Working in Cape Town - Part 2: The culture shock


My month of working in Cape Town is over, and I'm fully back to the cold and wet reality of Slovenia. Needless to say it was an amazing ride, packed with ups and downs, and after writing about my first impressions about a month ago I'm slowly ready to present the final objective review, together with the highlights of my trip. The first week I was there was a bit of a struggle, as I was slightly overwhelmed by the culture shock. But after that I managed to adopt the situation and have grown to admire and love Cape Town. Today, sitting at home, I can say that South Africa is a beautiful country with amazing landscape and nature, but at the same time full of cultural contrast and racial inequality, a constant reminder of the things that happened in the past.

One thing you get used to in Cape Town are beggars, sadly all of them coloured. They have their regions, usually in the form of a traffic crossing, where they sell magazines to standing cars or amuse people for change. Every day I was going to work I passed a few of them, sometimes giving them cigarettes or some change. These were the nice guys – I also met a few more arrogant, one of them threatened to take my wallet if I don't give him more money. That situation managed to strengthen the bitterness of the first days of my stay, but luckily resolved in my favor. People are adoptable beings, and seeing people sleeping on the streets where I lived also became something perfectly ordinary.

Street Beggars, Cape Town

Beggars spending their day on the streets

Street Beggar, Cape Town

A beggar I met on my way to work every day

Most parking lots, houses and neighborhoods are constantly being watched by armed security, and some of the estates are surrounded with walls and other types of protection. They resemble a personal prison, but the crime rate is high, so these precautions, as weird as they may seem, make sense.

Street Beggar, Cape Town

Houses are protected with walls and barb wires

There are a lot of "informal settlements" or townships in the vicinity of Cape Town, and I really wanted to visit one of them out of curiosity. At the end I was taken to a more "commercial" one for lunch, which was still a very interesting experience for the European taste. The meat we had there tasted great, and our car was well cleaned. Almost a perfect lunch, but in the end, the car cleaners sadly got into a fight about who will get more money out of the job.

Township Imizamo Yethu

The township of Imizamo Yethu

Car cleaners inside Imizamo Yethu

The car cleaners inside the township

When you travel around the world, visiting different cultures, you are usually prepared to confront a different world. But South Africa seems western enough to make you feel like you are in Europe, but the actual culture is so different it can be a bit shocking at first. I hope I won't insult any of my friends down there with this post, but I really wanted to present this point of view to my friends back home. Besides, I believe times are changing for the better for South Africa, which is also shown by the people themselves – most of them are not resigned to the situation, but actually want to make something better out of their lives. And where there's a will, there's a way!

Check out the complete Working in Cape Town series.

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written 7.12.2010 9:16 CET on chronolog
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