How do you tell an expat in Cape Town? Well, lots of ways.
For a start they'll be standing outside Tekkie Town looking mystified ("That's one helluva of a typo of 'tacky'".) They will also be having a heart attack about the price of imported goods (HOW MUCH for a GAP T-shirt? It's almost as expensive as the Italian Gnocchi and the Worcestershire sauce whose prices made us faint in Pick n'Pay!"). If you want to spot posh English expats, just go down to Vida Cafe in Constantia in the morning. It's like one of the 2 Saturdays in the English summer where you can sit outside on Kensington High Street. If you're a bit sleepy in the morning in Constantia, all that braying can make you a little disorientated- where am I?!
Most expats- or at least relatively new arrivals- can be seen weather appropriate clothing. Capetonians are noticeable by the fact that, come April, they wear fur-lined boots and dress their children in woolly hats (the temperature dipping below 20 for even a second invokes the use of wool, knits, fleece and fur).
On the road, an expat can be spotted by the fact that they use their indicators, stop at red lights and don't stop randomly in the road. We seek each other out, eyes meeting across chaotic junctions (both thinking: if that bus hadn't gone across on red, I'd probably be at home having dinner by now). We know who we are. And expats get pedestrian lights and road markings. It's like Capetonians have a different highway code (or, perhaps, none). I am totally beyond road rage now, my brain exploded a while ago and I drive in a state of in-car lobotomy (which probably makes me like most Capetonian road users- one more step to fitting in).
But aside from all that, there is another way in which you can spot an expat: by their shoes.
I can hear what you're thinking: that we Europeans can be set apart by our expensive shoes, our designer shoes whereas those poor Africans are so poorly shod. Now, before you start packing your aid box full of shoes, WAIT.
Expats are obvious by the fact that they wear shoes at all.
And no, I'm not just talking about the people who live in townships. Go to any shopping mall in Cape Town, even an upmarket one and you will see teens dressed in Abercrombie and Fitch, Canterbury- whatever- their bare feet gliding across the marble floor. Grown men, middle class men pop into the supermarket to pick up beers and a boerewors shoe-less. Some of the primary school teachers at my daughter's school don't wear shoes. The children are encouraged to go barefoot at a young age as it's better for their development, apparently- children are able to walk along tarred roads in bare feet in the heat of summer without flinching. You see a crowd of kids walking home from school, in uniform with a rucksack but without shoes. I absolutely love the smartness and formality of the uniform and then a pair of filthy shoes-less feet to finish it off.
My daughters have completely embraced shoe-less living, although my oldest one took a while to come around to the idea. Like a good English girl, she wore her socks and shoes at all times for a good few months, wouldn't be coaxed otherwise. The day I picked her up from school, her feet filthy and bare, I knew she was becoming a South African. Now, however, both of them abandon shoes as soon as they can. They drop them, kick them off them in other people houses, anywhere on our property, in the car, at school and I swear that 30% of my waking day is spent trying to find shoes that we may or may not need require later in the day. When their friends come over, there's a kiddie shoe-pile at the front door- that's if they were wearing them in the first place.
It's a very cheap way to live- have you seen the price of kids' shoes?!
My mum and dad said that shortly I moved to Jo'burg as a child, I wouldn't hear of wearing shoes and I have always preferred to be barefoot, it's true- even after we left (a;though I had to adapt for the Norwegian winter somewhat). I must really be getting into the CT way of life, as today I rushed out to collect my daughter from school- and forgot my shoes.
I don't imagine too many South Africans gave a grown woman walking across the school park in bare feet a second thought.