Someone from Cape Town recently told me that living in this city for 6 years does not make me a Capetonian. Apparently the official integration period is ten years, and I had to work a lot harder on my accent. Eish. Problematically, this caused my identity crisis to reach new heights as I already felt so disconnected from my own Dutch heritage. You see, I never had the urge to put chocolate sprinkles on my bread or dress up like an orange dildo at every possible event. Nor do I have any affinity with going camping in a farm field, bringing my own cake to birthday parties or speaking in expressions (“now the monkey comes out of the sleeve!”). And I will never ever call my children Freek, or Taco (yes, Taco is a name). Dutch people are bloody nuts.
This made me wonder what makes a Capetonian, and which of those accents I had to adapt (the range from ‘yah alraaaaght hey okes’, to ‘aaaaweee my bru’ is yet to be understood). This is already a tricky thing to answer, considering the people here are of such a huge variety of nationalities, (sub)cultures, shapes, sizes and accents. Not that these different groups are necessarily integrated (yes I said it), so my argument would be that if I’d want to become truly Capetonian, perhaps I’d have to try a lot harder NOT to integrate with any other culture and stop having such a scattered variety of friends. But I kept that piece of irony to myself.
There is however a certain behavioural pattern that exists with those living in the city. Funny enough, I only discovered this by hanging out with people who are not actually from Cape Town. My friends from other provinces and countries laid bare a general observation of that what makes Capetonians so typical. This is not to be confused with my previous observation of unique things South Africans do, like not wearing shoes in urban environments or dancing when protesting, as these are of a more national level. No, the following I find too typical of Cape Town only, and those knowing the lifestyle in the Mother City will probably agree.
Ask any random friends from Cape Town how they know each other, and they most likely answer that they went to the same creche, their parents used to be swingers or they’ve been surgically separated at birth. True Capetonians know each other since they were sperm, and whilst they’ll tell you to ‘definitely hang out hey’ or ‘you should come visit’, this is mostly a courtesy call. Joburgers however, make superfriends as a foreigner, as they most likely feel equally extraterrestrial without a clique.
This brings me to the second point, and a true Cape Town obsession; Johannesburg. It took me a while to visit Jozi, because my Capetonian acquaintances hardly recommended it. In fact, they used to whisper Joburg as that apocalyptic wasteland where no one dares to cross. If I did in fact go, I would definitely be hijacked, shot, sold as a prostitute and eventually harvested for organs. Besides, it didn’t have Table Mountain, so why would I even go? (And like no beach, so why bru, whaaaaah?) For years, based on Capetonian descriptions, I pictured Johannesburg to look exactly like Mordor, but with zombies. Perhaps Johannesburg’s multicultural integration, influx of opportunity and abundance of greenery got Capetonians a little insecure, because I experienced it to be quite the cool place.
Never have I experienced so much fear of missing out as in Cape Town. The people of Cape Town are the true reigns of FOMO, judging by the endless amounts of events that people seemingly participate in on my social media feeds. I tend to call this the city of ‘see and be seen’, as the only way to ride the Capetonian wave is to be everywhere, all the time. And people must know. You didn’t attend the naked paddle-board yoga sunset session at Oudekraal? Totally missed out. Are you going to Tuesday night’s ArtFart fest in town? There will be a local artist setting himself on fire whilst playing a saxophone with his asshole. There’s wine too. You should totally come. And don’t forget there is yet another super/giant/red/blood moon tonight. There’s one every week these days, but we should definitely hike and photograph the shit out of it.
I went to the Pharrell concert and there were confused 50 year old Constantia moms who looked like they were trying to find the manager at aisle seven because the Woolies low-fat yoghurt was out of stock. They had no idea what songs were playing, but certainly had a good story to tell.
Despite all these events being ‘attended’ on a daily basis, the people of Cape Town are pretty much the hardest to make plans with. I’m not sure what caused the fear of pinning a date down to do something, but if you wonder why exclusive tickets, best seats and early-bird bookings are always in the hands of people who are not from Cape Town, it’s because no one, and I mean no one, will book anything in advance here. What’s more startling, is the disgruntlement that arises when the FOMO kicks in and Capetonians realise there are no tickets/seats/bookings left. On the day of let’s say, a festival, people will frantically ask for an entry, when my answer mostly limits to “no, you ballsack, I asked you 3 months ago while you were hibernating, but you didn’t know you were sure what you’d be doing on Monday the 19th of October”. So, in case you really want to do anything, stay prepared to do all of it on a spontaneous basis here.
Ask any Capetonian how he/she is doing, and ‘busy’ might be the most common answer. Whatever the case may be, and that includes the traffic we all see from 3pm, or noon on a Friday (or worse, none on a Friday), or you guys having drinks on a Tuesday afternoon, or brunch on a Wednesday, everyone is always busy. Not only does South Africa have one of the most public holidays in the world, Cape Town most certainly has the longest weekends, special celebrations (yes, they celebrate 17th century British tradition Guy Fawkes Day here, for no explanation), and leisure time. Banks often close before they open, and Sundays are not cool enough for restaurants. People who like overtime are often deported to Johannesburg and if you don’t have at least 17 hobbies, this is not your place. But yeah, definitely very busy.
Perhaps it’s not going to be an easy task after all, and is my ten year integration period not to be taken lightly. Becoming a true Capetonian is very hard, but being a resident of Cape Town is actually pretty easy. Once you learn to miss events, make plans with Joburgers and not feel too busy, you’ll be able to enjoy the city exactly for what it is. A messy but beautiful place of enormous variety of cultures and identities, all trying their hardest to fit in.
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