South Africa is a diversified nation with a particularly complex and multifaceted society. Most visitors will suffer some culture shock upon arriving due to the great geographic contrasts, cultural diversity, inequality, and poverty. It is usually a good idea to study and do as much research as you can before traveling in order to reduce this risk. Knowing what to anticipate will be really beneficial for your adjustment process. Below, I’ve highlighted a few parts of South African living that were a cultural shock to me. They could probably be different from what you’re used to as well.


1. Loadshedding in South Africa

Loadshedding is when power companies reduce electricity consumption by switching off the power supply to groups of customers. South Africa has an energy crisis which resulted in them having rounds of load-shedding country-wide. They experience schedule blackouts as electricity supply falls behind electricity demand. You can go without electricity for up to a period of 8 hours at a time and it’s completely normal. The nice thing is that it’s scheduled blackouts and you know when the blackout will happen and for how long.

2. Complicated Taxi System 

South Africa has a number of options when it comes to transportation within the country. They have Uber, Bolt, DiDi, Indriver, Gautrain, and local taxis. Uber and the rest other than the local taxis are expensive as they charge according to the distance and it’s never a fixed price. The local taxis are cheaper but very complicated to navigate if you are not used to them. Firstly, the local taxis are not 4-seaters but rather minibusses and ventures.

These are a few things you need to note about local taxis: you get on them at specific taxi ranks (designated areas for taxi pick-ups and drop-offs). The taxi only drives when it’s full so they really don’t have regard for time and urgency. There is a specific taxi for each location so if you are with someone and you are going to different places, you will have to take different taxis. The driver mostly speaks in their native language and if you don’t understand that’s on you, they are not so kind with translating (but it’s not all of them). If you are sitting in the front sit, you automatically become the taxi conductor and will be required to collect all the money from passengers and give them their respective change back. The driver is only concerned about receiving his total fee.

3. South African traffic 

South Africa has a very high traffic rate, you will be spending quite some time in traffic mostly on the highways. Be prepared for that and remember to be patient.

4. South Africans are not hospitable 

South Africans are not the friendliest of people. They are not approachable, it’s not all of them but most of them. When you are lost or need some sort of help you should approach them with caution as you never know what type of response you will receive. Everyone is just in their own worlds and minding their business. I’m from a country where even when you don’t know someone but you make eye contact with them you greet them or at least smile. If you do that in South Africa they will look at you weirdly, like there is something wrong with you. My advice is for you not to even attempt that.

5. Public smoking is normal in South Africa 

Smoking in South Africa is so common, a lot of people are doing it. What shocked me about this is that a lot of females smoke in South Africa, in Namibia we hardly see females smoke, we hardly see anyone smoking because it’s illegal to smoke in public. In South Africa, people smoke in public, with no regard for others around them.


6. High crime rate in South Africa 

A lot of you might have heard how dangerous South Africa can be and sadly that’s true. The crime rate is really high and you really should always be aware of your surroundings. I’ve been robbed in South Africa and I can attest to the fact that no one will help you when getting robbed. People will walk or drive past you, without helping you. You are all on your own, and it’s sad to say but police are not really helpful when you get robbed. You open a case and that’s it, just forget about what you lost. Another thing is that you can get robbed anywhere in South Africa, Nowhere is off limits for these criminals.

7. South African Mob justice is a thing 

South Africans are a fearless group of people and when they decide to unite and fight against something they really mean it. They will stand together in one voice which is so powerful, the only problem is that they take matters into their own hands. If they feel like you have wronged them or one of them, you could get a beating or even worse get burned to death. Make sure to be on your best behavior while in South Africa if you would like to live the same way you arrived. Tire burning is really a thing over there.

8. South Africans don’t travel

South Africans believe that they have everything within their country and don’t see a need to travel outside the country. They are not like other African nationalities that are always relocating and looking for better opportunities around the world. South Africans are very comfortable with what they have and they love investing in their country.

9. Xenophobia in South Africa 

Because South Africans don’t really travel, they want quality life within their country and according to them foreigners come into the country and take jobs where they accept payments below the minimum wage. Most foreign nationals that accept these deals are undocumented and just want to make ends meet and accept which in turn upsets South Africans as not only are foreigners taking their jobs but they also reduce the salary rates employers are willing to pay. This is where most of the xenophobia attacks come from in South Africa.

10. Abortions in South Africa 

Abortions are legal in South Africa, which is not so common in a lot of other African countries. It’s something offered for free in public hospitals and clinics. The shocking part of this is the way they advertise it everywhere. You will find flyers everywhere you go advertising abortions. It’s so common that it’s not something looked down upon like in other countries.

11. Witchdoctors and Sangoma in South Africa 

South Africans believe in witch doctors and traditional doctors, it’s accepted within the country. They view them as important as a medical doctor. You can get sick leave for visiting one. It’s another common thing in South Africa. You see these types of doctors everywhere you go in the open fields. They are so many in the country and they also advertise their services every second corner you go.

12. South Africans are rude and prideful 

South Africans are very rude mostly when it comes to interacting with foreigners. You could be in a shop and ask for assistance from an employee and they will respond to you in their native language which is understandable but the moment you inform them you don’t understand they will still continue speaking to you in their native language and asked why you haven’t learned it and that you should. They start treating you differently when they find out you are foreign.

You May Also Like

Exploring Mpumalanga, South Africa: Your Ultimate Adventure Guide

Hey there, friend! If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure surrounded by…