I am not sure why I am just now being more attentive to the differences between South African Culture and US Culture but I have made a few observations in the past two weeks.
First of all, I love that in SA I am everybody’s sissy (sister) or auntie. It makes me feel like I belong here even when it is a complete strange calling me these things. It actually puts a smile on my face to have my taxi driver call me sissy.
In the US walking around barefoot still produces strange looks from people you pass on the street. In SA, walking around barefoot is a way of life. The children we pass walking to primary school in the mornings never have shoes on (before you think it, they are not barefoot because they cannot afford shoes, shoes just aren’t a necessity here). I have actually been called weird for wearing shoes or socks during a time other felt they were unnecessary.
I am sure that I have spoken on this before but I have finally gotten to the point where classifying someone as ‘colored’ is normal to me. I am sure that when I first got here I told people that my boyfriend is black which is not the case here. He is classified as colored but because of obvious cultural differences between the US and SA, I could not say ‘colored’ at first without feeling like I was running across the line of political correctness.
In SA, English is not the law of the land. Yes, almost everybody here can speak English to some degree (except my boyfriend’s parents- awkward) but it is not the only language I encounter in a day. Getting in the taxi in the mornings I hear a cheerful ‘Molo’ or ‘Molweni’ (Good morning in Xhosa). Depending on the energy of the group I am riding with I can hear a symphony of clicks coming from daily conversation and it warms my heart so much. Hanging with my Godson’s family or getting mistaken for a colored person or my boyfriend just messing with me can produce the language of Afrikaans. If there were one other language I could learn in this world it would be Afrikaans. I am actually sure that I will start learning it soon. Most of the time I have no idea what is going on because speaking in English is not the main concern of people. I will also drop in the little fact that there are 11 official languages here (Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu).
CP time (colored people time) in the US has nothing on Africa time (and it is not seen as derogatory to say things run on Africa time because they do). Things do not run on the scheduled time here almost ever. If your train is scheduled to come at 12:05 than you can expect it at anytime from then to 30 mins from that time, sometimes even longer.
There is this fun thing called loadshedding where the power is cut in certain areas for two hour time periods because South Africa as a whole is running out of electricity. I have to admit that I was ignorant to the fact that one could simply run out of electricity. You could be in the middle of cooking dinner on your electric stove and if you are not paying attention you can end up having a two hour delay in your cooking.
Living in Cape Town is amazing for experiencing different languages and traditions! I will miss being here.