Ten years ago, on the dot, I arrived in South Africa. 21 years old, very naive, and not sure what to expect from this country. All I remember is that it was raining that evening.
Had I not been working till the day before, I could have perhaps spent some more time reading up on the country, the culture, and the people. However, not having done my research also put me at an advantage: I was more open minded to learn from people, without any preconceived ideas of what South Africa should or would be.
I initially came here for a 6 month stay. Just for an internship at GEDA to finalise my degree in International Business & Marketing. But I don’t think it came as a surprise to anybody at home when I mentioned I was going to stay, for good.
Now, ten years later, I have ten amazing years to look back on, with its ups and downs, and surprises behind every corner. But I’ve enjoyed it! And I am sure the next ten years will be just as full of surprises.
Some things from home (The Netherlands, which I still refer to as my home, even after 10 years) I still miss. And there are some things here in South Africa that still take me by surprise. You’d think that after 10 years you’d get used to them. But somehow you don’t.
I was planning on making a list of all the strange things South Africans have or do, as well as the Dutch, but then ran out of time, and also realised that there are too many of these lists already available online. And somehow, you cannot describe certain things to people, they are hard to comprehend just by reading them and need to be experienced for themselves.
I mean, how do you explain to Europeans and Americans that you do not actually have to watch out for lions roaming the streets when stepping out of your doorway? And that, believe it or not, we do not live in huts, without maps, water or electricity. (Although the latter is sometimes the case when Eskom decides we should all be load shedding)…Just joking though. I know not everybody has these perceptions of South Africa, despite some of the dumb comments you see posted online from people that do not even know where South Africa is in the world.
What I can say though, from the bottom of my heart, is that I absolutely love this country, with all the pros and cons it comes with. Yes, we have a lot of negative stuff to complain about (and a lot of us seem to just focus on this), but we also have a ton of things that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. The lifestyle we have, the weather, the vast variety of people that make up this “rainbow nation” and so much more….that is what makes South Africa unique!
Do I miss the Netherlands? Absolutely! I miss the people, my friends and family and some of the things that make us a truly unique country (Bitterballen, voetbal, koningsdag).
Would I move back though? Probably not. I like South Africa, or even better, I love South Africa.
So embrace yourselves, I am here for the long run!