Adjustment

A piece from the +Future Cape Town pop up exhibition.
It has been seven months since I left London and landed in Cape Town. Before I moved I had mentally prepared myself for adjustment. I braced myself for the inevitable culture shock that I was headed straight for. Seven months in however, the adjustments were not quite what I was expecting them to be.
I was preparing myself to encounter cuisine that was vastly different from the UK, a work ethic that was a lot more relaxed and also expecting to come across a language barrier. It turns out that these things were not as different as I was expecting them to be at all.

Food is the same to what I was used to with some slight regional differences (South Africans will attempt to put Avocado into anything). Work has been more intense than it was in the UK (although that is what I get for working in the advertising industry). The language barrier has not been a problem at all with most people knowing English and at least one of the other languages (and are happy to engage with you in English).

This sounds almost anti-climatic, I was expecting certain things to be different but they actually were almost the same as in the UK. However, there was a hell of a lot of adjustment that I had to go through, it was just in areas that I never anticipated would be an issue.

The first was crime. I do not wish to paint a negative picture of South Africa and feed into a lot of the myths surrounding the levels of crime in the country, but it would be wrong of me say that crime is not an issue. Whilst (thankfully) I have not been a victim of crime, I have encountered people who have been affected. Almost everybody has a story to tell about being a victim of crime and most South Africans (sadly) seem to accept it as a fact of life. It was also a huge adjustment to deal with the fact that there are certain no-go areas in Cape Town (like the notoriously gang infested areas of Lavender Hill and Bishop Lavis). Along with the no-go areas are general bits of advice like not taking a mini bus taxi late at night as criminals have been known to pose as taxi drivers collecting unsuspecting individuals and robbing them at gun point. It does take a bit of getting used to knowing that your movements and behaviours are regulated by the threat of crime especially since in London I felt quite comfortable going anywhere.

The second thing that takes some getting used to is how slow and inefficient the department of home affairs is. So far I have had my application for a work permit get "lost" three times and when the permit did finally get granted it was lost in the post. It is now 7 months in and I am still waiting for my paperwork. Luckily I have had a lot of support from my wife +Charné Tromp-Ahmed and my in laws financially during this time but I would definitely advise people considering moving to Cape Town to have a solid plan to support themselves while they wait for the permit to come through.

As bad as these things are, the positives of living in Cape Town far outweigh the negatives. The people here are upbeat and optimistic about the future and that energy is something that has certainly rubbed off on me.

My point is that no matter how much I prepared myself for change, it did not manifest itself in the way I thought it would. I suppose this is what every expat faces when they move to a new place. But that is what makes moving to a new country so interesting, you can never fully predict how it will be, you just have to dive in and experience it.