Top Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about South Africa

Top of the week to ya! If Wednesday is hump day, I’m thinking it would be the “top” of the week –yeah? Anyway. I’m getting settled in South Africa pretty well. It helps to have visited a few times before the move. But I’m at the stage where if I walk out the front door, I’m likely to see something that will surprise me every day. Really fun. It’s good to learn new things.

Here are a few fun facts, so you can join me in the cultural immersion!

Top Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know about South Africa (Unless You’re South African)

10. South Africa averages less than one fatal shark attack every year. (For humans anyway). I would’ve thought it was more with those crazy breaching great whites!

9. Most shopping malls have a supermarket or two in them, and some other big department stores that have everything from games to coolboxes (coolers) to dishes, food and pool floats. Lots of people get shopping carts from these stores and push them around the mall. I am struggling to get used to getting sidelined by a grocery cart hurrying to a sale at the other end of the mall!

8. South Africa is roughly twice the size of Texas! Yee haw! We have a lot of trails to explore and I brought my cowboy hat.

7. English is one of 11 official languages in SA. The list also includes Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Sesotho. Well, you may have known that if you read this blog the other day. There are five languages in the South African National Anthem.

6. Pic-n-Pay, a shoe store in the States, is a supermarket here! I especially like the Greek Yoghurt, and that you can buy milk in plastic bags instead of plastic cartons. (see example, below)

5. While South Africa was constitutionally obliged to fight with the British in WWII, the Prime Minister, Barry Hertzhog, preferred to either remain neutral, or be Pro-Axis (as in, fighting against the Allies.) Hertzhog was deposed, and Jan Smuts returned to power as Prime Minister, and declared war against Germany. He fortified the country against sea invasion because of its strategic positioning. The leaders of the Ossewabrandwag, a pro-Nazi South African movement, were jailed for the rest of the war after committing acts of sabotage!

4. Cape Point, near Cape Town is not the most southerly point of Africa, as is often thought. That accolade actually belongs to Cape Agulhas, which is 90 miles/150 km east-south-east. Cape Agulhas is also the generally agreed upon spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein. (That’s the writer of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in case you were born yesterday!) And that’s Mark’s hometown!

2. There are six unique floral kingdoms in the world, one of which, the Cape Floral Kingdom, is only found in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It has 8,700 plant species, and 68% of them are only found in this tiny bit of South Africa!

1. The world’s first heart transplant was performed in Cape Town, South Africa, by Dr. Christiaan Barnard in 1967.

So here’s to learning more about a great country with a lot of heart! whaa-wha-whaaaa… 😉



  1. So………..I was watching The Travel Channel (I’m pretty much obsessed with it), and Andrew Zimmern was in SA! Actually, J-burg, I do believe. And of course, it made me think of you.

    Also, I was cleaning out my office/computer room/cat room and I came across some Zimbabwe (did I spell it right?) money that I think you brought back for me after you went to Africa, before we moved in together! And of course, I still have my lovely orange bracelet that you brought me.

    Person- thats so pretty! Where’d you get that?
    Me- My old roommate Caroline got me for me from Africa. I dunno what she was doing there.

  2. So I’m curious about the bagged milk…how do you keep it fresh after you open it? I didn’t see a Ziploc zipper on the bag or anything and I’m guessing Asher isn’t clearing a liter of milk at a time. Glad things are going well in SA!

  3. Found your post via a Google Alert on South Africa Travel. Just love the post and makes me think how we in SA see things as “Normal”. Take for instance our “Robots” better know to the rest of the world as “Traffic Lights”. And our “Braai’s” or BBQ’s.

    Just loved reading this and made me appreciate what I have here in SA.

  4. Quite an eye-opener! For instance, I did not know that there are 5 languages in the SA national anthem – thought it was two. I also did not know that there is 1 fatal shark attack each year (almost expect it.

  5. Great blog! As a South African ex-pat now living in Tennessee, its nice to be reminded of some of the humorous and proud bit of trivia about my country and city (cape town). thanks!

  6. I had no idea Tolkien was born there. So old J.R.R. Tolkien was a white African. Odd.

  7. twice as big as Texas, interesting – did not know that.

  8. Hey Erin! That is so funny…would love to see that show! Glad you are still enjoying your bracelet!

    Hi Elizabeth! You either sit the bag of milk in a pyrex-style measuring jug big enough to hold it (leaving it in the bag) or you pour it into another container. I wash out the 2L milk container and can pour two bags in at a time. We’ll probably buy a jug that’ll go in the dishwasher at some stage. But how eco-friendly!?! :)

    Jacques – thanks for the comment and the thoughts. I was thinking of doing another post on some of the ‘linguistic’ differences as I continue to come across them.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts — there was one that was a bit ‘impolite’ so I decided to delete it. Sorry about that.

  9. Very interesting! I homeschool my son in the midwest, USA, and will have him read this. It’ll be part of his geography/social studies for the day! Thanks, Gloris

  10. It is the setting for this year’s intelligent blockbuster – District 9.

  11. I never saw those bags of milk. But have you seen the roadwork signs with the wee manny on them saying ‘Please don’t kill us’ – having experienced South African roads, I kinda of see why they’d have both the wine message and the plea from road workers.

    Siyabonga for this post Caroline!

  12. Now i cant click on the link that says “this blog” in this blog :(



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