The 10 Strangest Things I Learnt About When I Moved to South Africa


I’m BACK! With another edition of a “Get myself in trouble kind of blog post”. No but seriously I’ve been contemplating whether to write this post or not all week! Living in South Africa over the past 10 years has just been one hell of a roller coaster. It’s such an entertaining country to live in! Just when I think I’ve got this place figured out, I learn something new. So I’m forever shooketh!

Today I decided to give you guys the load down on the strange things I’ve encountered so far, in my 10 years of living here. I came here when I was 12 years old, so some of these things I encountered from that age, just to give perspective. I am going to be very honest in this post, but it’s also just for fun, so please any South African reading this biko, don’t come for my head ooooooooo!


When I was in high school, I used to hear my white friends talk about going to visit their grannies in this or that old age home and I was like…Which one is this now? Until I got the opportunity to visit an elderly family friend in an old age home as well. I felt so sad for them, but it seemed normal to them. The whole concept was and is still so strange to me. Back home, the elderly stay with their family until they pass. So they get to receive love and care each day from family and friends. They are not isolated but rather integrated into their children’s lives.

But here it seems as soon as someone’s parent becomes old, they just send them to an old age home. Mostly in the middle class / highΒ  class white communities. But most Africans here stay with their grannies in the same home, which is what I’m used to. To be honest I just think it’s selfish, especially if the family is capable of caring for them. I think it’s only acceptable when perhaps the family does not have a good relationship with the elderly person, or the elderly person needs special care. Otherwise, how can I send my own parents to an old age home in their latter years, after all they have sacrificed for me to be where I am?


I only learnt this word in grade 9 ( Form 4). This was in 2008. I was 13years.Β  There was an outbreak of violent xenophobic attacks in South Africa that year and it was just a terrible time. I found out that xenophobia is a dislike/prejudice against people from other countries. Xenophobia has not left South Africa yet. It is still very much here but this year there has not been nation wide attacks like in 2008 and 2016.


Back home we call Avocado “pear”, but here, pear is a whole other fruit!



And what we call “plum” is a dark purple/violet kind of sour fruit, which is boiled or roasted before eaten. They do not have our kind of plums here. What they call plum here is a sweet juicy tasting fruit, one of my favorite actually!


The main starches in South Africa are bread, potatoes, rice, maize meal and pasta. No calabar yams and no plantains! So when I walked into a grocery shop last month and saw plantain and calabar yam, I was so excited! Then I checked the label to see the price…guys, please see the food label for yourself!


Plantain banana? African yams? πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚


Imagine an innocent 12year old, fresh from Cameroon, no exposure to the homosexual world what so ever, suddenly seeing two men/women standing on some corner doing dodgy things. I way I was SHOCKED! Guys, I had only heard of this stuff in passing in western movies and in the bible ( sodom & gomorrah), so actually seeing it live, left me shooketh! Highschool was where I got to actually interact, as in talk to, a homosexual person, as our school had a couple of them. I gradually learnt how to interact with them with an approach of Christ’s love, while maintaining my stance on it all.


Yes, you read that right! Someone with two hands, two legs, full sight, full hearing, no illness, will actually come and stand at the side of the road, begging. Maybe it is because of my Cameroonian background, cause back home, the only beggars on the street at disabled people. EVERYONE ELSE, who is able bodied is doing something! I mean even as bad as it gets, it is rare to find an able person begging in Cameroon. They will rather start truck pushing, carrying people’s loads in the market for pay, brick laying, working on people’s farms for pay, like they will do anything and I mean anything to get money, aside from begging.

In fact if someone didΒ  that back home, passing people will mock them and probably say “can you not find something better to do with your life, look at the hands and legs God has given you USE THEM”. But here, you will find able bodied men/women standing by robot lights etcs, who come early in the morning till late. Loads of beggars get into fights because one came and stood on the other ones position. It’s just crazy! I believe in giving and I know there are some really desperate people out there but …begging as a career is not on.


I remember the first time a shop owner shut his doors in my face after announcing that closing time is 6pm. THE SHOCK. THE HORROR! Business owners, as in sellers, hair salons and etcs are very strict with closing hours here. Malls are closed by 6pm latest. So if you want to do grocery or clothes shopping, it has to be during the day. Even if 10 people are standing outside a shop to buy, the owner can easily say “we’re closed”. I understand that with malls, you cannot negotiate time. But some shops are outchea acting as if we are begging them to make money. Back home, places are booming even till midnight. There is no set closing time. See ey, even if it is 8pm and the shop owner sees 10 people standing outside, they will remain open and milk the money until they feel they have done enough for the day. Shops back home close for security reasons, not that they have a closing time per say.


As in, you get invited for a get together yeah, then you have to bring whatever you are going to eat, and share with others if you want. So for example, aΒ  church lunch, a picnic with friends, birthday celebrations etcs. This also happens in restaurants. So for example, someone can invite a couple of friends to a fancy restaurant to celebrate their birthday, but everyone invited is expected to pay for their meals, drinks and etcs. I was so embarrassed one time, when a friend of mine invited me to go watch a movie, and your girl rocked up without the money for her movie ticket. Although I was invited, I was expected to pay.

So people invite you for things, without any commitment to catering for you. Back home, if you invite anyone for anything, you are responsible for paying or providing the food. They can bring if they like though, out of courtesy. Like, they didn’t ask to be invited so why must they pay? I remember when my mum decided to take me to an all you can eat buffet together with my 6 housemates and 3 friends. She paid for every single person invited. They were so shocked. But that’s how we do things back home!


You hear stories of people missing work and rocking up the next day with a doctors note from their sangoma ( witch doctor). In fact there are so called “schools” which train sangomas.Β There are posters literally everywhere advertising witch doctor services like “get your lover back”, “from 0 to billionnaire”, “join illuminati today and become famous!”. I KID YOU NOT. The posters even have phone numbers to contact. The devil is becoming bolder because our society is so fickle, so blinded, so lost and so desperate and so pleasure seeking! To kill, steal and destroy – these are his aims, and he knows exactly the kind of “gifts” to give that will take us there – the pleasures of this earth.


Many times in high school, I will get the question “So what do you guys eat there in africa that’s different from here?” or ” Speak Cameroon”…Forgetting that Cameroon is a country and not a language. White people in particular will say something like ” I was up in Africa last year for … it was quite and experience!” And by Africa they mean Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe…they pretty much exclude themselves from actually being an African country. It seems extreme but believe me when I say, there are people here who speak/act like South Africa is not in Africa.


This has positively impacted me sooooooo much! The ability to have your own views and be allowed to share them. It brings confidence, good self esteem and transparency. I love how in this country journalist are allowed to speak the truth about the government or president, without fear of bring arrested, jailed or killed. People are allowed to strike for what they believe in and are actually given a platform to negotiate with people in power. I long for the day we can experience this level of freedom of speech in Cameroon!

This was a fun post to write! I’m so interested in knowing what sort of strange things you guys have experienced in your present countries! Do share! Let me round up this post with a picture of the pretty dress my mum sent me from Cameroon πŸ™ŒπŸ’žπŸ˜Š. Not following me on Instagram yet? Ah, make it happen ooo



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P.S You can watch my TEDx talk here, to hear more stories of my experience as an immigrant in South AfricaΒ πŸ’ž

🌹 Joan


24 thoughts on “The 10 Strangest Things I Learnt About When I Moved to South Africa

  1. Heyyy!
    This is niceeee.. Lol@shooketh
    I’d love to experience how people live outside Nigeria.
    I didn’t even know homosexuality is shown like publicly over there… Interesting
    I’m also shooked at the shopping hours.. Shakara to make money again. Very funny
    The South Africa not being in Africa is also really funny πŸ˜‚
    Nice one Joan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to visit Nigeria. Let’s swap πŸ˜‚. Hmmm my sister Homosexuality is like a normal thing here ooo. Gays happen to make very good hairstylists tooπŸ˜‚. I remember back in uni, there was a gay guy who had the fiercest and best hairstyles on campus. And he wore heels πŸ˜‚. There is freedom for Everything and Everyone in this country oooo…I’m forever shooketh foreal! Glad the post made you laugh small πŸ˜‚


  2. This was an interesting read Joan.
    For the fruits we have both the avocado and the other pear.
    The Cameroonian plum we call pear too or “Ube”(its another kind of pear)

    The store closing time made me laugh hard. Them no sabi business. I’m sure stores owned by my igbo brothers won’t have such closing time.

    I can imagine how shook you were seeing gays express themselves freely in public. I’m sure I will be shook too if it were me.

    Xenophobia…. Just too sad and annoying.

    They really think or talk like they aren’t in Africa? Hahahahaha. No words for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Waow… Three different fruits called pear in 3 different countries. Interesting indeed! Them no sabi business foreal πŸ˜‚…that’s why foreigners come here and thrive with their businesses. I’m glad you found my post interesting. I would so love to know the strange things that happen in other nations too. Nigeria and Israel in particular.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. haha , good one!! that South Africa not in Africa gets me every time. like literally your country’s name is a stating your position in Africa.. haha , . I wrote something about bring and share on my blog too. haha …

    Liked by 1 person

  4. till when i got to secondary school, i knew avocado as pear to be honest and i am shocked by their closing hour. About the home for the elders, some people are too busy to take care of the elderly ones and they are often left alone at home. So spme people think instead of living them home alone, its better to take them there where they feel they are safer and get to relate with other people like them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Zay! It’s interesting how we have different names for the same thing. I think a lot of people here, mostly the Whites do take the elderly to old age homes cause of the boredom factor as well. It’s just strange to me cause grandmothers/fathers back home often stay with their children, and have their grandchildren to keep them busy or many choose to go back to the village and be working on thier farms πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This was such an interesting read. I was born and breed here in South Africa and so it’s interesting to read how other people view our country.
    i have to say even after living here my whole life some of these things still shock me as well. Just last week i was at a 21st and when i accepted the invitation it turned out to be a each person pays for them-self type situation. And the weirdest part was i was the only guest that was shocked by this. The girl’s mother ended up agreeing to pay if we buy the birthday girl presents. it was sooo odd.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello!!! Glad you had an interesting readπŸ’ž. Gasping at your friend’s mum right now!!!! Yikes. That’s wrong though. It happened to me too back when I was in highschool. But this time it was the girl… She only invited people who confirmed they’ll be bringing gifts. SA is just too interesting πŸ˜‚


  6. Haha, this was a fun post to read.I related to some of the foods because I am from Zambia and we have similar starches to SA.I think it’s more of a geographical thing.I’m off to watch your TED talk.Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I enjoyed reading this…
    Lol @ the plantain banana and African yam.. People like us that take plantains often nko? I’ve heard some of my friends say they can’t take rice without plantain πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
    They’ll have to survive..
    As for the fruits, we have Avocado and the pear too. I know avocado as avocado and the 🍐 as pear too. But we still call that smaller plum one pear. I just thought they were different types of pear. Some people still call Avocado pear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People like me who need plantain on the daily but it’s not grown here and is only imported once in a while… and so expensive😭😭😭😭😭😭. So when I come to Nigeria I’ll be calling 3 different fruits, ‘pear’. Lovely πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

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