So What is South Africa Like?

At this point in time, I’ve been in South Africa for officially 3 months. That’s a pretty long time, and I’ve got to say that I’ve had some pretty unique and exciting experiences here so far. So far I’ve gotten to feed a giraffe, hug an elephant, play with lion cubs, and pet a cheetah. Pretty cool, huh? How many people can say that they’ve gotten to do that? I’ve taken multiple safaris and I’ve seen four of the Big Five. I’ve bungee jumped off the highest bridge in the world, I’ve skydived out of a plane, and I’ve done enough hikes up Table Mountain to last a lifetime. Have I mentioned the beautiful and numerous beaches that I’ve gone to up and down the coastline? This country is absolutely breathtaking and the beauty of it has not been lost on me even after 3 months. I still drive around sometimes and think, “Wow, I get to live in this country for half a year. How lucky am I?”

Now that we’ve discussed my exciting adventures here, let’s get onto the lifestyle differences. So what are some differences between South Africa and America?

  1. The homeless population here is a lot bigger and the beggars are a lot more persistent. If you are not firm with them and say no, they will actually follow you for a short distance.
  2. South Africans walk soooo slow. It takes some time to get used to this, but every so often my American speedwalking mentality comes out.
  3. Everyone and everything here is always late. Professors are late, trains are late, you name it. It’s called “African Time.” Imagine getting used to this when you come from a country where everyone is always 10 minutes early.
  4. Vegetarianism is not a huge thing here. There’s a braai, which is like a BBQ, almost every week and boy do South Africans love their meat. They’ll grill lamb, steak, porkchops, and pretty much anything else that they can get their hands on. Hot dogs and burgers are a no-go here.
  5. It might just be that I’m used to shopping at places like Walmart or Target, but the stores here are all separated. If you need groceries, you go to the local Pick’n Pay. If you need contact solution or medications, you go to the local Clicks Pharmacy. If you need a small screwdriver, there’s a hardware store down the street. All-in-one stores are pretty rare here.
  6. Lastly, people here are not shy about staring. You can walk down the street and if you catch their interest, they will literally stop in their tracks and stare you down until you’re out of sight. Consequently enough, this can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re someone like me who looks very different from everyone else.

Well, that’s all I have to say about South Africa for now.

Sala kakuhle! (Stay Well!)

Sally Tran




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