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…

you ask for tomaaaahto sauce to go with your hamburger

you say “shame” in every other sentence

  you trust the parking guard waving you backwards

  you no longer think they’re called Parking Gods

  you don’t find it weird that the parking guard calls you “Mami”

  you say you’ll do it “just now” and promptly forget about it, without feeling guilty

  you no longer think a pig is being slaughtered in your bedroom when the hadedas wake you up in the morning

  you no longer write down the reference numbers given you by Eskom customer service

  your husband no longer thinks you’re having an affair because you have Richard in the Eskom billing apartment on speed-dial

  you politely wave at minibus taxis as they pass you illegally and then squeeze in in front of you

  you automatically carry your passport with you everywhere you go

  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

  you unplug all your TVs, modems, and computers when you hear thunder

  you are no longer outraged when three robots in a row are not working

  you no longer wonder how they could call it a robot in the first place

  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

  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

  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

  you are not confounded by the choice of “boerewors” or “prego roll” on your child’s class social signup sheet

 you know that chocolate chips must be bought at the baking specialty store

  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

  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

  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”

  the offer to participate in a dried-impala-poop-spitting contest doesn’t gross you out

  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

   you are not offended to have to watch a sport that is like basketball except there is no backboard, no layup, and no dribbling

  you’re beginning to think that a bunch of men in tight short shorts throwing the football to each other underhanded do look sexy

  it doesn’t strike you as strange that there are five different emergency numbers to choose from

  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

  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

  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

  you’ve forgotten how your washing machine works

  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

  you do still blush when you recall the enormous size of South African ballboxes versus American ballboxes

  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.