1. Mistake “Howzit?” for a genuine question instead of the rhetorical greeting it really is.
Launching into an in-depth answer about your state of being when someone casually says “Howzit?” as you enter the room is a classic sign that you haven’t fully embraced the term as a word all of its own.
2. Be one of those people that gets into the beach-rush on Kloof Nek and mismanages the stop-starts on the steep hill so badly that their car overheats and breaks down.
Kloof Nek is a ridiculously steep road that goes from the center of Cape Town, up over a little saddle between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head and down into Camps Bay towards white sandy beaches and rocky bays. It’s the “instant gratification” route, and on hot days, it’s everyone’s first choice. Naturally it gets clogged with 4x4s carrying surfboards, tiny jalopies with entire extended families inside, bright red Porsches, rusty minibuses, and sweaty motorcyclists.
There are inevitably a few individuals who are above using their handbrakes and ride their clutches so much that their poor vehicles up and die in a puff of hot steam. There can be up to five of them stranded on the roadside at any one time.
3. Get slapped by a piece of flying trash in the high wind.
Littering is a problem in Cape Town. There are green Zibi Bins all over town, but many people haven’t made using them a habit yet, so when the wind gets blowing (and it will) there is an extremely high chance of receiving a greasy Nik Naks packet right in the face.
4. Create bottlenecks in stairwells because you always keep right while everybody else keeps left.
If you arrive in Cape Town after spending any length of time in mainland Europe or the States, your mind is geared towards driving and cycling on the right hand side of the road. It’s funny how that mindset even filters into how you behave on foot, and it can lead you to awkwardly bump into every single person in a busy stairwell and generally create havoc.
5. Get over taken by someone many, many years your senior while hiking up Lion’s Head.
Lion’s Head is one of the quickest hikes you can do in Cape Town, which makes it a popular choice. The path can get seriously busy, and when you see a 65 year old regular cruise past you shouting “ON YOUR RIGHT!” then you know you need to get your shit together and start working out a bit more.
6. Be mistaken for a fluent Afrikaans or Xhosa speaker and stand there, incapable of stringing a coherent sentence together.
You can get by in Cape Town with just English, but considering that Afrikaans and Xhosa are two major languages in this city, do you really want to be that person who can’t say a word in either language while everyone around you is at the very least bilingual?
7. Be one of those dudes that takes off their T-shirt on a hike to be all manly and then ends up with the mother of all sunburns.
There’s always a group of them. They feel pretty fly with their pecks out when they pass you on their way up Table Mountain, but when you see them again at 4 p.m they’re so bright red and sore that they can’t even put their t-shirts back on to cover up.
8. Get given a soft board by the surf rental shop.
Granted, you’re a beginner surfer, but there’s something so patronizing about being sized-up silently and then being handed a soft board, when you rented a hard board from them the last time you were in the shop.
9. End up stranded on one side of the street because while everyone else crosses instinctively, you still believe in the little green man.
This is another hang over from living in the Northern Hemisphere where pedestrians are protected by the rules of the road. In Cape Town, the little green man appears fleetingly, and it rarely lasts long enough to get you safely to the other side. You can end up standing like an idiot on the side of the road for a good fifteen minutes while drivers zip past you with a look on their faces that says, “Why didn’t you take your chance? I was miles away!”
10. Let a minibus driver catch you in the rearview mirror looking anxious as their barely roadworthy clunker hurtles down Main Road.
Picture a minibus, but not just any minibus. This particular vehicle has a shiny sticker on the windscreen that reads Bad 2 Tha Bone or In Godz Handz. It has hit every pothole in town. It’s cruising along on an infinitely thin layer of rubber and most importantly it doesn’t obey the same laws of physics as most means of transport. An infinite number of people can be packed into a space designed for roughly 15. And be careful, the sliding door probably doesn’t work anymore.
Put simply, it’s not for the faint hearted.
Add to the mix a sketchy sense of Cape Town’s layout and where your stop is, and your anxiety is going to make you stick out like a sore thumb.
11. Get a talking to from a waiter because you didn’t finish all the food on your plate.
It’s a Saturday night and you’re out on Kloof Street for dinner with your friends. Maybe the portion was too big, or maybe they made the wrong choice, but one way or another, when the waiter comes by to take your friend’s plate away, it looks like they’ve hardly touched it. He picks up all the other plates, but when it comes to theirs he stops dead.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Oh no, nothing. It was lovely, I just can’t finish.”
“What do you mean you can’t finish?”
“Can’t one of your friends eat it?”
Even if you weren’t stuffed, it’s not vegetarian and you look away in embarrassment. Your eye catches one of the beggars that hover on the street outside the establishment and you look back at the waiter.
“But com’on. It’s good food.”
You start to wonder how far the waiter had to travel to get to work and whether or not he’s earning enough to have a decent meal tonight, but your friend’s getting defensive now, and it all goes downhill from there.
12. Get drunk at 11 a.m while wine “tasting”.
You know you’re supposed to swill and spit, but you just don’t…
13. Find it so cold you need to wear “longpants” when all the locals are still in shorts.
“Longpants” (i.e. trousers) are for wusses. Hardcore Cape Townians are used to the cold that comes with living this far South, wedged between the ocean and a mountain. Covering up, wearing layers and shivering are signs of weakness.
14. Wear shoes to the beach like a total doos.
Shoes FOR WHAT?