Humorous, Life, travel

How to piss off a South African

The Matador Network is website all about travel and they have a series of articles that they run called “how to piss of a/an [insert nationality]”. These articles are almost always sarcastic and make fun of how we stereotype people from other countries. I thought it would be fun if I added my 2 cents. So here is my version:

South Africans are generally a friendly bunch. We love big get-together’s, great food, sports and go out of our way to make visitors feel welcome in this beautiful country of ours. That’s not to say that you can’t get us riled up.

Africa is a continent, South Africa is a country

More accurately Africa is a gigantic continent and in comparison South Africa is a small country at the southern tip of Africa. No, I don’t know your friend from Kenya. How could I possibly? No, I’m not from Nigeria. Nigeria and South Africa are two completely different countries separated by thousands of kilometres and different cultures.

No, elephants and lions do not roam the streets freely. Seriously though, they just don’t.

Hard as this may be to believe but we do have paved roads and traffic lights and the only thing that may jump at your car would be young kids wanting to wash your windscreen at a red light for small change. Sure some parts of the country is rural but even here the only wildlife you might see wandering around is a horse or a cow. If you want to see lions or elephants please feel free to visit one of our many spectacular game reserves. We also have large cities with buildings, running water, western toilets, electricity and ATM machines.

South Africans are sport obsessed

If you want to turn a friend into an enemy all you have to do is say that the Australian cricket team is the better cricket team. We have a sports rivalry going back decades. This will not endear you to the locals as it is common knowledge that the South African cricket team fondly known as the Proteas are the best in the world. In fact not even Australia’s rugby team comes close to our mighty Springbokke the South African rugby team. You would do well to remember that anything Australia can do, we just do better.

Proud to be coloured

This is a weird one but yes, you read that right. Do not tell us that we are free and that we do need not call ourselves coloured. We know we are free. Perhaps the term coloured is not politically correct in the rest of the world but in South Africa it refers to a group of people of mixed heritage and we are proud of that heritage.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white

Not just a catchy Michael Jackson song but you need to know that not all South Africans are black some of us are actually white. Yes there are white people in South Africa. Born and bred for centuries and some of them can even speak Xhosa. You do need to bear in mind that there are many unique and distinctly different tribes so please do not lump all black people together as one. I’m really not making any of this up. Shout out to the South African Indians many of whom can speak Zulu. We’ve got a whole rainbow nation thing going over here.

But doesn’t South Africa have a high crime rate?

Yes there is crime in South Africa but you know what, there is crime everywhere. The world is sadly a dangerous place but all you need to do is practice common sense and you will be fine. Don’t wander around all alone drunk at 2am down dark alleys.

There is a big difference between a South African from Cape Town and one from Johannesburg.

Ok so now you know where South Africa. Great, you’re making progress and I am so proud of you. I’m from Cape Town so please don’t mistake me for someone from Johannesburg. People from Johannesburg are landlocked workaholics who are only interested in making money. People from Cape Town are laid back beach bums.

See below picture for further geographic clarification:

Africa Political Large

Food, travel

Cost of living Thailand

In the past year there has been an increased number of South Africans dashing off to Thailand for a holiday. Maybe I only seemed to notice this because I chose Thailand as my destination to teach English. You know when you decide to buy/have recently bought a particular car then it seems as if it is the only type of car on the road. The reason why people flock here is droves other that the culture and climate is because it is affordable. Cheaper than say a holiday to a European country.

I chose Thailand not just because it’s an awesome destination but because things are cheaper here – some things even much cheaper. It’s crazy sometimes how relatively inexpensive certain things can be here. Most websites gives cost of living is dollars or euros but I’m going to give you guys an idea of what things cost in South African Rands, yeah baby, ZAR.

Rent per month – R1500

Taxi ride – R2.50

Bottle of 600ml water – R1.25

2 pieces of fried chicken (better than KFC of even yo momma’s cooking) – R10

340ml tin of coke – R3.75

Bag of bananas – R10

Quarter sliced pineapple – R2.50

500ml strawberry and yogurt smoothie – R6.25

Bag of sugar-coated mini ring doughnuts (dare i say better than Woolies mini glazed doughnuts) – R6.25

Awesome spicy noodles in a cup – R2.50

Butter chicken and yellow rice at S&S Indian Restaurant in Soi 94 Hua Hin – R28

There are so many other things that are cheap I cannot remember it all. Dairy products are mad expensive though but I have become fond (read addicted) to Philadelphia cream cheese. I have yet to price or try the fried grasshoppers, beetles or maggots but I think I’ll give it a pass for now.




Visa hurdles should be an Olympic sport

I guess I also need to write the obligatory Olympics reference blog post, so here it is, albeit in a round about way and it will of course have nothing to do with sports.

In Thailand there are two main school holidays in the year:

  • October: one month, starting from around 1 October until 31 October
  • March/April: two months starting from approximately the beginning of March until the end of April.

This means that I will have some time to kill when I won’t be busy teaching – hello travel!

I had it all planned out actually – 2 glorious months in Italy, living with an Italian host family, eating Italian food, practising the language I have been learning for the past 2 years with a captive audience. La dolce vita, ad nauseam. So I emailed the agency and they replied and advised that the visa procedure is too complicated if you’re not a citizen of the following countries:  the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia or New Zealand. Shit! Shit! Shit! There goes that plan. I will just have to settle for a normal holiday in Italy at some stage in the future.

The thing is I really wanted to immerse myself into a different culture and this bit of bad news did not deter me. So I emailed back and asked if Jordan or Turkey would be viable options for a South African citizen for the conversation corps program. Jordan is also a complicated no go but Turkey would be possible as long as I am not planning on staying for longer than 3 months. All of this is making me wonder why it is so hard for the rest of the world to participate in these volunteer programs. So for now my 2 month cultural exchange is on hold and I will instead focus on Thailand which I am going to anyway.

However, sometimes I do wonder if the world really knows where South African is, I’m hoping the 2010 Soccer World shed some light on us. We are so hidden away and so far down south that this poor Canadian guy, whom I met whilst on holiday, thought South Africa is in Nigeria. Or people have this vague notion that it is somewhere in the South of Africa, not realising South Africa is a country all on its own. Maybe I should just stick to visa-free destinations for South Africans and by that I mean countries where you receive your visa stamp upon arrival and no jumping through hoops required. I found this interesting article online a while ago that gives South African citizens destination ideas of ‘visa-free’ countries. I can work my way through these countries instead before trying to figure out how to work around the 90 day Schengen Visa, so not all hope is lost.

For now I am literally counting down the days with just a few more months to go before I leave and I decided I’ll just spend March and April in Thailand and enjoy the Songkran festival which is apparently epic water fights of note.


All the way to wineland Stellenbosch

Whenever I go to Stellenbosch I am reminded that I live in a beautiful country and I try to appreciate it at every oppurtunity possible. So what if I didn’t get to hire the beetle for my birthday the scenic road more than made up for it. I was worried that it would rain but the weather was brilliant which made having lunch in the highest tree at Moyo even better. The only downfall was climbing all those stairs to get back to our table.

Life, travel

Crime? What crime?

According to most of  modern civilisation and the western world South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to visit. We’ve even been nicknamed the rape capital of the world. A sad reality for such a beautiful country. Recently two colleagues on two separate occasions were mugged on their way home from work. This is quite scary as I take the same route to get to the bus station at night. Many foreign tourists are aware of this and rightly so as one needs to be cautious and constantly aware of your surroundings.

It’s interesting that the one thing I was constantly warned about before my trip to Barcelona was to be aware of pickpockets. I have never been mugged (touch wood) in my life and I was going to make sure that it does not happen to me overseas. On our first night one of the girls that was staying at our hostel was pickpocketed. Sadly I think the reason why this did not happen to me is because growing up in Cape Town has already taught me to be vigilant. Bag always in front and hand securely held over bag. It’s a no brainer and I certainly did not have to consciously think about doing this it was as natural to me as breathing. Look left, then right, and then left again and don’t forget to check your blind spot – it’s a little bit like the K53 driving system.

A while ago I was reading about an Argentinian travel blogger’s experiences during the 2010 word cup in South Africa and he explained how he felt constantly fearful and paranoid. When a group of street kids joked and told him they knew the security code to the gates of the hostel he was staying at he stayed up all night on the lookout for a possible break in. I laughed when I read this but then I realised that it not funny at all and that his fear was real. I think I’ve probably become desensitized to all the crime around me.

Despite all the crime – people however fail to mention that most South Africans are warm, kind, friendly and generous to assist others. The reality is no matter where you travel to it is always best to exercise caution and use your common sense.


Riches to Rags

It is really sad that so many local clothing factories have had to close down over the past few years.  We all say local is lekker but how many of us give a thought as to where our clothing is made? We all complain about the fact that almost every item we purchase is made in China but how many of us are prepared or able to pay more than R100 for a plain t-shirt. Did it ever occur to anyone that clothing prices could be double of what we are paying now if our favourite store didn’t import?

The decline of locally produced goods has been steady especially with retailers placing more of their orders offshore. It’s scary to think that one of the reasons why SA started importing was due to labour costs. To give you some perspective the average machinists in South Africa earns less than R500 per week.  We are in a prime position to create jobs and help alleviate poverty by producing locally yet instead of building up this industry retailers are intent on destroying to pay a few cents cheaper to undercut the competition. How are we gong to level the playing field with China and other overseas suppliers? Do retailers take productivity into account when comparing labour rates and if their labor costs are rising, then they need to bear in mind that their competitors’ labor costs are rising at the same time.

Currently with the rising costs of labour in China as well as an increase in cotton prices SA and the rest of the world is once again looking for factories that can produce even more cheaply. This reminds me of the time the government imposed quotas on the amount of goods that could be imported from China, instead of having goods locally produced retailers started looking at other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh, etc. Imports for certain retailers are between 50 – 90% and many local factories being unable to compete are forced to close down. Should there not be a better balance between locally produced goods and imported goods?

All it takes is for an offshore supplier to meet a retailers target price and a domino effect will occur. The retailer will then abandon the local supplier that has been successfully providing quality goods on time season after season and was able to produce additional units when goods were trading well.

Below are extracts from articles I’ve gleaned off the internet and from the Department of Trade and Industry website:

“It is clear that the industry has been unable to adjust adequately to an environment of more liberalised trade and a stronger currency. Over the past decade over US$1-billion has been spent on upgrading and modernising South Africa’s textile, clothing and footwear industry, to make it efficient and ready to compete internationally. Yet we are still unable to compete with the Far East especially manufacturing giant China.”

“In general, in comparison to competitor nations, investment in capital equipment and the level of technological innovation have been very low in this sector. The effect of these weaknesses is that the industry is not dynamic. Particularly problematic is the almost non-existent investment along the value chain. The result is that a significant part of the industry remains concentrated in the less sophisticated CMT sector. New export and investment incentive schemes and policies are required that are designed to encourage greater investment and raise the value addition of production. These would include benefi ciation schemes designed to develop an integrated value chain. It is also imperative that the industry raises investment levels and improves technology independent of whatever incentive schemes may exist.”

“Skills are crucial in modern manufacturing, and increasingly dependent on higher levels of education. The consequences of a systematic failure under colonialism and Apartheid to invest in the education and development of the largely black workforce remains. Investment in the clothing and textile sector has not significantly expanded a pool of highly skilled workers and technicians. The challenge of innovation is closely linked to skills development and investment. Apart from exceptions in a number of sub-sectors, the clothing and textiles industries have performed poorly in innovation and technology enhancement, with the industry perceived as being a follower rather than a leader.”

“It is important to note that the South African clothing industry was built up under isolation with the domestic market driving production. As such, it was never able to achieve scale economies. Furthermore, the industry was protected by an import substitution strategy and now that the economy is exposed to international competition it is comparatively inefficient, lacks capital, technology and innovation, and has high labour and management costs in relation to output. Liberalisation and the restructuring of the industry in the 1990s resulted in large decreases in employment, while productivity has increased through cost-minimisation and downsizing rather than production growth.”

“South Africa is not only competing with countries that have lower wage rates, they also have more flexible labour markets in terms of additional labour costs (such as overtime and shift pay, sick leave and pension contributions). These factors increase costs, decrease flexibility and reduce the ability of firms to compete effectively, particularly when competing in standard, commodity markets.”

“If the sector continues along its current trajectory then it is probable that only a few firms will remain, employing a small number of people and servicing niche markets. In essence, SA will have lost the sector, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs in an economy that already suffers from high unemployment. This will also impact substantially on other sectors, such as textiles and retail. First, if the clothing sector is lost, then the demand for nearly half of the textiles industry will also be lost which could result in the closure of more textiles firms and the loss of additional jobs. Second, despite the surge in imports, the retail industry still relies heavily on domestic clothing firms. If the domestic clothing industry disappears, retailers would become completely dependent on imports. This would lead to less flexibility, increased costs and greater price volatility due to exchange rate fluctuations, all of which would negatively impact on consumers.”

I strongly believe the government must take drastic action along with all major retailers and local manufacturers to salvage what is left of the rag trade in our country.