South Africa – The Quirky Side


I can’t quite believe that we as a family have been here for just shy of a year now.

The life experience in itself will be worth it no matter what happens in the long run and I have to say that some of the things I have seen have had me in stitches.

Some of the job roles are just comedy gold and every time I see them, I just smile and shake my head.

There are also the people that make me laugh and sometimes despair but they are not just bound to South Africa. Far from it. One of my favourite things about living here is the pre-conceptions of people back in the U.K. and the questions that they ask you. They are hilarious. I know it’s classed as a third world country but did you really just ask me that?

I’ve decided to note all these down subconsciously throughout the last 11 months and share them with you all.

One serious note for the Political Correctness Police out there………this is just a bit of fun and some of the things I mention are actually fantastic due to the fact it creates jobs and brings families money but I grew up having a sense of humour and the first person that takes the mickey out of me is me, so I feel I can have a laugh with you guys!


Let’s start with jobs as it goes and the first I will need to bring to your attention is the ‘Wafter’.

The ‘Wafter’ isn’t the most skilled of jobs but is hugely popular in supermarkets and shopping malls. I haven’t seen a job description but I believe it would read something like this:


On entering work, please grab a mop, bucket and apron. Fill the aforementioned bucket with hot soapy water and make your way to the shop floor.


Once you are on the shop floor please find a non-descript part of the floor, wet it, move the mop around and then pick up your wet floor sign.

Do not, under any circumstance, place the wet floor sign onto the moist area but instead, use it to ‘waft’ backwards and forwards over said moist patch.

The 100 degree heat will not dry the floor on it’s own so please ‘waft’ with vigour.

Once the area is dry please pick another random bit of the shop (it doesn’t even need to be dirty) and repeat the above the process.

What a job! No stress whatsoever and I must admit that I have seen some fantastic ‘wafting’ since I’ve been here, none more so than just two weeks ago when a team of two were at it just before closing at Pick ‘N’ Pay.

Well, I came around the corner and almost got hit in the shins by one sign and lost an eye with another. I’d never seen anything like it but I can only assume that these girls were practising for the SA Championships because they were fast, furious and I could visibly see the wet patch dissipating before my very eyes.

Team work makes the dream work and if South Africa had a curling team these two would be the first picks.

On to my next favourite job which is a man or lady holding a red or amber flag in the road to signal roadworks ahead.

Road Works

Well who ever had that idea should be knighted. Thank goodness that a square foot flag on a pole is being held (waved if the operator can be arsed) on the side of the road because I didn’t bloody see those two 100 Tonne, 30ft high pieces of plant equipment behind you digging up the road or laying tarmac and the army of 100 workmaen and women, 3 supervisors and foreman staring into the hole that’s being dug.

I also don’t blame you for being miserable as I see they have put you in a dayglo freezer jacket and trousers just to keep you warm in the mid-day Paarl sunshine. Genuinely, I don’t blame you for multitasking by sitting down, eating a sandwich, playing on your phone and moving the flag backwards and forwards with your knees at the same time.

Finally, it is the man or woman that every Green Peace activist fears: The man or woman who packs your bags at the supermarket.

They are obsessed by plastic bags and I must fight like a Roman Gladiator to make sure my bananas make it home plastic free.

Like any great fight you have the first stage; the weigh in. This is a technically tricky stage. When do you stop them putting these in the little plastic bag? If I do it straight off the bat, as I hand them over, then there is a fear that I may offend them, almost accusing them of a crime that they have yet to commit. The seed has already been sewn by myself as I have turned down the opportunity of grabbing a bag already and quite clearly, my nectarines are in a bag so I’m not stupid.

He or she has gone for the roll of bags so I have to act quick…..NO……I mean, um, it’s fine…..ahhhh…..I don’t want them to….you know…..sweat……in the heat…… understand right?

GULP, bead of sweat………

I’ve got a way with it! They’ve been weighed and no plastic in site.

Just as that moment has passed and the trolley is now full with Boerewors, Mrs. Balls Chutney, Conee Rolls (lovingly bagged by the sparkling personality of the baker) and Simba Chips I arrive at the till for the biggest challenge of them all.

Tip one: Get those re-usable bags out ASAP, before any food items hit the conveyor belt. You’ve been pre-judged and they’ve scanned four plastic carrier bags before you know it yet you’ve only bought six items. Fill the bags, seriously….

Tip two: Do not let your children or friends distract you.

Tip three: The scanner and the bag packer have a roll of smaller bags.

After that it’s every man for himself. The milk, which comes in a plastic pouch, is the first item to head towards a see through turtle killer. Got there in time, then my deodorant can! That’s ridiculous, it’s aluminium. You’re testing me now.

Out of the corner of my eye the man from Del Monte’s prized asset near the beep. This is where tip three is the most important as you’ll beat the scanner but the bagging lady is easily distracted. There’s workers from the office there, people trying to run and grab cigarettes, the trolley man, it’s going off big time.

She won’t have heard you deny the opportunity of the first bag as she’s been gas bagging herself, so you may even need to lean over with a friendly hand on the shoulder just to tell her you don’t need it.

It’s bad enough your eggs and Conee Rolls have had a 2L bottle of Oros chucked on top of them let alone more dolphins dying needlessly.

I’ve only gone and done it, got those little fingers of sunshine yellow out of there safe in the only packaging it needs, which is the skin it grew in, to then sit on my kitchen table and over ripen in two days because I was too tired after my Checkers ordeal to eat the bloody things.

There are so many other things I could talk about regards to attitude but I think I can sum up, without generalising, the careless nature of the Western Cape in one sumptuous sitting.

We live in Paarl and often drive into Franschhoek.

Franschhoek is one of the most famous towns in the winelands, if not South Africa so, you wouldn’t want to mess things up now would you?

Well, as you take the left off the main road towards this wine haven, the road sign on your left has spelt the famous town incorrectly.

Franschhoek Sign

You heard me, a national road sign has got the place name wrong. The ‘S’ is missing meaning it is spelt ‘Franchhoek.’

Not only is it wrong but I am pretty sure that I am the only man in South Africa that has seen it.

Someone sent the sign writer the spelling, they put the letters on wrong then a team of people (guarded by someone waving a red flag) put the road sign up.

Someone must have noticed this and reported it but still, this sign exists and still, no can be bothered to even get some white paint and add it on like you did at school with the up arrow below it and the letter above it. At least it would be correct.

The people back in the U.K. do make me laugh as well though. The questions I have been asked and the pictures I have been sent crease me up.

I once got sent a picture of a bottle of Lucozade saying ‘I bet you miss this’ from a friend in the U.K. Dairy Milk is the same story.

I get asked if all the women walk around with buckets of water and food on their head quite regularly and whether I can drink the water out of the tap.

Do you know anyone that makes that ‘clicky noise’ when they talk and do you find it hard that everyone talks ‘African’ whilst you don’t?

“Yes mate, I struggle with all of the above but the Zulu’s pounding over the hills at night throwing the spears is what really tests my resolve” is one of my favourite quips I have retorted with.

One South African shop keeper even did the most British thing ever to me. We were out one day and he started talking to me in Afrikaans. After saying I didn’t speak the language so English would be ideal, he did that thing of talking louder and slower so I’d understand easier as we Brits are guilty of in Spain and France.

Not that funny? He was talking to me in English!!!!! I just said ‘FAAAAAAANK YOOOOOOOOOOOW’ afterwards, really slowly.

I am sure there are a hundred more anecdotes from people in South Africa about the U.K. and vice versa but there aren’t enough hours in the day to document them all.

I can hear my kids waking up and I need to make some juices with out of date bananas and give them some dinner.

Oh bloody hell………they’ve spilt water on the floor and I don’t have a wet floor sign. I’m going to have to cordon off the area………now where did I leave that flag?

One thought on “South Africa – The Quirky Side

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s