July 25, 2013 @ 6:48 pm - posted by David Beaumont

At my age, slightly nearer 50 than 49, a career change is neither advisable nor particularly practical. Emigration and career change combined is bordering on silly. Add Africa to the equation and you’re heading for the funny farm. Can I recommend it to all of you sitting in a heated room with carpets thinking about doing something like this; I don’t know you so I can’t tell you if it’s right for you. I can tell you it’s right for me….and my wife … and my daughter. It doesn’t suit those I have left behind, specifically close family and pregnant friends, Sabena and Wendy. Nicky, my eldest niece has given birth to Eva Daisy last month making me a great uncle for the second time. Actually I’m not a great uncle; I’m a crap one. I’ve left all my nieces and nephews behind and missing out on the family joy.

South African Flag

So if you decide that you are going to make the change, you have to expect that there are going to be differences.

Koreans moving to London neighbour my parents and two sisters in New Malden, a London suburb sitting in a green zone between Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. South Africans all head for Southfields and Poles head for Ealing. Russians famously end up in Chelsea. There is no British enclave in Cape Town that I have noticed yet but that’s because in the month since my arrival, I have met just one couple who live around the corner. The rest are spread between Newlands, our home, Claremont, 100 metres from our home and Constantia, a mile from our home. So we’re no different from anybody else. But living in Africa, specifically Cape Town is different. How different…..let’s discuss as they say in your exam papers.

WINTER

Winter in South Africa

It’s winter here as we arrive in August and the locals don’t like it. Temperatures have plummeted to degrees to which Africans wear fleeces, hats and gloves, thick ski jackets and shudder uncomfortably around open fires in the local pub, mine being the very ancient and agreeable Forresters. It’s 15 degrees centigrade. Bordering on a luxuriating summer day back home. I am comfortable outside my home. But the thing is, the inside. It’s built for the hot weather they, or should I say we, have here most of the year. In winter, this home at least is just not gemuetlich (cosy to those of you with no German command). It has a pool. I’ve never had a pool before as I have never understood why immersion into cold water had any attraction. It contains nothing but rainwater as it hasn’t stopped raining since we arrived. But the house does not have the facility to be heated. There are electric panels on the bedrooms’ walls and they get burningly hot and cost us a pile of rand, but they just have no convection capability at all. The heat extends about 3” away from the device, about as invasive as the Italian army. I enjoy piping hot showers here, eco-friendly solar-heated no less, while watching my breath condense. What’s that all about? We have a gas heater that we all huddle around in the morning to get dressed, even warming our clothes in front of it while showering.

I’ve worked out how to get over the getting out of bed and getting dressed in the cold syndrome…go to bed fully dressed ready for work the next day which is what we do now. I wear cashmere and Jax angora in bed. We take off our shoes but not socks.  I’m living in the sub-tropics in an igloo. Central heating and igloos are not comfortable room-mates.

NAMES

People will call you on the phone for the same reason that they do at home. It’s the bank or the garage and they greet you with enthusiasm. “Ha theer, is that Mr Boughmaight?” They just can’t cope with Beaumont here, but then again they never could at home or in France, whence my name came. “It’s Bucchers here cale from the Cape Bakkie company.” What the fackie is a backie and what sort of name is Bucchers? (A Bakkie is a pick-up truck by the way.) I call hotels checking availability and making reservations and enquire politely for the contact name. “My name’s Blessing” I am informed. I’m sure it is a blessing but I re-enquire as to what it actually is. “It’s Blessing,” it repeats. She’s called Blessing. It’s the sort of name I would expect Jordan to give her goldfish, if it had G cups. T.I.A.!  As I write, I am dealing not only with Blessing but also Queen (tough title in one of the world’s gay capitals,) Beauty; she has to be a dog, Precious…big overdraft and Brightness. Brightness has to be a knob doesn’t she?

The only one I don’t trust is Antru. It’s pronounced untrue. Every time I call and ask for confirmation of this, that or the other, he replies, “this is Antru.” Oddly enough this worries me slightly and I question the integrity of his responses.

Apart from that, they have principally Dutch or British names which is in line with the heritage.  In my office, I enjoy the company of Kim and Janine as well as Fritz. You just want to put “pommes” before that don’t you? Sorry Fritz!  Apart from that, blokes have very macho names. They are Johan and Joos, pronounced YoHan and Jooooos, perfectly Anglo-Saxon but then I land up working with Francois and Guillaume. Is that the Huguenot connection? Then there’s Koooobus. There’s a lot of Kooobuses and when they call you for a conversation, get an interpreter. There’s a new film out today about the corrupt but hugely talented SA cricketer Kronje. The film is titled Hansie  Did he marry Gretallie ‘cos that would have been a fairy-tale marriage?  South Africa has a lot of historical connections with their European grand-parents. The historical influence is clear in daily life here. It’s not a bad thing, just confusing and I wonder how long it will take for us to shake it off.

South African Language

LANGUAGE

South Africa is blessed, and I am a linguist, so I mean blessed, with dozens of languages. The national anthem is sung, I think, in five languages, Afrikaans, the African version of Dutch, Xhosa,a local language which include three types of tongue clicks in its alphabet, Zulu, the country’s largest tribe both in number and in mass, one more which I have forgotten, I think it’s called Sisuthu and English. Can you imagine any of our folk able to speak more than English and cockney-rhyming slang let alone sing in five languages at the Cup Final? God save our gracious Queen, not forgetting Beauty, Precious and Brightness. Ridiculous! English aversion to foreign influence and specifically language has frustrated me in the past and will surely get worse. Our illegitimate government has recently banned oral exams for foreign language students on the basis that it’s too onerous on the student. What over-qualified accountant in government service has decided that foreign language students should no longer be examined on their oral foreign language skills??

OTHER USEFUL ARTICLES

If you’re thinking about taking a career Break check out these articles:

Returning to work after a Career Break

Career Break Legislation, Law and Policy

TRAVELLERS TALES

South Africa

Letskraal - Where a nations capital is conceived

Shooting Ubuntu

South America

Just do it - story of a Jimmy Choo loving accountant who went back packing & found herself a toyboy

The Far East

Motorbikes, Ostriches & Bribery in Vietnam

A Winter of Thought & Procrastination

The Perils of Working Abroad

STAYING SAFE WHEN TRAVELLING

Video – Advise from ex overlander and travel logistics expert 

WORKING IN SOUTH AFRICA

If you’re thinking about working in South Africa, we recommend you check out these sites

British Expat Forum

Internations

 

About David Beaumont

David took a sabbatical in Southern Africa, a continent which he found humbling. Together with his wife and 8 year old daughter, they upped sticks in 2008, returning over two years later. The experience changed our lives, our outlook on life for the rest of our lives. We no longer run for tube trains; we're just grateful we have them. Our daughter now embraces her education. We covered South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland where our eyes were opened to so many new and different experiences. We have friends for life there now and return annually. Simply, the best decision we ever made!

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