Another 20 things about Britis

Another 20 things about British culture that South Africans can’t get their heads around

Last August, Katy Scott wrote her amazing ’37 British things I’ll never understand as a South African’. Being the fair and considerate people we are, we’ve captured a Brit and made him explain a few things…

Another 20 things about Britis

As an Englishman living in South Africa, I get a lot of questions: “How far are you from London?”, “Isn’t it so cold there?”, “Do you know (insert name of literally any British person)?”

Katy Scott was brave enough to ask us lunatics about life in the asylum. Using her original queries, I’m going to try and give her the answers she deserves and explain a bit more about our everyday lifestyle.

1. How they confuse South Africans with Kiwis and Aussies
“We really are just not the same. And I’ll give you a hint: Ask us a yes/no question and if we answer with ‘ja’ we’re South African.”

We are so used to losing rugby matches against you three, we’ve just merged your accents into one. You all sound like winners to us. (Hoping flattery will get me out of this one as I too think it’s awful).


2. Calling anything above 26 degrees a ‘heatwave’
“I understand it gets hot and sticky and the underground is even worse, but really? A heatwave?”

It’s a bit like calling anything under 15C ‘an apocalyptically cold winters day’, isn’t it? (Nudges EVERY South African with my elbow).

3. Wearing T-shirts when it’s 18 degrees
“For many of us South Africans, 18 degrees is still winter. That pale, cold sun is deceiving!”

Many of us never know when we are going to see the sun again. Could be a week, could be a year. If we get an 18-degree day, our pale, milky arms need to absorb the Vitamin D they’ve been starved of.


4. And eating ice creams
“My teeth chatter at the thought of an ice cream when it’s 18 degrees.”

It’s never too cold for ice cream. Show me someone who says no to a Ben & Jerry’s and I’ll show you a monster.


5. The art of layering in winter (and not looking like a snowman)
“In South Africa when it’s cold, it’s cold, we are not used to dressing for overly-heated shops and rooms. I’m still getting used to putting together the perfect combination of thermals, jerseys and coats that are easy to strip off when inside.”

No one ever gets this right, but being British, we are too polite to sweat in someone’s well-heated room for fear of it coming across as rude.


6. Warm tops are not just jerseys
“They’re jumpers, hoodies, cardigans, pullovers. People laugh when I just refer to any warm top as a jersey.”

We love our knitwear. Knitwear comes in many different shapes, sizes and styles. Calling any warm top a jersey is like calling any Southern Hemispherean an Aussie or a Kiwi. And we would NEVER do that.


7. The post coming through the letterbox
“I still jump when I hear it popping through the letterbox because it honestly sounds like someone is trying to break in!”

The novelty wears off eventually. There’s only so many times you can see the postman’s hand entering your home and think ‘this really is the first world’.


8. The South African wine available at the shops
“While there are a few nice imported South African wines, there are quite a number of duds which have clearly been exported for a British market. I don’t think anyone would ever find them in South Africa, let alone pay over R150 for a screw top that belongs on the bottom shelf of a South African liquor store.”

Brits don’t drink for taste. They drink to get drunk. You could market Amarula on toast and we’d buy it, regardless of the price.


9. British Fish and Chips
“I know it’s a staple, and I do enjoy it from time to time, but when people rave about how it is the best they’ve ever had I do take pity. Nothing quite beats a Fish and Chips from Kalk Bay.”

Grimsby. Morecambe. Scarborough. Blackpool… Get up to the coastal towns of the north and then tell me the same thing. It can’t be done.

Read: Why are they like this? The 17 unique British quirks that are alien to South Africans

10. Mushy peas
“Maybe this is a personal taste, but which bright spark decided mashed peas was a thing?”

An excellent dip for chips. Mushy peas are a thinking man’s guacamole AND they are a wonderful decoy for putting wasabi on your mate’s dish when they aren’t looking.


11. Obsessive tea drinking
“I don’t particularly enjoy tea, and whenever I politely decline a cup people look at me oddly. Some even ask why. Because how could one possibly not want a cup of tea!”

Drug users can birth addicted babies; the same thing is happening with tea in the UK. No-one recalls the day they fell in love with tea. You are just born with it.


12. Tea is the cure for everything
“For the Brits, it’s always time to put the kettle on. In times of crisis, tea soothes. In times of panic, tea calms. In times of social awkwardness, tea breaks the silence.”

Tell me an occasion where having tea actually made a situation worse? It’s never happened, has it?


13. The obsession with gardening and DIY
“I take my hats off to the Brits who like to fix up their homes and gardens themselves, but I’ll never understand this obsession with home improvement. The Brits are known to spent bank holidays fixing up their homes instead of socialising and hosting braais like we so enjoy.”

Before you can invite people round for braais, your garden must be spotless. It must be a hallowed turf on which friends can gather, and be fit for the consumption of meat and beer. This cannot happen if your garden looks like Chernobyl.


14. The British barbeque
“I don’t think I need to provide further comment about the barbeque’s inferiority to the braai.”

– “Your honour, I object.”
– “On what grounds?”
– “I can’t find an argument against this…”
– “Overruled.”


15. All the food chains
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad I’ve found Nandos and Steers, but I really do miss discovering a quaint little restaurant that’s not part of a chain. In the UK one needs to venture into small towns in the countryside to find them.”

You can’t have a country pub in the city. These are our escapes from city life. We must keep our chains in the city in order to keep our quaint little “Dog and Duck’s” alive.


16. And the coffee chains
“I would do anything to substitute my Costa Coffee for an authentic cappuccino in South Africa. For the price I pay for this watered-down coffee, I could have a bottomless cup of happiness in South Africa.”

Yeah but you get one in ten of your coffees free with a loyalty card. We keep going back in the hope we get that smug satisfaction of thinking “Ha, we haven’t paid a penny for this!” when in reality you’ve shelled £20 to get a free one. It’s a flawed logic, for sure.


17. The sheer expensive of everything
“I’ve stopped converting everything from Pounds to Rand, but I still can’t get used to just how crazy expensive things like public transport and rent are. Let alone eating out!”

Solution: buy a motor home. You have your transport and rent all in one place… And you’ll always have a table with a view of you find a nice place to park.

18. Plastic-packaged everything
“I know Woolies ready meals are a hit in South Africa, but for most, they are not a staple. Here, it seems you can fall into the trap of living from one plastic-packaged ready meal to the next if you’re not careful.”

Without our ready-made meals, our students would perish. There’d be no nourished minds of the future and Dave from up the street would be your Doctor. Ready meals are the heroes we deserve but don’t always need.

19. The efficient postal service
“Things literally get sent across the UK overnight. It’s like some kind of magic!”

There are kids at this one school – I forget its name now – but they actually have on-the-night delivery managed by owls. If we could deliver a Brexit like we deliver a letter, we’d be in a utopia.

20. The ease of flying to Europe
“It’s so much more affordable flying low cost in the UK, and often it works out cheaper to fly to a European city for the weekend than to spend it in London.”

Get this: People are now flying from their hometown – like, Newcastle or Manchester – via a foreign destination then back to London… because it’s cheaper than train travel.

We don’t make the most of Europe on our doorstep. And when we do get there, we build awful theme pubs and refuse to learn the language. I mean, it’s not like the Brits to divide and conquer, is it?