This is a very interesting take on living in two completely different parts of the world. This observation surprised me the most:
When I moved back to South Africa after spending nearly a decade in northern Europe, it was with no small measure of shock that I realized I had forgotten how to live in this country. It wasn’t just the small things like not knowing where to buy stuff or at what age kids here go to school – it was a culture shock which took me entirely by surprise, having longed and yearned for home during most of my time away. In retrospect, what happened was that I lost my tough outer shell.
During those years of living in a place where egalitarianism is the norm; where nobody goes hungry and almost everybody had a roof over their heads, the thick skin you need to live in South Africa had grown soft. I couldn’t cope with the children begging at the traffic lights and the thin women with babies who knocked on the front door asking for food. Once, in Pick n Pay, I found myself behind a woman with two things in her basket – pilchards and rice. That was obviously all she could afford. Yet, she continued to walk up and down the aisles as if, magically, the contents of her wallet would increase the longer she hung around. I had to leave the shop; I couldn’t bear it.
There must be no greater dichotomy than Scandinavia and South Africa. In Scandinavia, the main goal and priority of the government is to take care of all its citizens. It comes at great expense, but a life of stability and not in want of life’s basic needs greatly reduces the social problems that come with lack and want. In South Africa it’s almost the polar opposite. Unless you are white, you are left to fend for yourself. And that’s made people tough and innovative, just in order to survive.
Source: On Moving Back to South Africa