Joburg Expat: Expat Joys - Legal Common Sense in South Africa

June 13, 2011

Expat Joys - Legal Common Sense in South Africa

One thing I absolutely love about South Africa is that they seem to have some legal common sense here. At least when you come from America, the differences are striking. I hate to dredge up the much cited cat-in-the-microwave or too-hot-McDonald's-coffee cases, but these are precisely examples of how you can go way overboard in trying to protect the consumer. I have no idea how consumers are protected her in South Africa, and frankly, I don't care. I just love that you get to do things, pronto, without much fanfare.

Fore example, here in South Africa:

  • There will be one sign at the entrance of the Lion Park warning you not to roll down your car window when driving through. No indemnity form, and no other signs explaining what might happen if you do roll down your window (but we all know the stories of the Japanese tourists who didn't heed the warning and got eaten by lions as a result).
  • You will spend precisely 3 minutes at the doctor's office filling out a form with your address and kids' names and birth dates. You will do this once, because from your first visit on they'll have it in their system and just add each child as you visit again. No disclaimers and multiple forms allowing for this and that notification to be sent to this and that person under this and that circumstance.
  • You will have some students visiting from Germany and they will be going to school with your kids and they will be allowed, even encouraged, to fill in on the sports team without much ado.
  • When you go canoeing on the Zambezi River (okay, not South Africa, but the same is probably true for most of Africa), you might be very concerned about crocodiles, while your guide will be much more concerned about hippos (who are much deadlier than crocodiles); but instead of giving you an indemnity form, he will tell you about the dangers of hippos and what to do in case you get too close to one.
  • A child will fall off the monkey bars at school and break his arm, and - lo and behold - the school will NOT forbid the use of the monkey bars in all eternity. Another child will twist her ankle running around at recess, and yet playing tag will continue to flourish and in fact be encouraged by teachers who know that running around is an important part of a kid's school day.
  • When you drive through Pilanesberg National Park, you will be warned to be respectful of elephants and not anger them, because they are stronger than you; but you will be allowed to drive through the park on your own and suffer the consequences of not listening:






And I just got this last one to add to the series (the same naughty elephant 
bull in Pilanesberg, you can recognize him by his missing tail):



Note: I can't credit the preceding images because they arrived in a mass email, but someone pointed me to Elephant Voices as a possible source for these pictures. They were taken in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa.

Going on a safari is one of the best things Africa has to offer to visitors and residents alike. But it is precisely because of the dangers of mingling with wild animals that it is so fascinating. Can you imagine if we were in a country where everything had to be 100% safe for fear of being sued afterwards by the guy who gets off the safari vehicle to get a closer look at the leopard? We'd have safaris behind fences. 

Here in Africa, you learn to stop at the sign that announces danger (except the signs that say "hijackinig hotspot" - you definitely do not want to stop at those). Most of our South African friends chuckle at the foreigners who don't take such signs seriously, as in "what do they expect?". I guess some of us have come to expect that someone - the law, the government - will protect us against our own foolishness. But not in Africa. 

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8 comments :

Anonymous said...

Hillarious! /Malin

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

Love this post. It is so annoying to see all this over-the-top protection in the US (Warning on sleeping pills: Do not drive while taking this medicine, or something like that.)

There's no help for stupidity.

Sine said...

Maybe it should read: "This warning will not prevent stupidity."

Mia said...

Oh I do love this post! After spending the lasts 6 months in the USA, this is even more funny than it would have been previously. Thank you so much!

Sine said...

Thanks Mia. Are you a South African in the US? I'm sure you could write about many differences as well!

Taxslave said...

agree...the western world is too scared to do anything...Africa just gets on with fun and if you damage yourself. well, you knew it was risky

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Thankfully, I spent my childhood living in those last few years before the USA lost its mind and got sucked into the hyper safety ambulance chaser matrix. I hear it is even worse in the UK (ie "Health and Safety"). In the UK, family members aren't even aloud to be pallbearers anymore because it is somehow too "dangerous."

There are many things that need to change in Africa but not their common sense about childhood play and the wild outdoors.

Sine said...

Yes, I really think America has gone way overboard in some areas of consumer and child safety, fueled in large parts by the legal profession and the need to CYA by everyone including schools.