It’s been four years now since I arrived in the Mother City and it’s given me cause to reflect on a place that is quite unique, both in this country and the world at large. A little town in the shadow of a breathtaking mountain, it heaves with creativity, howls with wind and seduces its residents in all manner of ways. I highly recommend you consider taking up residence in this little pocket of eccentricity, but, before you do, here are a few tips for newbies to consider:
- Get high. The mountainous landscape seems to have encouraged all activity in this town to take place at altitude. If it takes place on the ground it is probably uncool. You’ll need to conquer any vertigo you may have before moving here as you will be required to swim, gym and perform all manner of other feats on rooftops. That is simply how it is done.
- Be wise, accessorise. Fashion in this town is so dramatically cutting edge that it defies logic to the point of insanity. One key item that should always be a staple in your closet is the much touted fedora. This will indicate that you are a) super trendy and b) ever so chilled. The key to its success as a status symbol is the fact that it reveals that you are clearly impervious to gale force winds. In a city where said winds regularly gust to the point that one is actually unable to cross the street unaided, the feat of keeping a stylish little hat on your head simply demands to be applauded. You should also make sure you have a number of trendy scarves close at hand. These can be worn in any season and weather condition. It seems that Capetonians have very sensitive necks which must be kept warm at all times. As a result, scarves are worn with t-shirts in summer, and pullovers in winter. Strangely enough, the rest of the body seems to be able to cope with all extraneous weather phenomena.
- Complain about the weather. This is a favourite hobby of Capetonians, myself included. Due to the fact that we experience so many different forms of weather, it seems we are always missing at least one element. Sunny days are always ‘too windy’, but boiling hot days inevitably bring endless moaning about the lack of a ‘cool breeze’ (even though said cool breeze is so strong that it could land you up in a tree somewhere). You should basically always be displeased with the weather and make sure this is adequately vocalised. You will then be welcomed into the fold with approving nods and knowing glances.
- Be where the tourists aren’t. Once tourists have cottoned onto a hotspot, you would be seriously jeopardising your social status should you, as a local, dare to venture into such territory. Cape Town is epically hip and one small mistake such as this could result in a dramatic social faux pas. Never suggest that you go to The Waterfront for dinner. Your power lies in your ability to suggest little out of the way places that are probably dingy and horrid but pack a huge punch for your Capetonian credibility. I suggest you scour the innards of the city and find the most remote, out of the way spot and tout it as God’s greatest gift. If the locals don’t know about it they will be compelled to go along for the ride for fear of having missed the proverbial boat. And voila, you have yourself a hotspot!
- Drive like an idiot. Cape Town is legendary for its less than skilled drivers. Some put it down to the distracting views, which is certainly not a problem in a place like Johannesburg, where cement and mine dumps pepper the landscape. Basically, just drive like you are permanently stoned. Operate at a pace so epically slow that a pedestrian could outwalk you. You should also be smoking while you do this, incidentally. Your lungs are fair game once you arrive in the mountain town. If you can smoke, talk on your cellphone and drive at the same time you will know you have arrived. But start slow, very slow. You’ll get there.
- Be chilled. I don’t care how much it stresses you out you must, at all times, appear not to have the slightest care in the world. This kind of behaviour is reserved for places like London and New York. Should you do something ridiculous like be on time for an engagement, you will clearly identify yourself as an outsider.
- Learn to love alternative, indie music. Everyone in this city has an opinion on music. When you first arrive you won’t have heard the majority of the bands appearing on iPods around the city. Don’t panic. Smile and nod. Just don’t EVER admit that you’ve just been jamming to Now 52 or something else obscenely mainstream. Do some research and get a few names before you come down. If it sounds like music that you could only possibly enjoy while tripping on acid in a Tibetan Buddhist facility it is probably acceptable. It is also essential that the group’s name makes no sense whatsoever. It’s art you know bru.
- Hit the gym. People are beautiful in this town. It is honestly ridiculous. You are going to have to hit that treadmill like the world is about to end before you swan your way onto Clifton Beach. Stop reading now, grab a celery stick and start running.
- Don’t eat any food with flavour or texture, this is intensely passé. You will need to drink organic tea, filled with substitute fruit sugar as you eat your topping-free pizza on a wheat free base , or, even more criminally, your burger with a wheat-free bun. Basically if you consume anything containing wheat, gluten or the blood of an unfairly raised animal, you are doing yourself a massive social disservice. Don’t come hungry.
Cape Town is a strange, eccentric and beautiful place to live. For all its oddities I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the place I call home and hope to do so for many years to come. Much love to the little mountain town.