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  • Rachel Micke

1-Year Anniversary in SA!

In honor of my 1-year anniversary here, I decided to write a humorous (though mostly true) list of 20 things I’ve learned living in South Africa:

1. No isn't no until you've asked a minimum of 3 times.

2. Not only is re-washing and re-using Ziplock bags common practice, but Godly stewardship of finances. #plasticgold

3. Dryers and Dishwashers are for show only #africansunisfree #waterandelectricityrequireakidneyasdownpayment

4. The word, “hectic,” must be a part of your vocabulary, used to describe anything bad, frustrating, crazy, or negative in general. To clarify WHICH emotion is actually meant at any given time is likely illegal, as it never happens.

5. Use of the phrase, “Is it?” is often used as an exclamation or interjection, despite the fact that it makes no grammatical or syntactical sense. For example:

“The Jones’ house caught on fire last night”

“Is it?!”

“Frank makes the best potato salad”

“Is it?”

“My husband threw me a surprise birthday party”

“Oh, Is it?”

6. The word, “fetch,” is not exclusively a game you play with a dog. It also means picking someone up in your car.

7. The "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down" motto for the bathroom is relatively normal #waterrestrictions

8. No matter how long I live here, I believe it will always feel slightly awkward to ask where the “toilet” is as opposed to the bathroom or restroom. #aintnobodygottimeformodesty

9. Just because it’s built as a 2-lane highway does not mean it should not be used as a 4-lane highway. Cultural courtesy says the slower driver should move to the shoulder of the road to let other pass.

9b. One must follow rules of etiquette for this type of driving; the passer quickly flashing hazard lights as a thank you, and the one being passed flashing headlights as a “you’re welcome.”

9c. Hazard lights are also used to indicate animals or debris in the roadway ahead. Do not take long to discern whether or not you are being

thanked, as failure to slow down may lead to a head-on collision with herd of goats

10, Pronouncing a [t] in the middle of words as a /t/ and not a /d/ (eg butter, water, mountain, etc.) may help many South Africans understand you better, however your fellow Americans may think you sound ridiculous.

11. A 2.5-hour church service is unheard of. That is way too short.

12. The number of South Africans that think Canada is part of the US is shocking. However, touché…I equally have to explain to many Americans that South Africa isn’t just the bottom part of Africa. And that Africa is a continent, not a country… #nochildleftbehindforgotaboutgeography

13. The litmus test of a great South African home is if your living room has BBQ grill built into one wall. See also: Braai room

14. Having friends named Claude and Bjorn is very natural…even if you butcher the pronunciations every time #BeeYorn #Clawd

15. To prepare for speed and productivity in SA, one might consider training by spending the day in line at the DMV for 365 consecutive days. Completing 2-3 items of your to-do list in a day is a major victory, and should be celebrated with a Magnum ice cream bar.

16. One should proceed with caution and low expectations at a restaurant when ordering food that is traditionally served in other countries. This includes, but is not limited to: Italian, Mexican, American, Cuban, and Chinese cuisine.

17. Watching videos which include vehicles driving in the US may induce temporary moments of panic while your brain sorts out why they are on the wrong side of the road…no, it’s right, wait, no…what?

18. Forgetting you sound different than everyone around you may occur after prolonged exposure to the multitude of South African speech dialects. However, you will be quickly reminded once you begin speaking by all of the stares being hurled in your direction. #mustbelookinggoodtoday #nopejustyouraccent

19. Though it is yet unconfirmed, the writers of the popular television show, “MacGyver,” may have researched their plots in SA. Improvisation is standard practice here.

20. Personal bubbles are limited in SA. It is normal for a stranger’s body, their grocery trolley (aka shopping cart), and/or their children to be touching you while standing in a queue (line). Moving forward does not alleviate the situation, as they will also press forward. One should take into consideration that perhaps they on their 3rd task of the day, and very eager to get their Magnum bar reward.

Hope you enjoyed! Navigating a new culture can be a challenge, but I love it here all the same! Here's to another amazing year full of God's incredible plans coming to fulfillment!

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