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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Kate Haywood who’s currently working and living in Cape Town, South Africa. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail.com.
Originally from the UK, I am now living in Cape Town, South Africa. My daily schedule is pretty laid back – as I’m a freelancer, I work from home, so I rise about 8am and if the weather’s nice I start my day with a coffee and some yoga on the balcony. It’s a great way for me to start the day – combining my favourite activity with my favourite view in the world, Table Mountain. I usually finish work between 5 and 5.30 depending on how much I have to do that day. I love having flexibility in my day and I love the environment I work in. However, it has made it harder to meet people in one respect, as you don’t automatically meet locals through work. But that just gives you the extra push to get out and try new activities and meet people that way.
I spend more of my day outside than I did at home – I love being able to sit and work on the balcony if it’s not too windy (Cape Town is notorious for its wind). I live in the city centre, so I make sure I get out for a stroll in the city everyday – usually through the flower market or to one of the city squares where there’s often live music.
I like to walk and bike on Table Mountain as often as I can – it’s a National Park and it’s free to enter and explore. There’s always so much happening in the city – on a monthly basis there’s the Moonlight Mass (not a religious thing), which is a group bike ride through the city that takes place every full moon, usually ending with a great after-party in one of the bars on Long Street. I also like to climb Lion’s Head around the full moon – climbing up by moonlight for a picnic at the top is fantastic, and the view of the city lights makes the climb worth the effort!
‘First Thursdays’ is also a favourite event of mine – on the first Thursday of every month, the city’s galleries, museums and shops are open late into the evening with free exhibitions and shows, serving wine and soft drinks. It’s a great atmosphere and just one of the many creative events that Cape Town is home to.
South Africans are mad about a Braai (or a Barbecue as we’d call it). Any opportunity to Braai is taken – they’re great social occasions and always good fun! Aside from Braai, the standard of restaurants and food in Cape Town is incredibly high – you can get amazing, world-class cuisine for very reasonable prices. Because of this, I tend to eat out a lot – even though my waistline and bank account dictate that I probably shouldn’t.
The wine here is also incredible! A favourite weekend activity of mine is to head to one of the city’s many foodie markets, where you can taste local delicacies, drink fantastic wine and pick up great bargains all at once – although I have made some questionable purchases after one too many ‘tasters’ of a local wine!
I’m fascinated by the amazing cultures that coexist here – South Africa has eleven official languages and I love meeting people from different tribes, countries and backgrounds on a daily basis. I find it to be an incredibly friendly city as well – people are very open about themselves and their lives, and I feel like I’ve learned so much just by listening to people’s stories from all over Africa.
It can be easy to overlook the issues of the city as it’s so picturesque and fun to live in. It is a place of extremes – there’s a vast amount of wealth and then a great deal of poverty and crime here as well. It can be quite a culture shock on arrival to see the massive inequalities that exist between people. There are many people living here that have never ventured out to the poorer areas to see how the other half live, and exist in a sort of ignorance bubble where it’s easy to ignore the poverty and the hardships that a huge proportion of South African citizens have to live with.
Having said that, if you want to live somewhere that you feel you can really make a difference, then this is a great place to be. You can volunteer with a variety of organisations that help local people, communities or animals and dedicate some of your time to changing things for the better.
After work, I might relax on the balcony with a glass of wine or head out into the city to listen to some live music or get dinner (or both). Weekends are always different – I really enjoy being a tourist here and trying to tick off everything on my wishlist! Some weekends will be very relaxed and spent entirely on the beach at Clifton on the Atlantic coast (which is pretty sheltered from the wind) – or I might head over to Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula, where the water is much warmer if I fancy a swim or a surf.
Other weekends will be busier and filled with hiking, biking or sightseeing – and if the weather’s rubbish, I’ll head to one of the city’s many galleries or museums. Cape Town is 2014’s World Design Capital, and there’s a vibrant arts and creative scene – in other words, there’s always something happening!
I try to get away from the city at least one weekend a month if I can. I love camping, so we might pack up the car on a Friday night and head out into the wilderness for a few days. The Cederberg is a stunning area full of rock formations and ancient rock art – and camping out under the stars there is a great experience. The Karoo is also a favourite area to hike and explore. I love the Fynbos and the wildlife you can spot in these places – and we’ve had encounters with wild animals including a Cape cobra, a troop of baboons and bat-eared foxes amongst others.
Life here is definitely different to life in the UK – I find the whole atmosphere to be incredibly laidback and relaxed which is something I really like. I love that so many people are passionate about the outdoors and being active, this is definitely an aspect of life here that I really enjoy.
I try not to turn down any opportunity to try something new or get out of my comfort zone. I think that living as an expat forces you to try things that you normally wouldn’t do – especially as I work from home, and therefore don’t have a ready-made group of friends in the workplace. I did start off using social media as a tool to integrate with the travel community. I also try to keep my ear to the ground in terms of events happening throughout the city, and attend as many as possible with an open mind.
Kate is a freelance writer in the travel industry and is currently living in Cape Town, South Africa. She loves nothing more than hiking, a chilled glass of wine and taking photographs of wildlife in her free time.