You may have noticed. Not everyone is committed to staying in South Africa. But no matter where you go if you leave South Africa, sooner or later, nostalgia will kick in – whether it’s when you’re browsing in a bookstore, or getting caught in yet another rain shower, or stuck on the tube.
Perhaps it’s when you gasp at the cost of a bottle of South African wine or when shopkeepers don’t even bother to interact with you? You’ll think of home, its tumultuous politics, its blue skies and exuberant people … and you’ll begin to wonder what on earth possessed you to leave in the first place.
What you’ll miss if you leave South Africa…
Now that Mandela has gone all we have left is Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, the former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu to act as our moral compass, to keep us on track, to throw back his head and cackle at us whilst admonishing with his forefinger.
Our Arch has stood at the frontline of truth since we can remember – it must be well over four decades now. He was, and is, our constant hope for true freedom. And his recent brush with illness means that we cannot take him for granted.
WINDMILLS OF THE KAROO
The windmill is to the Upper Karoo what Buddhist temples are to Thailand.
Whether you call them windmills, windpumps or windpompe (they’re not a milling apparatus, they’re pumps that get water flowing from deep under the ground into little concrete dams), when you see them you know you’re in the heart of the country with wide open spaces and gentle hills, the heat of the day a killer, the nights freezing and the skies… are just awesome.
Try crossing the road any old how in Germany and see the kind of dressing down you’ll receive. First world countries are more than a little anal about pedestrians and traffic. But in South Africa, let’s just say that the cops are otherwise occupied!
Descendents of South Africa’s earliest inhabitants, these migrant workers of the Karoo have travelled between farms for years, shearing sheep, fixing fences, camping alongside the road or close to the farms on which they work.
Whilst they’re slowly selling their donkeys, and carts, in the Karoo as sheep farmers begin to use organised sheep shearers, you can still see them in Cape Town, collecting scrap metal in the southern suburbs.
MARMITE, VETKOEK, KOEKSISTERS & BILTONG
When grannies get caught at airport customs with jars of marmite tucked into the nether regions of suitcases, whilst en route to Australia, New Zealand, Canada (fill in any of the countries to which South Africans have decamped), then you know someone on the other end misses home.
Vetkoek, koeksisters and biltong don’t travel quite as well, but all of them are quintessentially South African. And when you’re somewhere down under, boy do you miss them!
Ah yes, the ubiquitous sunshine mantra. But try living without the consistently blue skies and see where that gets you…
We love this flat-topped high mountain more than we’d care to admit. We bear squiggly outlines of the table on our back car windows, we take every opportunity possible to climb it, we use it as a landmark to find our way around Cape Town, we Instagram it from every possible angle, in every possible light, and unashamedly embrace it as the icon of the Mother City.
It’s home (even to Gautengers who’ve flown the coop). It’s where our heart is.
We love to hate the African cockroach, the unroadworthy mini-bus taxis that give new meaning to rules of the road, and function as a mirror to the country’s dark side. The R40bn taxi industry is a hot and divisive dinner party topic. Where will you be without your daily whinge?
HOWZIT, LEKKER, DINGES, DOF, PADKOS & BABBELAS
No-one understands us quite like our brethren. And we’re not more at home than when amongst our own. Because no matter how much we try and adjust to a new culture, or how long we remain in a foreign country, it’s never quite home.
Spot a Nandos abroad and one just about does a jig on the pavement because, hey, it’s like an old friend just moved onto the block.
Who else but Nandos would say ‘no’ to American chicken! Or ruffle feathers with their Zuma ‘cold shower’ advert. We love them so much they’re even in New Plymouth, Liverpool and Abu Dhabi. But they’re not everywhere, on every corner, the way they are at home.
Pull up at a set of robots (traffic lights for those of you who don’t speak South African) and you can buy anything from a pack of garbage bags to handbags and art. At one stage you could even buy coffee-on-the-go, until that was slapped down by Jo’burg’s metro police (more’s the pity).
SPLASHY FEN, THE KNKK, OPPIKOPPI, CTEMF, AFRICA BURN, CT JAZZ FESTIVAL & ROCKING THE DAISIES
When it comes to great music festivals out in the bundus, South Africa rocks, literally. Of course, for many of them, you need to be brave enough to rough and ready it in camping conditions, and perhaps you’re past that phase of your life already?
Nelson Mandela’s signature brightly coloured, printed shirts were synonymous with the man and South Africa (despite their Indonesian origin). The shirt is as much a part of the Mandela legend and iconography as the man himself and expressed his personal style and his rejection of universal markers of political power, like ties and suits.
It’s also the symbol of post-apartheid South Africa. Unless you wear one yourself, you won’t see them overseas.
THE COMRADES, TWO OCEANS & THE ARGUS
The country’s two big loves – sport meets incredible scenery – for all three of the major sports events in South Africa. How could you bear to miss them?
USEFUL SOUTH AFRICAN LINKS
- South Africa Things to Do
- South Africa Attractions
- South Africa Accommodation
- South Africa Languages and Culture