This blog was inspired by a question posed in the “Os is Vannie Kaap..ma nou is os oorsee!” Facebook group some time back. Someone asked what the strange experiences we’ve encountered in the new country we live in were – the answers of others made me laugh because we’ve definitely experienced some here in France. So arriving in Strasbourg, France, back in 2018, we encountered some things that weren’t normal for us coming from Cape Town, South Africa. Folks in SA, don’t try this at home, especially the first one!
- So, we went to the shop to get some groceries – this man in the same aisle as we started putting things in his bag. I immediately signaled hubby and told him what the man did. He shrugged it off and told me I’m being silly, and we just continued with our shopping. So we moved to the next aisle, and I see someone else do the same thing!? I started following the person around the shop lol, wanting to catch them in the act of stealing (as if I could do something about it!?) to later realize that they were just putting their groceries in their bag to pay at the till afterward!! If you try this back in South Africa, you will definitely, most certainly, be locked up for shoplifting! OMGEEEEEE
- So before we moved to the city’s outer skirts, we lived in Strasbourg’s city center where we noticed many cars unlocked! We even saw a few cars with the doors opened and the keys still in the vehicle – this didn’t seem normal to us at all! Where I come from, if you ever do that, you will most certainly not have a car when you get back to it! Haha just imagine! I also visited a shop where I saw someone’s bag with a puppy in it – on the stairs in the shop – who does that!
- In 2018, when our kids started school, I traveled with them on the tram to and from school every day. I was so shocked that many young children were traveling alone via public transport and even on their bikes & scooters to school! The school asked me whether I would allow my children to leave school and travel home independently, and I was like – hell no! I will come to fetch them myself every day, and this is what I did for a long time even though there were children younger than them traveling alone. I couldn’t just trust that they would be okay traveling alone!
- In Alsace, the region where we are staying, most shops are closed on Sundays – so you need to get all your essentials in for the week on Saturdays or in the week only. Sundays are rest days!
- No packers at the till to assist you, so you have to pack your own groceries and no petrol attendants at the petrol stations – self service all the way – I talk more about our experience with that here.
- You are also encouraged to take your own bags to the shops for your groceries, and if you forget to bring your own bags, you could buy new ones at the shop or the plastic bags. We now pack our bags in the car, so we never forget, and we never have to buy the plastic ones!
- Your children can either eat at the school cafeteria or at home, but no lunch can be sent to school for the kids to eat.
- Nobody hoots for the next person to drive or move or anything!! No crazy road rage or nothing like that! Pedestrians and cyclists have right of way – it’s like the people in cars need to just have patience… I’m slowly learning this kasaaaaam!? hehe
- If you purchase a car, ensure that everyone has a seat to sit on. This may sound silly, but back home, if you need to give people a lift, you get kids sitting on adults’ laps, etc., just to squeeze everyone it! Not here, though! So if you are a family of 6 people like us, you can’t buy a car that seats 5 people – also, everyone needs to be buckled up, and it needs to be visible. We got stopped once by the police! My son had his seatbelt on, but it wasn’t visible. We got stopped, and they told us that it should be visible at all times!
- So when you visiting people, taking off your shoes and wearing house shoes, or walking around in your socks is a norm! I experienced this on three occasions when visiting someone’s home. It was very strange & different at the time, but surprisingly now we do it at home as well. We take off our shoes and wear house shoes, or kids wear thicker socks!
It’s incredible how different things are here than back home, but Algamdulilah, we’ve adapted, accepted the differences, and embraced it all. I now go into the shop and sometimes don’t take a trolley because I put my groceries straight into my bag – haha. I always think back to how I assumed the guy was stealing and sometimes wonder if someone will ever come up to me and say something, but NOTHING hehe cos it’s normal to do that here! Hubby even lost his wallet once, and a few hours later, a man came to knock on our door and told me that he left it at the town hall – when I went to collect it, nothing was out of place, and nothing was taken!
Things might be different here, but I know for sure South Africa has lots to offer, and even though this is where we reside for the moment – Cape Town will always be home, will always be our base, will always be where we will return one day, Insha-Allah!
If you are living abroad and have experienced some funny, weird and strange experiences in the country you currently living in – let us know below!
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