With constantly swirling negativity about South African crime and political / economic instability, people become quite perturbed and even upset when I tell them that I would rather live in Cape Town than Vancouver, Canada. They look at me as if I’m crazy, often asking if I read the local newspapers. Are you not aware of the problems here?? Do you not know how dangerous this country is?? Don’t you know South Africa is on the verge of an apocalyptic crash?? Why on earth would you leave the #3 Most Liveable City in the world to live in horrible South Africa?? You must be escaping money problems and/or imprisonment or, the classic, blindly following a man!
Upon explaining (1) I am not bankrupt or an escaped convict and that (2) I am with my South African-Canadian partner but am staying in SA and giving up a great job in Canada because I love it here, people seem incredulous. I can sense my sanity and sobriety being scrutinized and challenged. After a few eye-rolls, the topic changes; I am dismissed as naive, ignorant, and silly, and their focus shifts to waiting for the first opportunity to say “I told you so.” Having had this discussion too many times, I am now publically sharing my reasons for leaving Vancouver with South Africans and the blogging world, whether they are ready to really HEAR me or not.
1. Let’s start with the obvious. The scenery in Cape Town is simply unparalleled. Yes, Vancouver is beautiful with the ocean and mountains and greenscapes. However, it has none of the magnificence of Cape Town’s geographical features. Cape Town’s mountains are more rugged and awe-inspiring (think Table Mountain); its waters are more tumultuous and alive (Vancouver Island prevents the open sea from crashing wildly into Vancouver’s harbours and beaches); its flora is more varied, its fauna more intriguing (where else can you see penguins and baboons in the same day?). Cape Town is visually dramatic beyond belief. I feel alive and energized here.
2. The beaches in Cape Town are second to none. I could have included beaches in the above category, but they are simply too marvellous for words and deserve a separate mention. Rated as some of the best beaches in the world, the long expanses of blindingly white, icing sugar-like sand are heavenly. Vancouver’s beaches, on the other hand, are rocky, small, and dull, with no crashing waves upon which to surf.
3. Vancouverites are not renowned for being friendly in an overtly cheerful and outgoing way. Yes, they are NICE (just like baby ducks, old woolly sweaters and cups of hot chocolate are nice) and will help out when asked, but there is a palpable reserve, an almost overly polite stiffness, that is not felt when interacting with Capetonians. People in Cape Town readily talk to each other: in elevators, on buses, in line ups, on street corners. They offer help, opinions, jokes and smiles without waiting to be smiled at first. Whether it’s your server in a restaurant, a parking attendant, the produce guy or your next door neighbour, you will find yourself having more conversations and more laughs with strangers that you could ever imagine in Vancouver. Most of all, the smiles are broad and genuine.
4. Wine is produced on hundreds of local wine farms near Cape Town and sells for 1/5 the price that it does in Vancouver. No, that’s not a typo. 1/5. Enough said.
5. Vancouver’s weather is so wet and gloomy that thousands of its citizens use light therapy and anti-depressants too fight off Seasonal Affective Disorder every winter. Yes, Capetonians, a condition called S.A.D. does exist – it is caused by the lack of light in winter months when it is grey and gets dark at 4pm every day. Cape Town has sunny weather year round, even in winter, which is very short and could easily be mistaken for a very sunny Vancouver autumn or spring.
6. If you want to know the truth about something, ask a Capetonian. If you want a watered-down, polite, passive-aggressive, politically correct, repressed version of the truth, ask a Vancouverite. Canada’s role as an international peace keeper is reflected in the personalities of its inhabitants. No one in Vancouver likes to offend, shock, raise eyebrows, engage in heated debate, be rude, be an ‘ist’ (a sexist, racist, ageist, etc.), be controversial, politically incorrect or direct. Yes, Vancouverites are lovely people, but if you want the straight story, and the story requires them to tell you something uncomfortable, don’t bank on getting all the goods, especially not in one direct sentence.
7. Cape Town has biltong, Stoney Ginger Beer, Rock Shandies, and Monkey gland sauce. Vancouver does not.
8. The next point is connected to point number 3 and especially connected to point number 6; South Africa produces some fantastic men. Having finally sworn off Canadian men forever, I find South African men to be a highly pleasing mixture: refined yet rugged, chivalrous yet boisterously irreverent. They also have sexy accents that turn passionate debates into foreplay, but that’s for another article.
9. I simply LOVE the expats and immigrants I have met here in Cape Town as it seems this country attracts certain types of people: fearless, bold, adventure-seeking, and independent. Cape Town can be a tough place for a person who tends to live a fear-based life. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the crime reports and constant debates over the future of this country. The expats I am meeting are progressive, forward-thinking, conscious, and committed to living with courage and positivity – truth be told, I think it is the expat community that can give South Africans a more optimistic, current perspective on this country. The absence of a historical lens allows expats to see the reality of the present moment, not a distortion blurred with projections of the past. Immigrants to Vancouver, on the other hand, are the opposite – they leave or flee their countries in hope of finding peace and stability. They are not seeking a more challenging life; challenge is what they leave behind. Expats in Vancouver want a soft place to fall. I don’t.
10. Vancouver is very set in its identity as a clean, peaceful, outdoorsy city; while it certainly has struggles and issues, none as deep or soul-searching as those in Cape Town. South Africa’s history is long, dramatic and controversial. It is one of pride, shame, destruction and reconstruction. It is a history that continues to effect the present to a shocking degree. It is a developing country still struggling to find its identity and jump into the first world. For me, a person who loves politics, human rights, conflict resolution and change facilitation, the dynamic and stimulating nature of this place keeps my mind engaged and my heart open. The spirit and tenacity of the people in South Africa astound and inspire me.
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