Shopping malls – everywhere! Huge retail areas throughout the suburbs, towns and cities, offering a range of goods from clothing to cosmetics, furniture to Persian carpets. Most of the major chains are found within, plus quirky independent shops and excellent eateries inside the food court.
It makes sense in a country where crime is rife to have shops in a secure location with extensive parking. These malls, however, are not used just for shopping; many people carry out their daily exercise by speed walking around the huge areas; a great deal safer than jogging in the streets!
Red and green lights suspended above the parking places in a lot of the parking garages which show green for an empty space and red if the space is taken. Makes it so much easier to find a parking without having to constantly drive around!
Parking spaces reserved for seniors. This is such a good idea for creaking older bones as the spaces are placed very near to the entrance of the shopping mall. Also helps to locate your car afterwards!
Car Guards. A bane or a blessing! Anywhere you park the ubiquitous car guard will emerge. Showing you an empty space or guiding you out of the parking. They all expect to be paid for this unasked for service; it is employment of a kind as it is often the only money they will earn in a day. It also provides a modicum of security against thieves and car hijackers. The only problem is if you are stopping and shopping at a variety of places it ends up costing quite a bit of extra money.
Good coffee: As a bit of a coffee snob, I abhor the dishwater coloured stuff presented at so-called coffee bars! Not so in South Africa, nowhere did I drink anything but excellent coffee, strong and rich, usually with a biscuit on the side.
Antiseptic wipes!: Most supermarkets provide antiseptic wipes on entering the store for you to wipe down the trolley handle and your hands. Such a simple but effective method of catering to the needs of their customers.
Packing parcels: Staying with supermarkets; at the tills, there is a packer who will parcel up all your items as they come down the belt and even carry them to the car (for a tip of course). Alternatively, the car guard will help unload your groceries into the boot.
Petrol attendants: Drive into the forecourt of any garage to fill up with petrol and stay in your car. The attendant will fill the tank, clean the windscreens, add oil/water or pump up the tyres and then bring you a portable card machine for payment. Unlike the UK where customers have to do all of this for themselves, in South Africa everywhere this is done for you as part of the service. Again providing employment where otherwise there would be none!
Petrol in South Africa was recently increased (as was the VAT to 15%), but at R15.95 a litre is still under a £1 Stirling.
Service: Mostly excellent. In almost all restaurants table service is provided, no queuing up to order. Sit back, relax and be waited on with a smile. Contactless payment can be made directly via a smartphone with a Zapper point on the table, which will even allow you to split the bill!
Eating out: South Africa has always been known for good food at reasonable prices. Well, the quality of the food hasn’t changed, just the prices. Like everything else the cost of eating out had increased since my last visit. The cuisine and choice of meals, however, is still of the same excellence. Meat in particular, (South Africans are a carnivorous lot) is of the highest standard, servings are of a good proportion and generally eating out either at a steakhouse, fish place, seafood restaurant or even a burger bar is a good experience.
Mindset: As an ex-pat South African I understand their attitude of being aware all the time of the potential for becoming a victim of crime. Driving in the car, everything is kept in the boot and out of sight, less reason for someone to smash and grab through a window. Doors and windows are automatically locked down and one is always on high alert when pulling up at robots (traffic lights)!
Everywhere, homes and buildings are surrounded by high walls, electric fences, barbed wire or all of the above. Roaming security companies do good business in suburbs and are available with guns drawn at the push of a panic button or the sound of a house alarm going off. Dogs are kept, not just as pets but also for early warning of potential intruders.
Some statistics of robberies:
House robberies occur when people are confronted in their homes and are victims of theft.
In 2016/17, there were 22,343 incidents of house robbery recorded. On average, 61.2 households were robbed each day.
The house robbery rate increased from 37.9 per 100,000 people in 2015/16 to 40 in 2016/17.
South Africa’s 2016/17 victims of crime survey revealed that only 56.7% of victims reported the crime to the police.
With these rather scary statistics; a fact of life in the South Africa of today, one can understand how this could create a somewhat fortress mentality and lead to the precautions taken in homes and neighbourhoods.
The People: Not called the ‘Rainbow Nation’ for nothing, South Africa is home to a diverse range of people of all colours, nationalities, creeds and cultures, including 11 official languages. Generally, they are an outgoing and hospitable people, keen to welcome visitors and show off their country.
Because of the wonderful annual climate, South Africans tend to spend much of their free time outdoors. Although the summers are hot; often reaching temperatures of up to +35deg, it was mid-winter during my stay and although the nights were chilly the days were warm at between 18 – 23deg with blue skies and sunshine.
A favourite occupation for all South Africans when socialising or getting together to watch a rugby match, is to have a braai (BBQ) In fact, wherever you go on weekends you’ll pick up the unique aroma of ‘Boerewors’ cooking on the coals, a speciality ‘spicy farm sausage’ which has a smell all of its own!
Scenery: Gorgeous! From an azure blue sky against the backdrop of Table Mountain in Capetown to the cosmos flowering in wild profusion on the roadsides. The allure of the dense bush veldt and the chance of seeing game in their natural habitat, to the sandy beaches of Durban and the warm Indian Ocean waters. One is truly spoilt for choice in this country of contrasts.
Visiting South Africa: in spite of the problems, South Africa is a wonderful place to visit for the holiday of a lifetime. Accommodation is varied with an excellent range of choices available everywhere. From Guest Houses, B&B’s, Air BnB apartments and hotels from budget to 5star, the choice is enormous.
Below are some websites which provide helpful information for the traveller: