Differences in Everyday Life

People have said they would like to know what our “everyday life” is like,  so I will try to give you a sampling…

Here are some differences we have noticed…  There is no heat or air conditioning in homes or schools, no screens on the windows, no shower doors, no dishwasher, no fans in the bathrooms, etc.  The lack of bathroom fans and shower doors combined with the humidity results in everything being wet all the time.  When people get up in the morning they turn off the alarms and open all the windows – remember no screens, so opening kitchen windows opens the possibility of monkeys entering!

through-the-window

Our living room (lounge) window

There are very few convenience foods (like grated cheese, frozen foods, pre-made mixes) or convenience items (plastic containers are used in lunch boxes rather than zip-lock bags).  People don’t seem to use napkins (called serviettes) regularly and often don’t wear shoes in public places!

Rather than saying “oh dear” or “that is too bad” people often say “shame.”  Rather than Good-bye white South Africans usually say “cheers,”  Black South Africans say “Go Well” and “Stay Well.”

No one goes out at night.   Grocery stores, malls, shops, almost everything closes around 6:00.

Back to food – There is no orange juice!!  There are numerous fruit juices, mostly blends, but none that have only orange juice.  There are not only no Costco or Sams Club stores, but everything is sold in small quantities… For those of you familiar with the metric system, juice comes in 1 liter, milk in 2.  The largest snack bags Americans would probably consider only 2 servings!  Refrigerators are small, so people go to the grocery store frequently and buy enough for a day or two.   Store parking lots have people in them that you tip to keep your car safe.

Even wealthy children here have much less “stuff” than American children.  The kids play in their yards in groups or with parents, but not outside the gates… This means no bike riding or children playing ball in a cul-de-sac. (I don’t think they have cul-de-sacs here anyway). Rather than hearing children outside, you hear dogs barking almost all the time.

When we leave the house, or before we go to bed, we hide everything of value… Our computer is put in one place, the MP3 player in another, cameras are hidden, money is put in a variety of places.  This is disturbing (especially at night) if you dwell on it too much, because it is admitting that there is a real chance we will be robbed.  (If we are we don’t want to lose everything.)  Anyway, when I leave the house in the morning I need to hide everything, then unlock the door and trellidoor, get everyone out of the house, close the door while I arm the alarm, then quickly go outside and relock both the door and trellidoor before the alarm goes off.  Then I unlock the car, push the button to open the gate, back out and reclose the gate.  The worst part is when you realize you have forgotten something and you need to open the gate, two doors, disarm the house alarm and then rearm it and relock everything!

Did I mention people drive on the wrong side of the road?  This also means the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car… I got into the passenger seat at the grocery store the other day!

All “petrol” stations are full serve and only accept cash.

All school children wear school uniforms, whether in government or private schools, and need to pay school fees.  This of course adds to the difficulties for the nations poor.

One of the biggest differences between here and Bridgewater Virginia… a majority of people have dark skin, and they are usually walking.

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2 Responses to “Differences in Everyday Life”


  1. 1 Kylie January 31, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I read your newest blogs last night and didn’t know what to say. I still don’t have anything great to say, except it must be hard to see the injustice of life in living color. If you can think of anything we can be doing, please let me know. Love you.


  1. 1 Cry The Beloved Country « In To Africa Trackback on February 4, 2009 at 10:39 am

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