Life Abroad travel blog

The infamous minibus

My cute but difficult keys

My best friends parents have asked me to write about the things here in Cape Town that are different from back home. Things are so different here that I am going to have to leave this open ended, I will come back from time to time and add to it as I discover new things. The longer I stay here the more I learn.


1. Obviously, people have different accents

2. They use "Hectic" to describe just about everything.

3. "Isit" is used in conversation the way we use, "yeah"

4. A swimsuit is called a costume

5. You don't ask for the check, you ask for the bill.

6. You go on holiday, not on vacation.

7. You say cheers, not bye

8. You say, "are you keen?" not, "would you like to do this"

9. Fries are called chips and chips are called chips

10. Ketchup is called tomato sauce

11. Just now means in a while...or never

12. Now now means eventually.

13. You wait in a queue not in a line

14. elevators are called lifts

15. Traffic lights are called robots

16. You drink Coke Lite, not Diet Coke, Pepsi is virtually impossible to find.

17. Say, "How's it" not, "How are you"

18. You SMS someone, not text message

19. If something is in poor condition or not safe it is called dodgy. For example, ATM machines are dodgy, or the mini bus is dodgy.

20. Retarted means drunk.

21. They randomly say hey while conversing

The People:

1. People actually know what is going on in the world, how refreshing!

2. Most everyone dresses very stylishly, especially on campus. It is as if there is a fashion show that no one told me about.

3. No one wares backpacks (student or not) everyone carries shoulder bags.

4. Cape Town is renowned for the stroll, no one in Cape Town is in a hurry. Time is not an issue in this town.

5. There is a HUGE division of rich and poor. I am sure I will be telling you more on this later.

6. The president does not live in the president's house.

7. 9% of the UCT student body has HIV/AIDS

8. Most people carry mace or pepper spray, especially at night.

9. I have heard that the muggers are rather polite. They will come to you and say, "May I please have your wallet."

10. Everyone looks after one another

11. There is an extremely high rate of unemployment.

12. People sell bead work on the streets

13. Everyone is beautiful here, not just after a few drinks...all the time. It is like living in a beauty magazine.


1. You go to a Braai, not a BBQ

2. There are no chocolate chip cookies

3. You still find MSG in everything

4. The fruit is great, no genetically modified freaks

5. You can't find cherry coke or 7 up

6. The food is really cheap

7. Lots of meat is eaten here.

8. You must have rusks with your tea. (really hard crumbly biscuits...they are really good)

9. The Pizza is really thin and there is almost no sauce.

10. You can get a beer for about $1.80

11. A 20 cent tip is a good tip to leave at a bar.

12. You will commonly see cooked banana on the menu. On pizza and in salads.

13. Seedless grapes are not really seedless

14. Shots are about half the size here.

15. The food portion sizes are about half of what you get in the US, might explain why everyone is so much thinner here.


1. Landlines are more expensive than cell phones

2. Cell phones are prepaid

3. You rarely get a phone call, the main for of communication is text messaging (sms-ing)

4. Light switches work in the opposite direction

5. There is a monopoly on the computer networks, so internet is usually pretty slow.

6. Almost no one recycles

7. Registration for classes is completely unorganized and none of it is done online.

8. They go by the 24 hour clock, so you must calculate the time in your head (its 16:22 right now)

9. Pretty much no one has internet in their homes

10. Electronics do not seem to work here

11. There is no central heat or air (except for in the Kramer law building where it seems they have gotten their first conditioning unit and refuse to turn it down.

Home Life:

1. Electricity is prepaid in some places

2. There are basically 5 channels on TV, and they are usually showing the same thing

3. The keys are old fashion looking... they are cute but difficult to use.

4. It takes four keys just to get into the front door.

5. The water goes down the drain in the opposite direction.

6. There are cages on all of the doors and windows.

7. All the fences have spikes and/or razor wire.

8. There are no outlets in the bathrooms

9. The light switches for the bathrooms are on the outside of the door way.

10. There are no screens on the windows

11. You have many non-human flat mates (gigantic bugs, but they are harmless)

12. You do not do your own laundry, you give it to some one and they do it for you.

13. The sinks ave two faucets, one for hot and one for cold.


1. When it is winter in California, it is summer in Cape Town

2. There is a huge wind that is often blowing, known as the Cape Doctor. The wind is called the Cape Doctor because it is responsible for blowing all of the smog out of the cape and keeping it "healthy"

3. It is rather humid here

4. There is a water crisis...but you can only really tell that near the townships, it is really green near the university.

5. There are two oceans. The Indian ocean on the east side of the cape and the Atlantic on the west side. There is an obvious difference in their temperatures.

6. There is a gigantic mountain towering over the city

7. The sun is very intense; you can tell the foreigners by the bright red skin.

8. You can guess what kind of day it is going to be based on the color of the cloud hanging over table mountain.


1. Getting anywhere after dark is virtually impossible

2. People drive on the opposite side of the road

3. South African drivers are perhaps the worst you will ever come across

4. The way you get from place to place during the day is the mini bus. These are the most run down vehicles you have ever seen, often with loud music blaring. The little vans zoom up and down main road with a guy hanging out the side door whistling and yelling "Cape" or "Wynburg" depending on where they are going. Unfortunately it is difficult to make out what they are saying most of the time so you just get in and hope you are headed to the right place. They stop most anywhere at the curb side; you just make eye contact with the guy hanging out the window and next thing you know you are being whisked away in a rather hurried manner. They stuff as many people as possible into these little vans and you often end up on top of the person sitting next to you. You have to be aware of your surroundings when you take the mini bus or else you will end up donating your wallet and/or any other valuables you have to the taxi service. Your best bet is to get in and pretend you know where you are going, even if you don't. When you are ready to get off you say thank you and they will drop you off curb side. This wonderful service will cost you under a dollar to get most places. Every time you set foot into a mini bus you are in for a real adventure.

5. Pedestrian signs don't really mean anything.

6. Escalators move in the opposite direction, the left side is going up and the right side is going down.

7. There are cameras watching you all over campus.

8. There are traffic guards and car guards. Car guards are paid to keep watch on your car while you are out and about in town. If you do not pay him...there is no telling what condition your car will be in when you return.


1. Seating in movie theaters is assigned.

2. Rugby is a way of life, and American football is for wimps.

3. Cricket stops mid way for tea

4. If you go out at night, there must be at least 5 in your group.

5. You should not go out by yourself, especially after sunset.

6. It costs 80 cents to rent a movie but you must sign your life away to do it.

7. Books and CD's are really expensive

8. When you go to the beach there are men walking around rhyming trying to sell you drinks.

9. There is more to do here then you can possibly do in several years, let alone 6 months!

10. The beaches are separated by themes; there is the hot-bod beach (where all the beautiful people from my school go), the family beach, the gay beach, the volley ball beach etc.

11. Bikini tops are optional

12. Some of the stores have thier doors locked during business hours and you must knock to come in.


1. There are condom machines every where, and they are free.

2. There are zebras next to my school, rather than cows.

3. There are tons of butterflies...or maybe I just notice them more here.

4. You must be street wise!!

5. When you go shopping you bring your own bags, or else pay for plastic bags.

12. You only enter one at a time into banks, and you are pat down on your way in.

13. ATM machines are prime spots to be robbed

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