The official language of Nigeria, the language of business and commerce, the common language for Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and other tribes to communicate with one another is English. Whether you are a native English speaker, or like many expats have English as a second (or impressive third or even forth) language, it sounds like one less thing to worry about when moving to Nigeria.
However, even when more standardised English is spoken (and a lot of the time it will be the less comprehensible pidgin English that you hear around you), there are various words and phrases that are likely to confuse, amuse or befuddle you from the moment you step off the plane. You might figure them out easily, you might not. Let me help by decoding a little bit of Lagos Lingo for you.
A is for Area Boy: A local hoodlum. Watch out, watch out if you are told the area boys are about.
B is for Breaking Plates: Plates that are not plastic. i.e. the regular kind of porcelain plates that most expats over the age of 5 would eat from. Continue reading →
We spent five years living in Lagos, Nigeria. To date, I’ve barely touched on our time there. It’s a chaotic and often frustrating place to live and it’s difficult to know where to start as there are so many memories and mishaps to dust off. As a first taster, I’m sharing one of the many (but far from the most) frustrating vignettes with you.
The estate electrician phoned one day to tell me that he was coming to install smoke alarms. I was confused as we already had plenty thoroughly our apartment.
Me: We already have smoke alarms.
Electrician: Yes, I am coming to put smoke alarms.
Me: Where are you going to put them? Why are you going to put smoke alarms? What’s wrong with the ones we have?Continue reading →
I think this must be the first ever loo I’ve visited with floor to ceiling windows. It was completely disconcerting. There’s a nice trough below the window encouraging the resident Nguni Cattle to come close and eyeball you. With their wide handlebar horns and barrel chests they are a distinctive sight to behold.
It’s enough to give you stage fright.
Loo with a view, poo with a moo, but don’t worry, only the cows can see you.
You too can visit this loo. Drop by the Blueberry Cafein South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands. Their food is tasty, the views delightful and there’s a nice little gift shop to boot.
Sci Bono Discovery Centre is situated in an old power station in Johannesburg’s Newtown. We’ve taken our kids a few times and they love it. We hosted a birthday party there this morning, which included a guided tour of the best bits and an awesome exploding science show. Quite a few of our guests had never been, which made me realise that plenty of Jo’burgers have never checked this place out.
Shortly after arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa, we adopted a little rescue dog. It turns out that despite my initial concerns and reservations, I’m actually quite pleased that we did.
To be fair, most of the reasons I give for getting a dog apply to wherever you are in the world, but prior to arriving in Johannesburg adding a dog into the mix had never been a serious consideration. Reasons 4 and 5 are particularly pertinent to people who have just moved (like expats) and probably reason 6 also. Reasons 9 and 10 are two specific reasons that meant that getting a dog in Jo’burg was particularly appealing.
You love dogs.
You really love dogs.
Your family really loves dogs and although you are wobbling on the fence about getting one, the perfect little dog, sniffs you out and chooses you.
Friend Maker: If you’re just moved to a new place (a common occurrence for serial expats) you generally start with a sum total of zero friends. There are plenty of ways to make friends and a dog is one of them. Unlike humans, who often do no more that grunt a greeting to strangers in the street and keep walking, dogs are far more sociable. While dogs are busy sniffing each others bottoms, you can either avoid eye contact with the other dog owner or make polite conversation, which COULD be the start of a beautiful new friendship.
Depression Defender: Expats are particularly susceptible to depression, with frequent change of location, language, friends, employment status and all the other quirks of regular foreign assignments, your world can feel like quicksand under your feet. I’m not suggesting that having a dog cures depression, but it’s a proven fact that pets can help ease these feelings by keeping you company. Having a bad day? Brush your dog, pet your dog or take it out for a walk. The affection you receive in return is completely disproportionate to the effort you put in.
Exercise Enforcer: Dogs need regular exercise or THEY get depressed. Even if you’re not a big fan of going to the gym, taking regular walks is great exercise and helps keep you and your dog healthy and happy. Jo’burg is a car centric city, so you probably don’t get as much day to day exercise just getting from A-B as you would in many other cities – add all that lovely calorific south african wine into the equation and you’re in big trouble if you don’t get out and about.
Scape Goat: Somebody’s been eating the cheese? Somebody makes a rude noise at the table? Blame it on the dog.
Waste Disposal: Most dogs are happy to tidy up any leftovers, vacuuming up crumbs and spilt milk. This is particularly helpful when the bin men go on strike, which they have done recently. Every little helps to keep your rubbish bag just that little bit emptier.
Just in the last few weeks I have been delighted that we took the plunge and got a dog for entirely selfish reasons that have nothing to do with loving or liking dogs. Ultimately, reasons 9 and 10 are THE reasons I’m most thankful that we have a dog in Jo’burg.
Gold is the magic that pumped through the earth’s veins giving life to Johannesburg on land that was otherwise not suitable to attract and sustain a large human population. Primarily, it is unsuitable land because there is no natural water source to support the consumption needs of a vast landlocked city and the joke runs that the only reef to be found anywhere near here is the Witwatersrand Gold Reef.
Johannesburg sprang up virtually overnight when the first gold rush started after the discovery of gold in 1886 and is known as the City of Gold. It now looks like we could see a second gold rush 130 years later….
On Easter Sunday we went to an Easter Egg Hunt at Birnisan Farm to the North of Johannesburg. What we actually found (or rather what Pickle found) was far, far more exciting.
Life is rarely dull in Johannesburg, but some weeks are definitely more eventful and weirder than others, the week before last was a case in point.
MONDAY: I nearly got washed off the road during a massive storm. Water was streaming over the central reservation forming a downhill torrent. Instead of going shopping, I went and sat in the school carpark. Grateful to be dry and pleased to have avoided the subsequent traffic, I waited it out. As the school bell rang, the rain stopped and by the time we got back in the car, the road surface was mainly dry.
We haven’t had any blackouts here in our neck of Johannesburg for a while (fingers crossed, touch wood, famous last words), nevertheless South Africa is now fully prepared for Easter next week should the power go off.
Load Shedding Easter Eggs are glow in the dark eggs. Small torches are included in the box to help you hunt for the eggs in the dark. It sounds like a fun idea.
However, entertaining as they are, these load shedding eggs have a fatal flaw, a catastrophic flaw in fact.
I’m always looking for new things to do and now I’ve found a great way to escape FROM Johannesburg IN Johannesburg.
Escape rooms (also known as puzzle rooms) are already massively popular in many big cities around the world and Johannesburg had two relatively newly opened escape room companies that I had already visited when I first wrote this post. There are now five separate escape room companies (that I’m aware of) operating in Johannesburg, so I’m updating the post to reflect all the escape room options you can choose from. You will find links to all the escape room companies at the bottom of the post.
If you’re puzzled about what you should do for your birthday/bachelor party/corporate team building/girls night out, read on to find out more about these exciting and intriguing new attractions, where they are and how to get booked in.
Being in the bush can be slightly terrifying. There was an awful moment on our third game drive when I knew I was going to have to request a loo stop. It turns out everybody bursting and we all took turns to have a wild wee. Even though we had been desperate to see a leopard, were very much hoping that for those few moments at least that we didn’t come across one.
There was another incident where, as Pickle ran toward me in nothing but swimming shorts and sandals, I spotted a skinny snake and shoved my surprise boy into our room mid stride. It was most likely a harmless garden variety one, but we couldn’t identify it from the guide’s snake manual, so we’ll never know.
Despite these terrors, we loved every minute of our bush break.
There was the gorgeous scenery. There was the fact that we were fed – fed often and fed well. There was a lovely moment in the early evening when a mobile mini bar popped out of the safari truck ready for sundowners with biltong and other treats.
…and of course there were all the magical animal, bug and bird sightings. So let me very quickly finish telling you about those….