Saturday, 9 June 2012

Becoming Capetonian

I arrived in Cape Town a week ago, and it's been a pretty crazy awesome time so far. I was in Cape Town on holiday in February and my expectation was framed mostly by my memories of holidaying, which is unfortunate, as there seem to be certain quirks and idiosyncrasies of the Mother City that became apparent to me only once I moved here.

It is not difficult to see why Cape Town made it onto CNN's top 10 most loved cities in the world [link]. My eyes feast daily on stunning views of the mountains and the Cape archipelago. My taste buds delight in the variety of restaurants serving various cuisines. I have been warned that Capetonians are notoriously clique-y, but I've found everyone to be very friendly. There are a few things about this city that I'm still getting used to, though.

Driving in Cape Town is horrific. This might seem like an exaggeration after driving in Gauteng, but it is atrocious in a wholly different way. Not only does it appear as if a drunkard was employed as town planner, but completely different road rules apply. It also doesn't help that the streets tend to be narrow and congested with parallel parked cars which block visibility when attempting to turn or cross a road. Generally, this means Capetonians on the road drive by blind faith and you'll find cars coming at you from all directions. Pedestrians will run across intersections despite the flow of traffic not being in their favour. There are also numerous accidents, usually resulting from attempting to park in tight situations. There would probably be many more if people did not insist on driving at a snail's pace.

Finding parking in Cape Town is a divine gift. There are parking arcades hidden in secret locations known only to a few, with expensive rates and obnoxious ticket booth attendants. Often only street parking is available (even at certain residential addresses) so a refresher course in parallel parking is recommended. It's also best to have a map book when driving because the GPS can often fail you here.

Capetonians are oddly clued up on weather forecasts. Ask anyone and they will be able to tell you when the rain will be taking over and for how long. They also refer to tv forecasters on the news channels as if they are old friends. Knowing the moods of the weather is also fortunate, as everyone assures me the metro police will not be found setting up roadblocks and writing parking tickets when it's wet.

Punctuality seems to be a foreign concept to Capetonians. They are too busy relaxing and enjoying life to notice the time. I arrived an hour and a half too early on my first day of work, despite being on time in terms of my contract. Do not expect anyone to be in the office before 9 am. 

Shopping centres in Cape Town have generally been replaced by "lifestyle centres", characterised by the presence of a Woolworths Food, and are perilously difficult to locate, even with the help of Google. Little unobtrusive caf├ęs selling delicious gourmet sandwiches nestle between car repair shops on quiet streets and would remain largely undiscovered if it were not for the locals leading the way.

Cape Town is a place where cultures converge. All colours and creeds are represented, and there doesn't seem to be any group in the minority here. "Expect the unexpected" doesn't apply, because that which determines what is to be expected appears fluid in a place where societal rules seem to be as elemental as the weather. Instead, "expect nothing" is rather fitting; leave your assumptions behind, and you'll love this vibrant city.


  1. I have found your nest in the blogosphere ;p All the best for your new adventure, happy for you and think you deserve teh epicness.

  2. Thanks Dr Ninja. I'll have to visit your nest again soon :)

  3. ... welcome to our blogosphere, you are linked on vagabonddoctrin :1