We are embarking on a new challenge – going to South Africa for 4-5 months to build a website (The Room Link).  Although I will up updating you on our progress on the professional front, I do think I need to share the other side with you too: South Africa and how we experience it.

It is amazing how quickly you get socialised and used to the way things are done, so I am very keen to document the process.

Background:  Nationality and South African connections

I am South African, but have been living in the UK for more than 14 years, and my husband, Tim, is British, but has visited South Africa many times – almost every year since we have been together (10 years).

But each time I went back, I realise that my attitudes to life had become more and more British.  I could no longer identify with the South African way of doing things in so many ways.  “Like what?”, I can hear you say ….

South African driving is for the brave

In a nutshell:  many South African drivers complain about other drivers … but they all drive badly!  In no particular order:

Although illegal, most South Africans will

  • Use their mobile phone while driving (without hands-free)
  • Text (SMS) whilst driving.  During the morning commute I guessed up to 50% of people were texting whilst driving
  • Drive in the wrong lane.  Hogging the middle lane is almost a national sport!
  • Drive in the ‘fast lane’ if they drive a car (other lanes are for trucks etc), until someone tailgates them (drives right up their backside), which means ‘move over, I am faster than you’.  They’ll do this regardless of whether it is actually possible to pull into another lane.
  • Undertake on the motorway.  In fact, they’ll weave in and out the traffic
  • Drink and drive.  They all know it is wrong, dangerous, illegal, but still they do it.  They just don’t see the connection between drinking and killing other people ….
  • Drive aggressively.  If you need a gap, rather than politely give you the space to move into, they will accelerate to close the gap with the ‘I was here first’ attitude.
  • Have no idea what to do at a roundabout (traffic circle).  The bigger the circle, the more chance that it will be used better.  But mini-roundabouts are treated like 4-way stops.
  • Not stop at am amber/orange traffic light (called ‘robots’ in South Africa!).  Instead they accelerate across it.
  • Speed if they think they won’t be caught.  South Africans generally think the speed limit (especially in town) is there merely as a guide, not to keep you safe.  They will always drive at maximum, rather than safe, speed.
  • Pay bribes if they can to get out of paying a fine.  It’s strange, but again the same people who complain about corruption in South Africa, will be willing to pay a bribe to squash a fine.
  • Not consider safe following distances.  Most South Africans drive far to close to the car in front of them.
  • Disregard reduced speed limits at road works.  And if you try to abide by the speed limit, they will drive right up behind you to encourage you to drive faster.
  • Give in to road rage.  Somehow South Africans become so impatient when they get in a car.  I think we need to send each of them on a few trips around the M25 or up the M6 on a Friday afternoon to cure them of the impatience!
  • Not insist on their children being buckled up in the back.  But the real contradiction is:  some parents do insist on buckling the children up, but they will still get behind the wheel, kids in the car, when they have been drinking!  So they profess to wanting to keep the kids safe, but put their lives on the line by drinking and driving.
We are in the process of buying a little run-around car for when we’re there.  I am hoping that in 5 months’ time when we’re back, I will still be driving like a boring, defensive British lady, rather than a typical, impatient South African.  Only time will tell.
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