send your kids to dispatch them).

2) You don’t wait around like a dumb idiot when somebody says they’ll help you “just now” because you now know it will be nowhere close to now.

3) You don’t giggle anymore every time someone says the word “hooter.”

30 Ways You Know You’re Almost A Local In South Africa

Actually, you know what, never mind. I absolutely still do that.

4) You’re no longer surprised when the power goes out, and you know exactly where you’ve stored all your candles and flashlights (if you’ve even had a chance to put them away after the last power outage).

5) You don’t get frustrated when the ATM doesn’t work. In fact, you’re pleasantly surprised when it DOES.

6) The butcher knows you by name.

7) Even though you brought your propane BBQ from home, you haven’t used it in months because you know a proper braai uses charcoal, or better yet, sekelbos.

8) You begrudgingly let taxis cut in front of you but find yourself threatening to klap the driver under your breath.

9) You regularly go to the bank to get coins so you have tips handy.

10) You recognize that whenever somebody in customer service (or customer disservice in the case of anything government related) says eish, you’re about to enter a whole new dimension of frustration.

11) You get used to votes of non-confidence in government.

12) You get used to those votes of non-confidence failing, even though EVERYBODY knows the president is a crook.

13) You just accept the fact that your calls will drop, especially if you use Vodacom.

14) You find yourself accidentally enjoying cricket.

15) You’ve given up on finding normal freaking nachos.

16) You’ve accepted the fact that a permanent sign warning drivers of potholes is a perfectly legitimate alternative to simply fixing the potholes.

30 Ways You Know You’re Almost A Local In South Africa

There. Fixed.

17) Same with signs warning drivers of smash and grabs and hijackings.

18) You no longer find it unusual when Christmas cards from overseas appear in your mailbox in April. In fact, you’re more surprised they made it at all.

19) You’ve realized that what South Africans call a strike is actually a riot, and the area is best avoided.

20) You don’t even stop to look at impala on game drives anymore because you want to get to the real animals.

21) You’ve accepted the fact that your domestic helper will fold your underwear. And you kind of like it now.

22) You start planning your kids’ birthday parties months in advance because you know birthdays are competitions of excess in South Africa. 

23) You’ve eaten zebra. And liked it.

24) You’re totally OK with your kids running around barefoot. Everywhere.

25) Reports of pastors spraying their congregation with insecticide, claiming to talk to God on the phone, or boasting of going down to hell and killing Satan no longer surprise you.

26) You call trucks bakkies now and don’t even feel weird saying it anymore.

27) You can walk by a “Cum Books” shop without bursting out laughing.

30 Ways You Know You’re Almost A Local In South Africa

OK, maybe I still laugh SOMETIMES. But come on…

28) You’re used to people standing so close to you in a queue that it’s borderline erotic, and you have no problem saying, “Listen boet, as pretty as I find you, please either back up or take me out for dinner.”

29) You don’t feel weird anymore when you see people peeing on the side of the road.

30) When you’re sitting in your back garden enjoying a drink in the sunshine and listening to birds sing while the kids play in the pool, and you feel like you’re truly home.

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About the Author

I’ve been many things. A university English instructor, a picker upper of dead bodies, a musician, and a sales guy. My work brought me and my family from Vancouver, Canada to Pretoria, South Africa in September 2016, and I’m still wondering how that happened.

I started this blog mostly because my friends back in Canada kept asking me how things were in South Africa, and posting about my experiences seemed more efficient than repeating myself hundreds of times.

Maple and Marula is a way for me to make sense of my new surroundings as an expat who has no idea what I’m doing.

Author Archive Page

32 Comments

  1. Loved this! I am from Calgary, Canada (but my parents are originally from Nanaimo and my entire family lives there, so its also home too) and have been living in this frustratingly wonderful country for 8 years now. I’m now thinking about what I would add to this list. 🙂

    1. You’re from my neck of the woods…kinda. I’ve been to Calgary several times in the winter. I know why you left.

      I’d love to see your list!

  2. Love your post. We are South African born Canadians living in South Africa again. Sounds strange but a long story. The “just now” was something our friends in Canada could not quite understand. And so glad you find braai ing better than the gas bbq. I hated being only guy standing at the bbq turning meet, rather than letting it cook in that bbq “oven”. Absolutely loved our 10 years in British Columbia – Canada is a great place and the people the best!

    1. I’m still not over the whole “just now” thing. I’ve trained my colleagues at work to say “just now”, “now now”, or “now” if they mean sometime in the future and “Canadian now” if they ACTUALLY mean now.

  3. Get the nacho chips and the imported can of almost cheese-like product from Azteca, and some jalapenos, and voila – normal nachos.

    Although I do like the ones at Spur now even though the tomato based sauce is totally nowhere near Tex Mex.

    1. I’ve managed to find enough stuff to KINDA make them at home now, but forget about trying to order them in a restaurant!

        1. And when you DO find real nachos, they’re insanely expensive. I know the first thing I’m going to order when I visit Canada…

  4. Yup you are definitely showing signs of settling in. Had a good laugh about your points. Loved that you are letting your kids become “normal” ….that’s how they were planned originally.
    BUT you don’t mention having learned to say “Ja” in place of “yes”….that’s pretty important….

  5. Great list Phil! By the way I don’t know if you have realized that Facebook has taken our saying (point 2) ‘Just now’ and they use it all over the place! Now the world knows about it.

    1. I STILL get burned by that one! I’m down in Ballito right now, and my son and I are going on a fishing trip today. I still hasn’t heard where we were meeting the boat this morning by yesterday morning, so I emailed asking about it. I got a reply at 11:15 saying they’d send me the location “just now.” Nothing by 4pm, so I called. I was THEN told I’d get an SMS “now.” I started to get worried because I had already paid in full, so I sent another email. Finally got the location at 7pm. I had nothing to worry about after all. I just got South Africa’d is all.

  6. Another great post Phil, always good for a laugh.
    PS: Do you think it’s a coincidence the “Nut Factory” is right next to “Cum Books”, or is that just the way God intended it?

    1. Whoever decided to put those stores right beside each other is either the most innocent person on the planet or the most hilarious.

  7. I absolutely do not relate to any of these exaggerations. Obviously, the author is having a different experience from me. He doesn’t sound well integrated.

  8. Had a good laugh now, but shame man, you really need to come live in Cape Town!! No potholes and no park town prawns, and most atms work perfectly 😉 And we have Table Mountain down here! Hope you plan a holiday soon!

    1. Thanks Erika! I visited Cape Town just over ten years ago, and you’re right- it’s beautiful! I’ll be back to visit soon- the problem with South Africa is that there are SO many amazing places to visit. I’m sure I’ll never get bored here.

  9. I am a born and bred South African and found your article highly entertaining! If there’s one thing we can say about ourselves, it’s that we’re able to laugh at ourselves! Looking forward to No. 2 and don’t forget to mention the robots!!

    1. I’m glad South Africans are able to laugh at themselves- otherwise I would have been beat up several times by now! And yes, I STILL can’t bring myself to call traffic lights robots…

  10. Here’s some more:
    – You forget what a cloud looks like in winter in Gauteng.
    – You complain bitterly how cold it is outside if the temperature drops below 20 degrees Celsius.
    – You only slow down to below the speed limit when you see a traffic cop or speed camera.
    – Eish bru. Lekker day for a braai!
    – You stop listening to the hyped up rubbish on the radio that they call news. We get it. Our president is a crook.
    – Black label!
    – I once rode a bicycle in the emergency lane of the freeway whilst a friendly traffic cop waved at me whilst I rode by. I thought wow if I was in a so called first world country I would make the front page of the news.
    – You are patient. Ever endured a day at home affairs!
    – You know what car guards are and how to pull away quick before they see you on a day you have no money for a tip.

    Lekker blog!

    1. Haha- these are great! I totally have felt the pain of the last one- I HATE running out of change, and I hate feeling like a terrible person when I sneak away as soon as the guard isn’t looking anymore!

  11. Born and bred Saffa and I found this really funny. Can’t agree on 27 though, I’ve been sniggering at their ridiculous name ever since they opened their doors.
    I have another one for you – the ubiqitious use of the word “boring” when the person actually means something more like “irritating”, I don’t know what to say any more when I actually mean boring!

    1. Good point! I’ve noticed that too! But I’m sure you Saffas would find a pile of stuff we say in Canada pretty strange too. I mean, we’re CLOSE to perfect, but not quite there. Yet.

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