South Africa: Immersing Yourself in the Culture

by Lexa Pennington /
Lexa Pennington's picture
Mar 07, 2013 / 0 comments

Although not receiving the best press due to the recent Oscar Pistorius trial, South Africa is still attracting more and more Brits to its beautiful landscape every year. With the low-cost of living, the amazing wildlife and game parks and a selection of stunning beaches, the country is ticking all the boxes.


South African Beach


Benefiting from glorious weather and a fascinating culture, South Africa promotes a more ‘outdoorsy’ lifestyle for better health and hopefully an increase in happiness.


More than 200,000 UK expats are currently living in South Africa and many fail to make this country their home as they expect to recreate their British life in a hotter climate. Thinking of their new home in this way means that they will feel alienated when things are not the same as they’re used to, and not mingling with locals will lead to isolation.


So whether you’re thinking of moving to foreign climes or you are already there and wouldn’t mind a few facts to help you understand the country better, here are some tidbits of information.


I shall start with the useful and move on to the interesting…



Useful South Africa Facts


•    The local currency is the Rand, and as per the exchange rates of Travelex this equates to R 131.58 when spending £10.00. The Rand is made up of 100 cents and you get a lot more for your money here.

•    When you are in need of a taxi cab that can mean two things in South Africa; a metered cab or a minibus. If you hail a cab, then it will be a minibus that will take you all around the houses, dropping everyone off. If you want a taxi to take you straight to your destination, you will need to ring one.

•    If you wish to send a letter home, it will take roughly six days to arrive.

•    When the locals say that there is a ‘robot’ on every corner, they are referring to the traffic lights, not superior technology at work.

•    South Africa has a whopping 11 official languages with many more spoken throughout the country. Although only the fifth-most spoken language, English is used for media, business, and politics.



Interesting South Africa Facts


•    The biggest meteor crater that has ever been discovered on earth – named the Vredefort Dome – was found in South Africa near the town of Vredefort. The crater had a whopping 300km radius.


•    Vilakazi Street in Soweto has the unusual claim to fame of having been home to two Nobel Peace prize winners. Desmond Tutu, who won in 1984, and Nelson Mandela who took the prize in 1993, both resided in this street.


•    Four of the five fastest land animals in the world live in South Africa, including the cheetah, wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelle and the lion.


•    South Africa is the seventh largest producer of wine in the world. It is also not shy about showing the world the fruits of its labour, with 400m litres a year being exported.



So once you understand your robots from your traffic lights, and you understand that hailing a cab can mean a lengthy journey around the houses, then you are ready to fit in with the locals and be fully immersed in the culture. If you have found other expats to help you with settling in then that is great, but be sure to expand your group of friends outside of your comfort zone.