While I was abroad,  I tried to document my trip as much as I could. As I look back at my writing, one of the recurring themes is the culture. I would often make little notes in my journals or on my blog about cultural differences that I noticed in Cape Town. Before I share those with you, Community Leader and Cape Town Direct 2014 student Savannah Henderson would like to share a guest post with you on what she learned about culture during her time in Cape Town. Are you ready to immerse yourself in something new?

Guest Post by: Savannah Henderson 

“As I prepared for Cape Town months, days, hours before, it didn’t feel real. I was about to go over 8,000 miles from home. My friend had approached me months before with this really cool opportunity. I responded saying, “Sure, I’ll go” before I had even a second to think about what I had committed to do (or even asking my Mom). I remember saying bye to my family at the airport, thinking to myself  ‘What have I gotten myself into? I am going to Cape Town, South Africa.’ Yes, I had seen pictures of our hotel on the beach with the view of Table Mountain, I had researched the V&A Waterfront, I had read all about the Garden Route, but where was I really going and what was I really doing? This didn’t look like Africa to me.

Let me tell you, now I can’t even talk about my experience, my memories, my time in Cape Town without getting goose bumps and extremely excited. One thing in particular that stood out to me was their culture. I have a few stories and key points I want to share of how I noticed it was so different but also so similar at the same time.

1. The first day we were in Cape Town, we went on city tours, which included driving up to the top of Lion’s Head (the smaller mountain next to Table Mountain). We were all taking pictures and just taking in the beauty of Cape Town. Next thing I know, I see someone flying through the air. It is not everyday you see someone paragliding down a mountain to the top of the city. I was in awe simply because this is their everyday life but something that gives us so much thrill. Adventure is everywhere!

2. The second week of our trip, we went to the township, Sir Lowry’s Pass, about forty-five minutes from our hotel. This was by far my favorite part of the trip. I immediately connected and fell in love with the people there. The culture there was different than my everyday life. Most of the houses were made out of tin, many of the houses were run down, and most of the families had little to nothing. But something they did have were smiles across their faces and open arms to complete strangers no matter the circumstances. The particular family I became close to was considered “wealthy” compared to most of the families in Sir Lowry’s Pass. The children would come home after school and start playing music and dancing. This was their daily routine. They did not have cell phones, computers, and social media. They made the best with what they have. I learned one thing in particular from their culture in this township; material things are not the things that should bring us the most happiness. It is who we surround ourselves with.

3. And my final story from the things I learned from their culture was take the time to learn about someone else and invest in them. There were several different occasions I found myself talking to complete strangers. The first question I would always be asked was “Are you from the States?” Of course they could tell I was from the states, I have a recognizable Southern accent. Once I said yes, they had a million questions. They wanted to know what it is like in the States; many of them had dreamed for years to come here. One teenage girl stood out to me in particular; she now probably knows more about me than many of my friends simply because she cared to get to know me to a deep capacity, and she was intentional. In the States, our go-to question is “How are you?” We don’t typically even wait for a response before we rush off. How is that person really doing? We don’t have a clue. A quote I read after returning home was “We don’t want to be the same, but we do want to understand each other.” This quote could not sum up the people of Cape Town, South Africa any better.

So my goal for you is…give someone else’s culture a shot, and be open-minded. You may just fall in love with a place you knew nothing about a year ago.”

Culture is broad. The actual definition: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time. This can pertain to the mannerisms, behaviors, and activities of the locals as told by Savannah, or it can pertain to some of the notes I wrote from my actual blog while I was abroad:

-People here love blondes. A man actually came up to me and put his phone in my face and took a picture of me. IN the store. 
-People here are fascinated by Americans. A person actually walked after us today asking us to buy something and was chanting “Charlies Angels! Charlies Angels!” 
-We’ve all seen homeless people ask for money or try to sell things {at home or in other cities}, but here, we experienced our first group of children BEG for stuff. Specifically, they begged for coins and for coffee, holding out their hands, and trying to snatch our coffee cups. Really different from what you see at home.
-You have to put stickers on your own fruit at the grocery store, and you have to push your grocery cart on the left side of the aisle. Cars also drive on the left side of the road.

-The waiters will leave you alone. In America, you’re constantly being asked how you’re doing, whether or not you need a refill, if your meal is good, etc. In Cape Town, your waiter will leave you alone. In their culture, they don’t want to bother you while you enjoy your meal. If you need something and they haven’t asked, you’ll have to flag them down.
-Waiters won’t split the bill for you. They bring out a credit card machine and you tell them how much you want them to charge you. You better hope someone you went out to dinner with is good at math!
-A South African BBQ is called a “braai.” They make sausages and drink beers that you won’t find in the US.

-Rugby is everything to South Africans!!!!!

Whether you’re coming to Cape Town, Greece, or Rome with us, you’re sure to make note of a ton of new cultural elements abroad. Talk to Social Media Intern Bonnie McGoogan about Greece culture questions, and Social Media Intern Ashton Coulter about Rome culture questions!

How will you document your cultural experience this summer? We encourage you to keep an open mind and make notes of any cultural experience you encounter. Embrace all of the culture differences and submerge yourself in all that they have to offer. This will be one of the most unique and eye-opening experiences of your life.

-Anna and the Go Global team