‘Normal’ South African habits that can ruin your holiday

‘Normal’ South African habits that can ruin your holiday

‘Normal’ South African habits that can ruin your holiday

South Africans often stick out like a sore thumb when they are being singled out by another South African, or they are caught doing something only South Africans would do. We get away with quite a lot on home turf. We often forget how relaxed our lives are compared to denizens of other countries, or are ignorant of cultural and religious norms.

Rand Rescue takes a look at some questionable things South Africans do that could land us in hot water whilst traveling abroad.

Making a fire

Where there’s a fire, there’s a braai. South Africans love braais. We are accustomed to making fires anywhere and everywhere, whether to sit around and sing Kumbaya or in preparation for a sizzling Saturday braai. We are often reprimanded while visiting foreign destinations for simply lighting it up without checking the rules and regulations.

Australia and the UK are two countries with an almost zero tolerance for open fires. Be sure to check the laws of the country you’re visiting before settling down for an afternoon braai. These laws are implemented for many reasons, including environmental threats, pollution and a high-risk element such as dry conditions throughout the country.

Drinking and driving

Drinking and driving is a terrible South African habit; and we tend to look the other way even though it is against the law. We often ignore the fact that we are potentially endangering the lives of others, never mind being at risk to get arrested and spend a weekend in jail. This could very well be due to South African law enforcement’s lax attitude. We are an alcohol-loving nation, quick to grab a drink even on road trips.

The United States of America is considered one of the strictest countries when it comes to driving under the influence. Not only can you land up in jail, but you may very well be punished with a DUI offence which will tarnish your reputation for years to come. It’s best to stick to your party shenanigans at home, and paint the town red with a sober mind and body. This holds true for your local and international escapades.

Jaywalking is a no-no

South Africans have been dubbed a ‘nation of anarchic pedestrians’. Every year roughly 7 000 poor and marginalised people die on our roads. Without a pause for self-reflection, we’re quick to blame these pedestrians for their behaviour and lack of responsibility. It’s probably one of South Africa’s most malevolent cases of mass denial and hypocrisy.

Jaywalking is a problem and a big one at that. An offence policed in many other places on the planet, and yet it’s so commonplace in South Africa that the word itself has become a peculiarity. Yet we all do it, every single day—and our law is, at times, rather vague as to culpability in the matter of car versus man. It’s time for us to take a hard look in the mirror and acknowledge our contribution to this culture of pedestrian impunity. We teach our kids to look left, right and left again before crossing a road; a valuable lesson, yet we forget to teach them to stick to pedestrian crossings.

If you’re travelling abroad, be aware that your casual stroll over tar or tarmac could land you in jail.

Pushing the limits

Authorities can bring on hefty fines and demerits for putting pedal to the metal and South Africans’ penchant for heavy-footed-ness can land us in hot water abroad. We can argue that a comfortable speed is, in fact, 140 kilometres per hour, but the truth is we tend to get away with it and that is why we do it. Even as our economy is bludgeoned with price hikes and inflation, we cannot seem to conserve energy on fuel consumption, nor subdue our incessant need for speed (or haste).

Perhaps our indifference to speed limits stems from our acceptance of bribing traffic officials as a legitimate pseudo-admonishment, or because we simply don’t pay the fines we are punished with. Either way, this South Africans habit often sees us slapped with hefty fines while traveling abroad. There is nothing worse, though, than coming home from a relaxing self-drive holiday in Europe (with a spent bank balance) and receiving traffic fines through the car rental company.

Unless you’re hitting the autobahn, it’s best to ease up on that gas pedal.

Riding bicycles on pavements

Cape Town is just about the only metropolis in South Africa where provision is made for cyclists along busy roads. Cycling is not our thing, so grasping the concept of designated routes and pathways in nations which rely solely predominantly on cycling as a mode of transport can be a bit of a stretch of mind. South Africans view cycling mostly as a form of exercise or recreation, and we tend to retain this practise to mountain biking routes with fellow cyclists adorned in fancy fitness gear.

More often than not, South Africans travelling abroad are reprimanded for violating the rules of cycling on public roads. For some reason, we ignore all the signs and cycle anywhere flat enough, even if it is a pavement.

Refuelling and tuning your car

South Africans have been labelled a lazy bunch for expecting other people to refuel our vehicles for us, but it should be noted that this international travel ‘faux pas’ is not entirely our fault.

The use of ‘petrol attendants’ in South Africa is a bit of a historical remnant of a cash payment system spurred on by our need for job creation. But this can create some confusion when filling up abroad.

Would you know what to do at a fuel station to fill up your car? Some of us don’t even know where to check the oil levels. How many bars to pump the tyres? And what about electric cars? It’s a good idea to pay attention when we refuel to avoid getting egg on our faces when managing this responsibility abroad. Do some research before you set off.

Littering is embittering

The South African environment is pockmarked by the detritus of mass consumption. The takeaway culture is also the culture of mindless jettison; if there is no bin we accept the sin. It’s just easier to dump. Does anyone really care about one more bottle or tin tossed on the ground? This seems a frivolous problem for some, but compound littering can turn into a massive headache in the long run.

It’s perfectly fine to assume we’re creating jobs for unemployed people by littering but this is merely a symptom of laziness. It’s funny how we often criticise the condition of public areas while being guilty of speckling the environment with our own litter.

Countries like Singapore are quick to dispense hefty fines for even the smallest litter offence, like throwing a stompie on the ground. Singapore is bent on maintaining its reputation for impeccable cleanliness, with an active campaign against littering and stringent enforcement in place. First time offenders who toss out small items like cigarette butts or candy wrappers are fined around R5 000. Those who discard larger objects (or dump numerous items at once) are considered defiant and face prosecution.

It’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the laws of a foreign country before you travel there, but even more pivotal to quit littering altogether. It’s the right thing to do!

Smoking in public

Until recently, South Africa’s smoking laws were overly relaxed. And although smokers can light up in designated areas only, South Africans are still fairly ignorant of these rules. Best you leave this lackadaisical attitude at the border though; smokers will be admonished swiftly in foreign countries as the laws (once again) are uncompromising and reinforced relentlessly.

If you’re a compulsive smoker avoid countries like Bhutan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Uruguay. These countries do not allow smoking in any enclosed spaces, including restaurants or bars, and severe penalties are the norm.

Same-sex relations

While South Africa has embraced same-sex relationships as part of our constitution, many countries still deem this as illegal. Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQI+) travellers vary significantly around the world. In six countries, homosexuality is still punishable by death, a further 70 countries and territories worldwide continue to criminalise same-sex relationships and 32 have laws restricting freedom of expression on sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

Some countries may recognise certain LGBT rights, however, this does not guarantee cultural acceptance; certain acts may not be legal and the local population may be intolerant of LGBT travellers. It is advisable to carefully research the cultures, laws and customs of intended destinations before booking travel.

Speaking a South African language

We have all done this. While traveling, it is always delightful to speak a language no one understands in order to gossip or discuss local cultures and customs. Here’s the thing: there are many people speaking South African languages around the globe, and speakers of certain languages may understand us even if they don’t speak our language. Moreover, tone and intent can often be gauged without knowledge of a language.=

So it is sensible to ensure that your surroundings are clear of anyone understanding your gossip or inappropriate remarks in a language you think is only exclusive to you.

Better yet, stick to uplifting comments while you travel the globe.

Criticising the government

We had a good run with political banter when Jacob Zuma was in office; his antics lent themselves perfectly to unified public scorn. Trevor Noah had a whale of a time denouncing our president and while it was all fun and games, we shouldn’t be aware that such public criticism is not tolerated everywhere.

When the king of Bahrain recently upped the penalty for anyone found guilty of ‘offending’ him, it reminded us just how many countries count defaming their head of state a crime. It may be par for the course in the United States, but in dozens of nations around the world, badmouthing your commander-in-chief will earn you fines, imprisonment or even a flogging.

Be mindful when traveling to countries such as Lebanon, Venezuela, Poland, Turkey, The Netherlands, Bahrain, Thailand and Indonesia.

Safe travels!

As borders start opening up, many of us are keen to shed the cabin fever and jet off to far-flung nations. This is a necessary reprieve from the madness of 2020, but keep our tips in mind along your journey.

Check in again soon for more news on SA’s finances and politics and remember to leave your details below if you need help with your cross-border finances.

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