Cape Town Local Customs

  • The Minstrel Festival, Jan 2014
    The Minstrel Festival, Jan 2014
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  • Local Customs
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  • Lamb on the spit
    Lamb on the spit
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Best Rated Local Customs in Cape Town

  • Martman's Profile Photo

    You can set your watch!

    by Martman Written Dec 31, 2005

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    On the hill next to the city, there is a cannon. Every day, this cannon goes off at 12pm. (It does not actually shoot anything, but makes the "boom" sound.) It can be heard through most of the central part of the city. I am not sure how this tradition started, but is useful for setting one's watch correct. Occasionally, if there is an important ship in the harbour, it gives a 21-gun salute instead!

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  • Parking Attendants

    by mke1963 Updated Jan 10, 2006

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    The much-derided unofficial parking attendants are becoming an increasing nuisance in Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa. These people make a great show of helping you into a parking space you have found by yourself and then "require" a tip to watch over your car while you are away. Refusal to pay the few rand can have unfortunate consequences for your paintwork! The most enterprising parking attendants have even gone so far as to get hold of very official-looking high-visibility bibs and some even carry night-sticks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that cars regularly get broken into or stolen even after paying your fee.

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  • glennkasner's Profile Photo

    Ten Rand a bunch!

    by glennkasner Written Nov 17, 2003

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    Flower Sellers

    The Adderley Street flower sellers are as colourful in their use of the English and Afrikaans language as the flowers they sell. The've been there for generations and have become an important part of the Cape Town scene.

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa community

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Close community
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    People in Africa are generally more physical with one another. They do not have the same concept of a need for personal space as westerners do. This physical closeness has some positives, one being mum carrying baby on her back with a blanket tucked securely beneath the baby and tied around mums waist. This is a cultural thing too of course, as prams are not available as they are in the west. I personally like this for a baby. Baby feels mums heartbeat and its more comforting, even if your pram (buggy) happens to be a cool 4x4 haha

    Another aspect of their community is friendship. They are very community-orientated, people are readily accepted into their homes to share meals with them (albeit them being meagre anyway), and friends are easily made. They help each other a lot and work well in a community.

    Selfishness is not a word that seems to fit into their clicking vocabulary :)

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa initiation and circumcision

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 20, 2006

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    Out in the field

    Initiation still takes place amongst the Xhosa people. Girls sometimes get circumcised too (which is largely frowned upon!), but boys are mainly circumcised. There has been an outcry for this practice to stop as there have been accidents and things have gone wrong, scalpels aren?t sterilized so infection sets in etc. But it does still go on, but mostly in the rural areas.

    The boys are taken away from their village and go and live in the bush together for a few days. They partake in traditional bush dances, one being the 'Amakwetha', paint their bodies with a white clay substance and wear headdresses.

    www.siyabona.com has some lovely detail about exactly what happens at one of these gatherings. Definitely worth a read!

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Hout Bay fishing

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Hout Bay

    The fishermen in Hout Bay go out EARLY in the morning (a LONG time before the average perosn is awake...) to bring in a good catch. A really nice thing to do is be there at the harbour when they come back in again to sell their catch :)

    Just a tip? Boat A might be selling a large snoek for R30... the next boat will come in, selling their snoek for R25 and the next for R20... each one marks the other down. Al the fish is pretty much the same in quality and size... so shop around! Go home and cook it in the oven or, even better, have a snoek braai! Mmmm :)

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosas, the 'clicking' people :)

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Learning from the locals

    The Xhosa language has clicking sounds throughout it. Hard to do with ones tongue (yes, I have tried! haha), it is a hollow sound.

    When I had my handmade paper manufacturing business in the Cape, many of my employees were Xhosa, and we would spend many a day trying to teach other how to speak the others' language :) Needless to say, their English was ALOT better than my 'clicking' Xhosa!

    Fond memories indeed...

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa dress

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 20, 2006

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    Mary, Mum, Rejoice and Becky
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    Xhosas are renown for their very unique and tasteful personal adornment and style in dress. They have a fondness for the colour, red ochre, and dye their blankets in this, which they then wear over their dress. Hence them often being referred to as The Red Blanket People.

    Unwed ladies leave their breasts exposed and tie a wrap in their hair as a sign of their status. Engaged women plait their hair, letting it fall over their eyes as a sign of deep respect and acknowledgment of her future in laws. The older you are, the more elaborate and beautiful your headdress can be. Some women put brass bangles and beads around their necks, arms and legs too.

    Men dress down generally, only wearing a goat skin for protection. They wear more elaborate outfits during ceremonies.

    Mary and Rejoice worked at my mums nursery school and creche. She had it for just over 20 years. Here, her staff wore creche assistant uniforms. In the evenings they would wear usual western-style clothing. When they went home (to their rural home where their family are) on a weekend, they would dress in more traditional apparel for special occasions, but generally still wear western-style clothing.

    Mum moved to the UK for a couple of years and has since moved back to South Africa. She is still in contact with Mary, Rejoice and the other staff as they became such a part of our family. They are very dear to us.

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa crafts

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 20, 2006

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    Traditional beadwork
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    Two main crafts that Xhosas are know for are their intricate beadwork and their clay pipes. The young women produce the beautiful beadwork for their families. Sometimes they are even able to wear it themselves (goes back to the tradition that young women are not adorned with beautiful things until she is married).

    Here is a picture of something that is not tradionally Xhosa, but shows how intuitive the local ladies are! They didnt have flowers for the church service, so took plastic bits and pieces and made some kind of decoration out of it! I love their ingenuity and touch! :)

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa courtship and marriage

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Xhosa courtship

    Xhosa men are allowed to have more than one wife. The girls all HAVE to be virgins or else they bring much disgrace on her family. Her father receives a 'labola', a type of payment for her, usually in the form of cattle. If she is not a virgin, he will also get far less labola than were she one. The father also pays a dowry to the inlaws for his daughter for her keep.

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa beliefs

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 19, 2006

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    Decorations at church

    Xhosas are traditionally ancestral worshippers, placing high regard upon their ancestors. Nowadays there is a mix between an acknowledgement of God and ancestor.

    The whole concept of death and burial has complex beliefs and rituals, and a funeral may last for days - believe you me, I know all about it... I had staff gone for days on compassionate leave. With AIDS being at crisis point now, most funerals are somehow AIDS related.

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa colours

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Young mum and child
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    Xhosas are often called the 'Red Blanket People'. Their traditional colours are ochre (an orangey yellow colour) and red. An orangey red, not a fire engine red. This colour seeps into every aspect of their lives, their clothing, housing and decoration. It is often made up of an earthy clay.

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Xhosa homesteads

    by Jenniflower Written Apr 19, 2006

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    Huts in the background - dancing in foreground :)

    Homesteads have always traditionally been circular in format, with screened off kitchen areas outside the circular sleeping area. The hut is made of a frame of poles and shrubbery and boughs from trees in the shape of a bee hive.

    They built these huts in a semi circle, and in the middle was their prized cattle. They made their homesteads like this for safety. Their maize was also safely stored away, in shallow pits beneath the cattle enclosure!

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  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo

    Muslim Malay People in the Cape

    by Jenniflower Updated Apr 19, 2006

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    The Malay quarter, on the slopes of Signal Hill, in an old residential area of Cape Town, abounds with the typical, 18th century, flat-roofed Malay houses, many of them recently renovated. This area is famously called 'Bo-Kaap'... which in Afrikaans means 'Above the Cape'.

    The Muslim Malay community is deeply religious and they keep to themselves as much as possible, not wanting 'bad' outside influences to come into their community. This unfirtunately does mean an imposed type of segragation from the local communities.

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  • cosmopolit's Profile Photo

    There's so many different cultures

    by cosmopolit Updated Nov 26, 2002

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    Mosque

    There's so many different cultures living toghether making Cape Town a real meltingpot of cultures, religions, styles and flavours. European, Indian, Madagascan and South East Asian all these people are interspersed with the local Khoi and Xhosa population plus Traders from countries such as Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Nigeria favour Cape Town, particularly because there's so many tourists read business. Due to this Cape Town has one of the most distinctive identities, strong diversity and open-minded benevolence of all the South African cities. It shows in opening hours at shops if there's x-mas for some it's a plain vanilla day to others and vice-versa.
    The result's a delicious Cape cuisine which must be integrated as part of the experience. Don't let sometimes sloppy service get you as this is due to another Cape Town characteristic the very laid-back attitude of her inhabitants.

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Cape Town Local Customs

cleocat's Profile Photo

People are friendly and will easily smile at you. Street vendors can be a nuisance, but they are harmless and if you are firm enough they will leave you alone.

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