All the things I learnt coming to Edinburgh from South Africa

Arthur’s seat is like a mini Table Mountain


I was born in London but grew up in South Africa, so I was excited to go to the place I was born and see what Edinburgh had to offer. What I learnt was that it’s cold, people are obsessed with Arthur’s Seat, you can carry an egg around a club without anyone batting an eyelid. These were all the things I discovered coming to Edinburgh from my beloved Cape Town.

The aforementioned friends of mine

No, that isn’t Jesus

Edinburgh is pretty cold

There are so many absolutely fantastic things about coming from South Africa to Edinburgh to study, but also some downsides. Mainly it’s a bit nippy. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about going out in Edinburgh, is that it can be freezing. Yeah, that was a bit of a shock. Don’t try be smart and walk home in January, in Edinburgh, without a jacket. Cape Town is great because you can go most places without a jacket, usually. It can be very windy though, with it having its own name, the “Cape Doctor”.

Everyone raves about Arthur’s seat

Arthur’s seat is also just a really big hill, not a mountain. Table Mountain is a mountain. It is beautiful though and the picturesque backdrop it provides is stunning. Not that Arthur’s Seat isn’t nice, and the Crags are an enjoyable walk too. Comparing the two isn’t really fair to be honest. It’s like a satsuma and a large orange.

Edinburgh’s beaches are nothing on Cape Town’s

A stroll along Portobello is no match for a day at Llandudno or Long Beach (they’re magnificent, trust me). Beaches in Cape Town have a delightful mountain view, a manageably cold sea and most importantly, sand. Portobello is very pebbly. Which doesn’t quite suit a beach, and sadly it’s not very likely you’ll grab a tan there.

The nightlife is more diverse

I think we can all agree that after a while going clubbing becomes boring. Repetitive. Uninteresting. Whatever it is. So coming over, I soon began to experience an entirely different nightlife. Not just in the venues, but the type of events and the music (not that we only listen to bongos and marimbas in Cape Town, it’s better than that).

How the people act when they go out

The carefree dancing, the air of calm and genuine enjoyment. It was really refreshing. The nightlife in Cape Town is great, but a complete change of scene has made me appreciate both hugely. Also, the people here don’t even care if you take an egg out with you, which is pretty cool. Just goes to show how great going out in Edinburgh is. I don’t think an egg would be accepted in South Africa sadly.

I did indeed take an egg out. With pride, might I add.

I did indeed take an egg out. With pride, might I add

Halloween is huge in Edinburgh

Halloween is a far bigger deal in Edinburgh. Seeing about twenty versions of the Jared Leto Joker was half a surprise. I even saw one arguing with a Batman-looking character on my walk home, which made my night.

Still not sure on my Top Gun costume.

Still unsure on my Top Gun-with-fringe costume

It feels safer

Although for somebody in my circumstance safety isn’t a massive issue, it has to be noted that it is still a lingering threat. Walking on the mountain alone or back from a club night by yourself is a big risk, so to tread carefully is advised. Cape Town ranks as the 9th most dangerous city in the world, on World Atlas. Although Edinburgh may not be the safest place in the world, it is much safer than Cape Town. Especially if walking alone from a night out etc. However I still wouldn’t advise taking a stroll in the Meadows at 2a.m.

Speaking habits and the lingo

One thing I came with which I was previously unaware of, was a habit of saying “As well” after pretty much every sentence. That was soon done away with after continuous teasing. Cape Town also doesn’t have the privilege of being able to use phrases as “that’s so peak” or “that’s jokes”. The term “BNOC” also hasn’t arrived there. In Edinburgh though, the terms “now now”, “now” and “just now” aren’t around. “Now” means now, whereas “now now” means just now, and “just now” means that something happened a moment ago e.g. “I went for a run just now”. Yeah, it’s all pretty confusing. It makes sense though, don’t worry. It’s also easier to be politically correct in Cape Town. People are just less sensitive I think?

People are interested in where I’m from – just don’t ask me if have a pet lion

Also, everybody tells you how jealous they are of you (a sort of guilty pleasure). People in Cape Town think it’s great to be studying there and want to know all about it. To many people in Edinburgh, Cape Town is a far off and mystical land, with sun and weird going-ons. Except don’t ask me if I have a pet lion (I was genuinely asked this). Wild animals are not a commonplace thing and you should feel a proper fool if you think my mate Cameron back home has a giraffe. Or if David rides his zebra to uni. No, we all split an elephant cab, duh.

People are far more accepting

By far and away though, the thing I’ve enjoyed most is all the new people.  Grow your hair to the same length as one of your girl friends? Go for it. Feel like wearing a fairly lame, cringe and overly-colourful headband? Knock yourself out. You can create your own image, and to be who you want and just have fun. Also, under the layers you can wear in the UK, who are you really? Who knows, I might have a pack of Tunnock’s wafer bars underneath. I often do, they’re so underrated and it’s a crime (one of the many) that South Africa doesn’t have them.

So the girls’ jealously of my luscious (horrendous) locks was hidden, my signet ring was graciously tolerated, and my headband was… well that was just shit, sorry guys. If you do make friends with a “saffa”, just try to copy their South African accent at your own peril. It’s tough and you’ll likely sound like a high-pitched mix of American-Australian.

The food just isn’t the same

Although the food in Cape Town is both cheaper and better, which is a tad frustrating. Get a milk tart, have a proper braai (not a shitty barbecue) with some boerewors and enjoy some Oros. Cape Town has this brilliant range of food, everything on offer. It’s also all done so well. So Cape Town really and significantly beats Edinburgh in this one. Except beer in Cape Town is, in my opinion, pretty crappy. No Vitamin T in sight, a travesty.

Beautiful flatmates. The photographer is one too.

Beautiful flatmates. The photographer is one too.

Edinburgh is incredibly international

Before I started, I think the furthest my network extended was about five people in London. Now the London connections are innumerable, and I’ve got close friends from New York, Houston, Canberra, Genoa, Düsseldorf and onwards, not to mention from all over the UK. One of Cape Town’s problems is that it’s pretty small, and not hugely international. Well, when compared to Edinburgh at least. Having that network is so valuable, but the best thing about the people is the friendliness.

Beautiful new friends

More beautiful new friends.

Everyone is willing to be friendly

The friendliness. Sure, not every person wants to come up and say hello. You’re all new though. Make friends by playing Arrogance, or by witnessing vodka being poured into ears. Even the dreaded vodka-soaked tampon was attempted (not by me, thankfully. Although I witnessed it and can’t say it appealing). Alternatively, watch a male friend lose the odds and head to a club in a corset. You all want to make friends and get along. You won’t be best friends with everybody, but hopefully friendly. Also, everybody wants to know about South Africa (the accent is apparently a “killer”, although mine is a weird English-South African hybrid). So, the people. The people are just bloody fantastic.

Look at those smiles. How happy are we?

Look at those smiles. How happy are we?

Being here in the North and not in South Africa

So yeah, it’s pretty tough to leave home. A step that requires a bit of forethought but now I’ve done it I’m a very happy person. It comes with moments of missing that South African warmth, or the fantastic food that is biltong (get some, it’ll blow your mind). I’ve had the pleasure of doing things I wouldn’t have had the chance, like the RWC in 2015 (see first photo). The rain and all that is hardly as bad as everybody (mainly mums) seem to believe. It’s really amazing and you’ll thank yourself. Take it from me, back home for the summer and already missing the North hugely, going abroad is the thing to do.

Let me be clear that I mean no disrespect toward South Africa, my beloved Cape Town or its fantastic people. You’re beautiful and I miss you dearly. Having said that, I wouldn’t ever look back in regret at my decision to study abroad.