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I’m going to be honest with you. I’ve been back in the UK for two whole weeks today, and it’s been waaay harder than I thought.
It’s not quite reverse culture shock. I’ve only experienced that once, after a year of studying in Jordan, and boy did I get it bad. Like forgetting umbrellas exist and scared to leave the house when it was raining kind of bad. Fun times.
This time, its more just that I miss Cape Town. Like really freaking miss it.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been super excited to come home and I’ve LOVED being back for Christmas. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel like I left an incy piece of my heart in South Africa.
They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone and I don’t think I realised quite how at home I felt in Southern Africa. I mean, I knew I absolutely loved living in Cape Town. But I don’t think I realised how much it felt like home – rather than just a temporary home.
The funny thing is, I thought I was ready for a change. I thought I needed a break from the Africa adventures. I didn’t feel as sad as I usually do as we packed up our Cape Town apartment.
Now, I wonder if the lack of sadness was because I knew that I’d definitely be back. That’s not something I can say with certainty about Georgia, Crete, or any of my other digital nomad homes from the last year.
I have no doubt that I’ll be back in Cape Town. Here are just some of the reasons why – or, in other words, here are the things I’m really missing right now.
South African is great, but what’s really great about the food in South Africa is that you can get ANYTHING. And not only will you find all types of cuisine there, but it’s all great quality too.
In my three months based in South Africa, I don’t think I had a single bad meal. From American burgers and milkshakes, to sushi and salads, Cape Town really knows how to do food. There’s a bit of everything and I don’t think I would ever get bored eating there.
It’s impossible not to smile when you’re in southern Africa. No matter what their life looks like, nearly everybody you meet is smiling and wants you to be happy too. People will always ask how your day is going before any other exchange can take place. It’s something I took for granted while I was there and now miss dearly.
I spend a lot of my time craving nature and never feel more alive when I’m surrounded by it. In South Africa, it’s almost impossible to get away from the natural world.
I didn’t realise quite how much of an effect it had on me until now. But I think the abundance of nature and the close relationship people have with the planet in Southern Africa is a big part of why I miss it so much. In Southern Africa, there’s no escaping the reminders that you’re part of this huge ecosystem and a tiny dot in a big, big puzzle.
Also… penguins! How many other cities can say they have penguins?
I’m a linguist and, no matter where I go, language will always peak my interest. South Africa is a playground for any language lover, with ELEVEN official languages. Yes, some of them are tied to a very sad past, but that doesn’t stop the present day country from constantly arousing my curiosity and delight.
There’s something very comforting about knowing most people around you can speak your mother tongue, but hearing a real mix of languages as you walk around.
It’s not just food that Cape Town has a little bit of everything of. Cape Town has pretty much anything you could need in life – and having lived in so many countries, I can say it’s possibly the best stocked city in the world.
One of the hardest parts of leaving London was leaving behind the convenience of living there. Even though I didn’t love the London lifestyle, everything was on my doorstep and I knew I’d miss that part. Cape Town is as close as I’ve come to that London perk – and may even beat it.
When I first arrived in Cape Town, I thought it might be a mistake. I didn’t instantly feel at home, and I dreaded the three months ahead.
However, within a week – and after the jet lag had worn off! – I felt more at home than I had in a long time. In fact, I felt so at home that I didn’t even realise how comfortable I was until I left. The Cape Town lifestyle is laid back but not without its challenges. It encourages personal growth and community spirit. It knows its strengths but its not afraid to acknowledge its darker past. And they’re all things that sit very, very well with me.
The thing about Cape Town – and South Africa in general – is that it has everything. Avid hiker? There’s no shortage of epic mountains to climb. You love nature? There’s a safari not too far away. Beach bum? Take your pick of the many gorgeous sandy shores.
I can’t imagine that anyone visits South Africa and doesn’t enjoy it, because there really is something for everyone. Along with the USA, it’s one of the most diverse countries in the world and it feels impossible to get bored there.
More than anything, Cape Town has an energy that just works for me. Its a city that has spirit and the people who live there even more do too. When I’m in Cape Town, I feel like I can thrive and be the best version of myself – and isn’t that what we all want?
Put simply, I felt like I fitted in. I felt inspired by the people and the world around me, and it put me in the best possible. Just far enough out of my comfort zone to feel challenged every day, but with all the comforts I crave and more.
Of course, it could just be that I’m struggling to relate to my fellow Brits now. Every time I come home, I feel more and more alien. I know I could never go back to my old life, and that feeling gets stronger every time I’m home.
As I said, I love being home. I just know it will ever be my forever home and that’s a surprisingly hard pill to swallow. Cape Town, on the other hand… Well, I guess we’ll see!