Let me throw in a very quick disclaimer here.....by no means am I stating that any of these differences are wrong. And many are just related to aspects of the house we live in. In many regards the aspects of the South African and Cape Town culture and the lifestyle we live here are far superior to what we had in the States. Enjoy.
OK, the yard part might be a stretch and Front Courtyard is probably more accurate. As you can see most is brick (albeit nicely laid) and there is a patch of grass (or what used to be grass) over to the right. What was abnormal was living behind a 7 foot security wall around the whole property and remote access gate. While our normal had consisted of a lot of front porch sitting, waving at neighbors walking by, viewing the rolling hills, watching the kids run and ride bikes in the street and hearing the hum of street lights we now see neighbors walk by quickly as our dog barks, talk to strangers at our gate through an intercom and see nothing but a black hole through our gate when the sun is down. And watch out for our patrolling African attack mutt.
As I mentioned we don’t have a dishwasher. It was abnormal to not have a large kitchen with island, dishwasher, garbage disposal and separate laundry room that housed washer, dryer and work area. It is normal now. And yes, that is our washing machine next to the kitchen sink. And yes, we do use the top of our washer as extra drying space for our dishes. And yes, when clothes are washed they are taken out and hung on the line to dry. What this picture doesn’t accurately show is the fact that our counters throughout this house are only about 3 feet in height. We’ll get to that later.
This is the standard outlet here. Forget that they have two or three other types of plugs that require adapters for certain appliances. Focus on what was originally abnormal in the on/off switch for each plug. Yes, each plug has its own switch. Don’t assume just plugging it in gives is power. While I haven’t researched the reason for this I do know that electricity here is expensive. Any outlet unused is switched off. Bake something or cook on the stove? Turn the oven on. Done cooking? Switch the oven off at the outlet. One other unique aspect for us is the switching on/off of our water heater when not in use and before use.
These are my keys. The remote controls our garage doors, an alarm panic button and houses one button that we aren’t sure what it does. What was abnormal was to walk around with keys that took up your entire pocket and made you feel like you lived in a castle. But what also was abnormal was the fact that these aren’t individually cut. Each key has a number on it. A 1234 might open my front door. If someone else has a 1234 they have access to my front door.
First of all, here this is called a Braai, not grill. While the norm for me was to go out, turn on the propane, click a button and be cooking in seconds this takes more planning. Half a steel drum, a little grate, some Namibian charcoal and 30 minutes later you are close to being ready to cook. Is this unheard of in the States? Absolutely not. It is cooking over coals. Was this abnormal to me? Absolutely. Will I ever go back and own a propane grill? Probably not. I was lost and now have been found. And don’t even get me started on the joys of cooking a potjie on this thing. Yowsers!!
A plastic moving trunk as a coffee table and plastic patio chairs for guests. OK, so this is not standard South African interior design, but rather just our home. Was it abnormal to not have the leather chairs, rugs and Pottery Barn coffee table? Yes. Is it normal (and convenient) to now be able to stack and move chairs with one hand from inside seating to outside seating? Yes. Drink coaster for the coffee table. Forget that.
Well, kind of. The fireplace is fairly central in the house, but it certainly doesn’t provide whole house heating. It was abnormal to not have a programmable panel where we could set the desired temp and let the system kick on/off to regulate. The norm now is to work more with a multiple prong strategy to attack the cold. Get a good wood fire burning for the main living area, check. Load up a few hot water bottles for the beds, check. Kick on the electric heater in the bedroom to take the chill out, check.
Abnormal was not having dual sinks and a mirror that stretched from counter to ceiling. Normal now is a shared sink with small medicine cabinet door mirrors and three foot counters.