The Joys of South African Bureaucracy

I’ve recently been suffering from Africa withdrawal.

As a cure for my blues, I thought I’d reflect on a particularly annoying reminder of South African bureaucracy that keeps coming up time and again, by way of my email inbox:

The SABC has not yet received your television licence payment for the current licence year. Your licence year runs from ... 


Tips on Selling a Car in South Africa

I’m pleased to report that I’m now qualified to write about the business of selling a car.Tips on Buying a Car in South Africa has by far been my most-Googled and most-read blog post, so I imagine the back-end of it might be interesting to some folks as well.

So the car is sold and yes, I’m pleased to have that task behind me. What I am less pleased with is that I now don’t have my own wheels anymore, with over two months to go. I’m cursing the stick shift of my little rental, the fact that operating ... 


I’m Only The Spouse

 “Spouse” status is solidly documented in my South African visa

When you move to South Africa, you will become one of two things:

a) The work permit holder b) The spouse If you choose option a), you will:
  • work around the clock
  • be stuck in traffic for two hours every day
  • theoretically have the right to sign a cell phone contract, buy a car, or change your internet data bundle
If you choose option b), you will:
  • lead the glamorous life of the expat spouse
  • be in charge of signing the cell phone contract, buying a car, and changing the internet data bundle
  • have no permission to do any of these things
South Africa, you see, is “so 1950s” as one of my readers recently remarked. Nowhere else that I’ve ever lived have I been made to feel my housewife label so unforgivingly as here in South Africa. “Certainly mam, we can upgrade your SMS bundle, if just the account holder could call us first to give his okay.”

The account holder, inevitably, is Noisette. In some cases this is due to the fact that he was the only one here when these things needed signing up for, like our Telkom phone and ADSL line. A mistake I ... 


How to Watch Netflix in South Africa

*** Update September 2016: You now get Netflix in South Africa without the need for what’s described below, except for a streaming device such as Roku, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or a SmartTV. All you need to do is create a Netflix account using your South African credit card, and you can ... 


Just Two Flimsy Pieces of Paper, Yet All that Could Stand Between You and a Prison Cell

For all those of you moving to South Africa or simply taking a trip here, I thought I would share this cautionary tale. It’s actually a gem of a story I just happened to stumble upon last night, and ever on the hunt for writing material, I was practically already writing it while I heard it told.

We were all at a “girl’s night out” dinner, and the food by the way was fabulous. Then our hostess made us all play a game, in return for the fabulous food, and the game was “write something no one knows about you on a piece of paper and pull someone else’s paper from ... 


Digging for the Water Meter

I’m making my way to another expat tip of mine, if you’ll just bear with me.

We recently had some repairs done to our irrigation system. I know you’ll accuse me of snobbery for daring to complain about such things as pools and irrigation systems, but it just reinforces my philosophy that material things don’t necessarily make you any happier. They mainly create more work. In my next life I want to be an irrigation system specialist. Oh how sweet would it be to just go out there and turn one of those sprinkler heads to point towards the lawn and not the road. Or the house. But it is strictly impossible to comprehend the workings of these pesky things. Whenever I can actually get someone to come out and take a look, I hover over them, at the risk of being drenched, to try and discern how in the world he turns that head so it’s pointing the right way. But invariably I lose track after he twists and turns and pushes down and turns again, and I have to admit to myself that I have no idea. The only thing I’ve ever succeeded in doing is ripping the head off completely, which then gives you a fountain in your yard where you really don’t want it. So we recently had some sprinkler heads replaced and some leaks repaired, and in order to do that, the repair guy had to turn off our water mains. I had no idea where that might be, and he somehow found it on his own. Later, as he was getting ready to leave when all the lawn cycles had been gone through and demonstrated to be working, he mentioned to me that “by the way, I had to dig sort of deep to actually get to the water mains, what with all the grass growing on top of it, and there is no way anyone has come and done an actual water meter reading in the last several years.” Hmmm. Now at least I know where the water meter is. Apparently, all the water meter readings we’ve been getting since moving here are pure estimates. We’ve been faithfully paying an entirely fictitious water bill. So for the expat tip: Find out where your water meter is, and do a reading as soon as you move into your new house, just so that you have an idea what the starting point is and if your monthly charges from then on out make any sense.
Successful excavation of our water meter. See the toad on the left? And meter on the right?
As for me? Out of curiosity, I trekked down to the road where the meter is hidden under a flap in the lawn and checked it out. I couldn’t find anything but a friendly toad and a bazillion ants, but a bit of digging indeed revealed a water meter. Do you think I should check it against our charges, ficticious as they might be? Seeing as our monthly City of Joburg bill seems reasonable (around R700 if you take out all the non-variables such as garbage and sewage fee), and considering I’ve spent a good part of last month on the phone with Eskom and Telkom and am not particularly keen to add yet another government agency to my calling list, and remembering that it took the City of Joburg only about three months to deliver a new trash can, I think I might well opt to let sleeping dogs lie. Read More ››