1. Bru is not a mid-afternoon beverage.
Doubly confusing for any English arrivals. Not only does it raise false hope of his favourite hot drink, the overtly friendly “howzit, bru!” is far too familiar and intimate for the traditional gentleman. Go on, just give him his tea. He’s had a long journey.
2. Bunny chows and monkey glands are nothing to be afraid of.
Don’t tell us you’re coming all this way just to carry on eating meat-and-two-veg and egg and chips. We promise they’re not real monkey glands. Honestly…
3. Find yourself in a minibus taxi? Don’t sit in the front!
Unless you’re a qualified accountant with a sense of adventure, dive in the back and enjoy the ride. Otherwise, you’ll be rifling through a wad of notes and a fistful of coins on behalf of your driver and gaartjie, who should be counting it himself but is far too busy whistling at pretty young women out of the open door.
4. There’s something that sets the names apart-heid.
Alarmed to see a statue of coloniser supreme Jan van Riebeeck? Find yourself driving past a school named in honour of apartheid prime minister and Nazi sympathiser, DF Malan? Don’t panic, we just haven’t got around to changing the signs yet. Anyway, we also have a lovely memorial of that nice Cecil Rhodes chap to take your mind off it.
5. Hiring a car? Obey the robots…
No, they’re not our new traffic policing overlords. When you get to the amusingly-named traffic lights, simply do what other South Africans do. Have a quick look around for the cops, then ignore them completely.
6. Join in with the African Walk.
At the robots as a pedestrian? Don’t worry about why they make funny noises here and cross the road like the locals instead. Red or green, make like you’re running across the street waving your arms about, while actually moving slower than walking pace. Don’t ask why, it’s just what we do.
7. Those big birds making a racket aren’t dinosaurs.
Meet the har-de-dar! With a fondness for rummaging through fast food containers and bin bags, they wouldn’t have lasted long in prehistoric times. Placid creatures that pose minimal threat to tourists beyond noise pollution.
8. Township tours are weird.
Sure, poverty p**n attracts big television audiences. But the residents of these areas don’t need you flying past, pointing cameras at them from behind tinted windows before posting a one-star review on Trip Advisor because it looked ‘unsafe’, thank you very much.
9. If someone will be with you “just now”, don’t hold your breath.
Fans of prompt British timekeeping beware, African Time works in mysterious ways. You might be better off trying that other bar down the road…
10. Everything is bigger. Get used to it.
Mountains, journey times, rugby players… South Africa is a supersized kind of a place. And you thought your 45-minute commute to work in London was arduous!
11. Enjoy every second. South Africa is beautiful.
If you learn one thing, learn this: Take in every view, cherish every glass of affordable wine and make conversation with everyone you come across. There’s a lot of negative rubbish written about South Africa – see beyond that and you’ll have the time of your life.