Neighbourly Love in South Africa- Or Something Like That

Sorry for the long wait in between posts. I had to pee. It came out SUPER slow. But thanks to people harassing me online and in person (I’m looking at you, Illza), I’m back. What can I say- I’m a sucker for peer pressure. And I also have a neighbour who’s worth writing about.

In my real life, we recently wrapped up an amazing 3-week visit with some great friends from Canada. We had fun introducing them to all the amazing things South Africa has to offer (the food, the art, the animals, the almighty braai, etc), along with some of the things that fall into the “not-so-awesome” category (no water in the estate due to a burst water main…again, increased security because of a recent spate of hijackings right near our house, hilarious incompetence in several customer service situations, etc).

What I’m saying is I have a lot of stories saved up, and many of them will appear on the blog. One day. But before I tell you those stories, I want to tell you THIS story…

I have a neighbour here, which isn’t that uncommon I guess. In fact, I have several. They’re all great. Except for this ONE guy.

In most cases around the world, if your neighbour inconveniences you, your first step is to walk over, knock politely on the door, and explain what the problem is. In almost all instances, the matter ends there. But apparently, that’s not so here. Welcome, my friends, to the wonderful world of estate politics in South Africa.

First, a bit of background. I rent my home here. I’m on a temporary contract, and it made no sense to buy. As such, I moved into a house that has a pre-existing, beautiful garden with several large trees along the border for privacy. I thought this was a bonus because then the neighbours wouldn’t have to see me rolling around naked on a tarp covered in butter whilst my friends throw oranges at me, which happens to be one of my favourite hobbies.

But I wasn’t counting on THIS particular neighbour.

For the purpose of this blog, his name is Bareng Job Kenneth Motshwane. Because that’s actually his real name. But because he’s very proud of the fact he attended a 5th rate university and earned a degree that has about as much value as a participation trophy in a glue-eating competition, he insists on being called Dr Motshwane. So we’ll just shorten that to “Dick.”

Anyway, Dick had a legitimate concern. Apparently, some of the trees in my yard were dropping leaves onto his property. I totally get how that could be annoying. However, instead of just letting me know about these errant leaves, he decided to skip the whole “behave like a normal human” thing and lodge an official complaint with the homeowners’ board of the estate, demanding the trees be trimmed within 14 days. Although I was surprised, I decided to take the high road and sent him the below message minutes after I received the complaint:

neighbour

My phone autocorrected “Go pound sand, Dick” to this.

You see, my lease agreement clearly states I can’t prune any of the trees on the property. I heard back from the rental agent, and she said she would look after it. Cool. Problem solved. I’d just wait for someone to come trim the trees, and Dick would be happy.

Except 3 days later, I opened my garage and tried to back out of the driveway, only to see this blocking my way:

Neighbour

If anybody knows how to be petty, it’s good old Dick.

That’s right. Instead of waiting the 14 days (obviously Dick’s PhD didn’t teach him how to count past 3), Dick got his gardener to lop off several branches and drag them into my driveway, blocking my way. Well played, Dick, well played. I moved them out of my way so I could get out and tried to call him to see what the deal was. Because Dick is terrified of human interaction, of course he avoided my call.

So now the rental agent is filing a counter complaint for trespassing. This is getting fun. But it’s entirely not my style to play these games.

Instead, I looked up the bylaws in the estate. I can’t make excessive noise after 10pm. However, because I used to make music as the most obnoxious part of a professional rock band, I have a drum set in my garage. And when I’m done writing this, I’m moving it to the backyard, facing Dick’s house. But I’m not going to play them. I know how to play them, and that’s not good enough for what I want to do.

Along with the drums, I also happen to have a 7-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter. And while they have no idea how to play the drums, they sure love to randomly bash away on them. Game on, Dick, game on. I hope you enjoy your dinner tonight. And the next one. And the next. And the next.

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.

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15 Comments

  1. Great read! Made me appreciate my neighbour in Toronto that likes to complain to the City about “dust” from the house next to his

  2. Love reading your blog! Neighbours are quite the tricky bit in SA. Most of them become really good friends, that you can braai with and your kids end up growing up together with their kids. There is always that one, who can be about as annoying as customer service reps.
    On the contrary, here in Canada I have only seen my neighbour twice in 6 months. Think they like to play hide and go seek.

    1. So true! I love the rest of my neighbours here. And in general, I find South Africans more friendly than Canadians. We’re a polite bunch, but a little reserved and closed off. Our social lives are much busier here than they ever were back home!

  3. We had a nasty tree incident here too. Our neighbours asked us to top some trees that bordered their property. We were happy to do it and hired a professional to take 10 feet off the top of our 40 or 50 ft poplars. Our neighbour was thankful but someone called the city to complain and we received an official letter accusing us of a tree massacre! They used that word and threatened us with $50,000 in fines. Fortunately we had hired a licensed tree guy and they accepted his recommendation that they had to be topped but what a nightmare.

  4. Welcome to it! The ‘perfect ‘ neighbour! There is always one! Reminds me of our one. NEVER EVER has the common decency to just buzz, come over and have a chat. Why would any normal human being not want to try and sort out a problem that is causing distress! Instead the PSYCHOPATH in this nightmare comes out, clandestine and horrid! And then one just looses it! Trees in your driveway and in our case she REFUSED to move her car and blocked my driveway not allowing workers to leave as they had dared to park in the panhandle as there was no space in my front drive as the contractors were finishing off! Simple solution… Come in… Ask the contractors to simply park in the road and they would have done it. NOOOOO SHE JUST PARKED EVERYONE IN INSTEAD!!! Logical indeed! To Mr Dick really? Try and be less SA and more welcoming and neighborly! Education should help one evolve not loose the plot! Sorry for you… THE DRUMS ARE ROLLING NOW…. AND YOU DESERVE IT! You have a chance to redeem yourself… Come over with a nice bottle of wine, apologise and just take a chill!!!

    1. Haha- I guess we all have “THAT guy/gal” in our neighbourhood. I can’t complain too much- it gives me something to write about!

  5. I’m a South African who used to live in Durban (and now lives in the US) and my neighbour there did exactly the same thing, except she had her gardener toss it over the fence to our side. This was after I’d told her I would clear the whole back yard that fenced on her property in winter which was 4 months away at the time. I had my revenge too, because by the time I had cleared my back yard it was so clean she had no privacy left! He, he, he!

  6. I have to be honest we have awesome neighbouis in fact we are all like a family, we braai , cry and kuier (party) together lol! Sorry that you do not live in Cape Town , we have the friendliest people here maybe you guys should move ;-P

    1. Most of my neighbours are awesome! It’s just this one guy. And EVERYBODY hates him. He thinks he’s a big deal, but we all just laugh at him. Little man with a little mind.

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