You Know You’re No Longer New to South Africa When…

When the six of us – my husband, myself, and our four children – first arrived in South Africa in 2010, it seemed like an alien and exotic land to us. There was much to learn navigating everyday life, even though, coming from the United States, we thought we shared a common language.

Africa is Not for Sissiest image
Photo credit: Joburg Expat

I published the following list on my blog – Joburg Expat – two years later, when I felt like I could truly say we were no longer new to South Africa.

You’re No Longer New to South Africa When…

[vc_button title=”1″ color=”default” size=”size_small”] you ask for tomaaaahto sauce to go with your hamburger

[vc_button title=”2″ color=”default” size=”size_small”] you say “shame” in every other sentence


[vc_button title=”3″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you trust the parking guard waving you backwards

[vc_button title=”4″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer think they’re called Parking Gods

[vc_button title=”5″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you don’t find it weird that the parking guard calls you “Mami”

[vc_button title=”6″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you say you’ll do it “just now” and promptly forget about it, without feeling guilty

[vc_button title=”7″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer think a pig is being slaughtered in your bedroom when the hadedas wake you up in the morning

[vc_button title=”8″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer write down the reference numbers given you by Eskom customer service

[vc_button title=”9″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  your husband no longer thinks you’re having an affair because you have Richard in the Eskom billing apartment on speed-dial

[vc_button title=”10″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you politely wave at minibus taxis as they pass you illegally and then squeeze in in front of you

[vc_button title=”11″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you automatically carry your passport with you everywhere you go

[vc_button title=”12″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you simply shrug your shoulders when there is no water coming out of the tap; you don’t even call your neighbor to see if they have water coming out of the tap

[vc_button title=”13″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you unplug all your TVs, modems, and computers when you hear thunder

[vc_button title=”14″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you are no longer outraged when three robots in a row are not working

[vc_button title=”15″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer wonder how they could call it a robot in the first place

[vc_button title=”16″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer convert prices from rands to dollars and wonder how on Earth a pair of kids tennis shoes can cost the equivalent of $130

[vc_button title=”17″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you don’t rush out to play in the sun every chance you get, because by now you know that as sure as death and taxes, tomorrow the South African sun will shine just as beautifully as it does today

[vc_button title=”18″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you think it’s completely normal that to sign up for a new service of any kind you have to bring fifteen different documents and make three trips spanning several weeks before it’s approved

[vc_button title=”19″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you are not confounded by the choice of “boerewors” or “prego roll” on your child’s class social signup sheet

[vc_button title=”20″ color=”default” size=”size_small”] you know that chocolate chips must be bought at the baking specialty store

[vc_button title=”21″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer find it strange that the appliances you buy in South African stores don’t actually come with plugs that fit into South African electric outlets

[vc_button title=”22″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer suffer a near heart-attack when a traffic cop stops you and tells you he could have you arrested; rather, you’re wistful you’ve never been able to blog about being arrested

[vc_button title=”23″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you’ve learned to keep copies of important-looking documents in your car that you can wave in the face of a traffic cop concocting yet another new rule, like “permission from your ambassador to drive on South African roads”

[vc_button title=”24″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  the offer to participate in a dried-impala-poop-spitting contest doesn’t gross you out

[vc_button title=”25″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you’re excited to find a bill in your mailbox because it’s such an event when a letter makes it all the way through the system

[vc_button title=”26″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]   you are not offended to have to watch a sport that is like basketball except there is no backboard, no layup, and no dribbling

[vc_button title=”27″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you’re beginning to think that a bunch of men in tight short shorts throwing the football to each other underhanded do look sexy

[vc_button title=”28″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  it doesn’t strike you as strange that there are five different emergency numbers to choose from

[vc_button title=”29″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you think it is perfectly normal that your visa expired five months ago and that you are expected to travel using the flimsy “confirmation of application” letter you received from the Department of Home Affairs

[vc_button title=”30″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you are not one bit surprised when the “confirmation of application” letter is not recognized by the Department of Home Affairs agent at the airport

[vc_button title=”31″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you’re on home leave sitting in your car at the gas station and wondering why the hell no one is showing up to put petrol in your tank for you

[vc_button title=”32″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you’ve forgotten how your washing machine works

[vc_button title=”33″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you no longer blush when having to say the word “ballbox” to the clerk at the sports store when you buy an athletic cup for your son

[vc_button title=”34″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you do still blush when you recall the enormous size of South African ballboxes versus American ballboxes

[vc_button title=”35″ color=”default” size=”size_small”]  you come back to the United States and you realize that life is moving twice as fast as you are.

P.S. We have since been transferred back to the United States, and while it is nice to live in a world again where your garbage is picked up with mind-boggling regularity and the robots are called traffic lights and are never, ever broken…there is not a day goes by without us missing South Africa.