9 Things I’ve Learned Living in South Africa

It was September 2007 when I first arrived at Cape Town airport, greeted by two guys who were to become my colleagues for the next 3 months. At 18, I had just made the radical decision in my life to quit college, quit my job and move across the world to a country where I didn’t know anybody.

Now, it’s January 2009 and I’ve been here for around 16 months, I’m about to leave the country to go back home to the UK and pursue my passion with PluginID and making a full-time income online. Before I do that, I wanted to share exactly what I’ve learned in this country and how this trip was one of the best decisions of my life.

I want to make it clear that a few of these points are going to be very personal, and not things so much about the country but simple actions or habits I’ve picked up in my life since being here. On top of that, this will be my last post on the site until I get back to England so it’s been great blogging for you all in sunny SA, the place this site was started.

1) Now is all there ever is

When I first arrived in South Africa, my now-close-friend Alex pushed me into reading a book called ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. When I first started flicking through the book I literally couldn’t read it. I would turn a few pages and realise I didn’t take in anything from the content, it was strange and it’s hard to explain. However, I persevered and read ‘A New Earth’ which is also by Tolle and it helped me understand his terminology and what he is referring to with certain phrases.

The Power of Now is a book I would recommend to anybody as it’s something that has really helped me start to live in the moment. Living in the moment may not be a concept created by Eckhart but the way the book is formatted helps give you a great understanding of the present. Now is all there ever is. When you think about the past you do it NOW, when you worry about the future you do it NOW. Use sense perceptions to smell, feel, see, taste and hear your environment, completely immerse yourself in what is, right now.

I do this as much as possible and I’m loving life because of it, it’s quite hard at first but the more you do it the more potential you see in the world and with your own abilities.

2) TV is a waste of time

I know there are some small benefits to watching TV such as the educational possibilities, news updates and getting a better sense of what the world is like. On the other hand though, I’m sure 90%+ of people do not watch TV for those reasons. In the UK I was a huge fan of the likes of ‘Lost’, ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Heroes’ and I think it’s a good idea to relax and enjoy shows like this once in a while.

However, since being in South Africa I haven’t watched TV in over a year. Seriously, the only time I turn on my TV is when I connect it to my laptop and play music videos (far too loudly). What do you have to gain? I see spending a lot of time watching TV as living the life of a spectator. Getting immersed in reality TV because you want to watch people making something with their lives, rather than going out there and making something of yours. Steve Pavlina has a great article about 8 changes he experienced since deciding to stop watching TV.

3) You’re usually much better off than you realise

I don’t want this to portray anything negative on South Africa so I’m going to be careful with my words. First of all I must say that South Africa, and Cape Town especially, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, just look at the photo at the top of this post and see what I get to look at everyday. However, there are also some downsides to this amazing place. One being the fact that I’ve been mugged at knife-point on two occasions, both in broad daylight – it’s well known the country has a very high crime rate.

There are also the small things that you tend not to think about, for example I pay around $100 per month just oforn medical cover in case I’m ever in an accident or need medical care. In the UK this is free on the NHS (National Health Service) and not something I ever have to think about. If I was in an accident here I wouldn’t even know who to call, the emergency services are known to be very unreliable and I’ve heard some horrible stories of them taking hours to arrive to crime scenes.

Yet, in the UK, it makes the front page of newspapers if it takes police more than 10 minutes to get to an emergency.

4) Everything in life is totally abundant

I’ve wrote about abundance a few times and living in South Africa is really what helped me kick into this abundance mindset. I’ve literally gone from nothing to:

  • Making a great monthly income, especially for my age
  • Having made lots of friends (read how here)
  • ‘Hooking up’ with a lot of girls
  • Constantly learning new things

Wealth, relationships, friendships and knowledge are entirely abundant and my experience here has helped really push that into my mindset. When you realise life is abundant you start to become less outcome dependent, less needy and you start going for the things you want because you believe you can get them.

5) People act through their beliefs

We each have an image in our heads of what we are, what we deserve and how we are seen by others. Based on this image of ourselves, we act in accordance with it. We think that is the way ‘things are’ and just how everything is meant to be. What we don’t always realise though, is that these beliefs can easily be changed and you really can create your own reality, and be who you want to be.

I’m going to be spending the next year heavily studying this further so that is all I’ll say on this for now, but it is a big realisation of mine and something I want to delve into deeper.

6) A lot of social conditioning is irrelevant around the world

When I wrote about how you can start to be who you want to be and speed up the process by completely changing your environment, I mentioned the following point: it can be hard to radically change your life when in the same area because you are stuck in the mindset of how people see you and how things ‘operate’ in your current situation.

Why I mentioned that is because when you stay in one environment, you start to live by the social conditioning it brings and you tend to believe that is universal. For example, in the UK it’s quite a ‘strange’ thing if you are still at home and living with your parents when you are in your twenties. However, over in South Africa it’s much more common for people to still be living with family in their mid to late 20′s and even their 30′s.

Of course this is due to environmental and financial reasons but the point I want to make is that over here it isn’t strange and isn’t something that is frowned upon like it would be in England. Social conditioning is very different depending on which culture you are a part of, keep that in mind.

7) Friends mean everything to me

I’m not going to say this applies to everyone, but my experience here regarding friendships has been interesting. When I first arrived in South Africa I obviously didn’t know that many people and the only friends I had were work colleagues. However, in my effort to transform myself I regularly went out to nightclubs on my own to get out there, dance, meet some girls and make some friends.

This was the first time in my life I’ve ever been to a club on my own and if you ever do it you know that it is difficult. However, the benefit to pushing yourself to go out alone is that you simple have to go out there and talk to people, otherwise you will be standing on your own all night and probably be quite bored.

Now, I have a huge number of friends in this country and I’ve realised how much of an important aspect it is to me in life. When you go to a place with ‘nothing’ and no social standing it’s easy to dissect the things that mean something to you from the things that don’t.

8) Everyone should live on their own for a while when possible

The same friend that told me it is normal for people to be in their mid-20′s and still living at home in South Africa, also told me that most mothers want their daughters to go straight from their first home into the home with a husband. Personally, I respect that each culture has their own traditions but I think that this encouragement makes people miss out on a chance to learn some valuable lessons.

I used to live at home with my mom so living in my own apartment was quite a big step. The main things I appreciate from the experience are that I’ve become more responsible in the sense that I care for all my possessions because it’s me that has to pay the price if anything happens to them. I’ve also learned a bit of self discipline due to spending time doing the likes of:

  • Washing dishes
  • Ironing clothes
  • Cleaning outfits
  • Tidying my apartment
  • Cooking food

On top of all this, you also learn to be more comfortable with yourself. You’re going to have a lot of ‘me time’ and at first you might find it common to be bored when on your own. I remember my first few weeks were awful, I really couldn’t stand living on my own. However, now, I don’t think I can see myself living with another person, especially not in a small apartment. Of course, this only applies to my single life, I would love to get married and live with my wife one day.

9) Criteria for my dream location

I’ve been to over 10 countries in my life and with each new experience I’ve sub-consciously taken away certain factors that I like about them and what things I would like to have in my home city or country. I’m at a stage in my life where I’m young and want to travel, but I also want a place I can really call ‘home’ and use that as my base. Right now I’m 75% certain that this home is either in France or the Netherlands but I’m not ruling out any other options.

With South Africa, people are a lot more laid-back and the lifestyle isn’t as hectic as the one I’ve experienced in the likes of the UK. I also love the fact that people get together as families a lot and host many house parties, something I would like to be common in my ideal location. From now on I’m going to really work out what it is I want in a place I can call home but my experience here has definitely given me a lot of ideas.

The time has come: it’s 5:42am as I write this and my flight is less than 12 hours away. I’ve said my goodbyes, I’ve made a small speech to my colleagues and I’m all packed up. It has been incredible, I recommend all of you to take chances like this in life if you get the opportunity, you won’t regret it.

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