African time is like dog years. Or maybe it's the reverse if you really did the math correctly. My point is, everything takes about seven times as long as you're used to if, like most expats, you've grown up on a continent with a more mainstream concept of time. Or maybe I should come right out and say it: A more Western concept of time.
I've told you my story about buying a car in South Africa, in all its detail. I've also told you my story about selling the car again, taking place almost three years later, and it provided another welcome opportunity to let you learn from my mistakes. But what might have saved me a great many words (and almost certainly some money) is a simpler approach: I could have used Gumtree.
The object of our "pumpkin-flavored everything" obsession is not really pumpkins. Nor is it holidays in general or even decorating (though an urge to decorate seems to be bred into almost every American woman - together with the gene for poor taste). The real obsession is money. Good old-fashioned capitalism keeping the American retail industry on a never-ending quest for new markets.
On our way to the U.S. from South Africa, we stopped over in Dubai. Some people will say Dubai is a shopper's paradise. But I totally disagree. Unless you enjoy rubbing elbows with a bazillion other people all trying to get ahead of you in a race to amass bagfuls of vastly overpriced items and then stand in line for hours to catch a taxi back home. No, the true shopper's paradise is the America.
Tips on free parking in Johannesburg. Also, have you ever found yourself at the exit boom of a parking garage without your ticket being paid for, because you either couldn't find the pay station or it wasn't working? Not a problem here in Africa – someone will materialize and happily take your ticket and some money from you, go to the machine, and redeem the ticket.
One of the first items I added to my wallet here in South Africa was a PicknPay's Smart Shopper card. Soon followed by Woolworth, Dis-Chem, Clicks, and MySchool cards. It's no small feat to obtain some of these cards, so that owning them constitutes a victory in and of itself, letting you forget why you even have those cards in the first place.
Before you head off for some serious Christmas shopping, let me give you a word of warning: If you hail from the Northern hemisphere, spare some thoughts to how and where you will celebrate the holidays. We found that we needed a totally new concept for Christmas in summer because we basically live on the patio during the hot season. Where will you put your tree? And other tips.
I always feel guilty giving so much voice on Joburg Expat to mishap and inconvenience. It's just that they are so much more fun to write about than those times where everything goes smoothly. So today I feel compelled to share one of those rather boring moments of life when everything goes as expected or better: Getting pictures framed in South Africa.
I can't claim any shopping hardship here in South Africa. I can get anything the heart desires here in Joburg. And anything the heart doesn’t desire, to be completely truthful, if I go by the acquisitions I unwittingly make from convincing street vendors. And yet once in a while you need that special outfit from The Gap. Here is how I go about scoring those special purchases.