• Atisha Sooklall

The change in culture

There are certain services that we were blessed to have back home and we took these things for granted. Our helper was the biggest blessing. She was at our house once a week to do the cleaning of the bathrooms and the ironing. The other things we took care of by ourselves, and we managed this way for years. Like clockwork, we would come home to a spotless house. Here, on the other hand, helpers or cleaning services are scarce and they are a luxury that only the rich can afford. The culture here is to do it yourself. Luckily it's just the two of us, so it isn’t so bad. Easy hacks, use the dryer, less ironing to do, and get an electric vacuum that literally just wheels around picking up dirt.

Imagine driving up to the Engen garage, parking next to the bowser, and waiting for the fuel attendant to help you. You say to him “Full tank 95” and he pops open the cover to the fuel tank, puts in the nossel and leaves it to fill up, while he washes your windscreen or checks the tyre pressure for you. I say imagine because here, there is no such thing. You have to get yourself out of your car, put your credit card in a slot somewhere on the bowser, and then literally fill up your tank by yourself. At the age of 28, I have never done this in my life. And lastly they don't call it a garage, it's a gas station.

Americans drive on the right side of the road, whilst back home we drive on the left side of the road. This has taken some getting used to. The first time I drove alone, I went up to a traffic light and waited on the left side of the road and the other motorist were probably thinking “What is this woman doing”. I made sure that it never happened again. The good thing though, is that the motorists here don’t have road rage, they allowed me to correct myself without hooting at me or getting vulgar. It’s also quite tricky to use the gears with my right hand instead of my left hand, but it will become normal eventually. The challenges of driving stick (manual).

Some services are very efficient and fast, like self check out when we do grocery shopping. You literally scan each item and put it in a bag by yourself, at the end you put in your credit card and you’re good to go. No cashier or packer. They also have drive-through pharmacies. The one thing I hated the most was going to Clicks or Dischem and having to wait in line to pick up medication. Here the doctor sends through the script to the pharmacy of your choice, by the time you get to the pharmacy, your order is ready. You drive up to the window and collect your medication. You can also consult with the pharmacist at the window and get what you need without getting out of your car. How simple is that.

Inside some of the local stores, you can also find a key maker. It’s a machine that will cut duplicate keys for you, while you watch what it is doing. No human interaction at all, put in your key, select how many copies you want, put it your credit card and viola, new keys…

Pretty much anything that can be done without human intervention is what the culture is about. I guess it also saves time and money. And in a demanding world, efficiency is sort after. The last automated experience I had was last week when we went to the car wash. Back home someone would pressure hose your car, another would wash, another would wipe and a fourth person would vacuum the car, single-piece workflow. Or maybe a little fancier car wash, the drive-through that is automated and washes the car, but it still needs to be wiped and polished manually. Whilst here, you enter the track of the car wash and leave your car in neutral, the track pulls your car into the car wash, where is it hosed, washed, dried, tyres shined, polished, and your car exits like brand new. Fully automated. The only thing that is still manually done is vacuuming. Which of course you have to do by yourself.

So new life skills have been successfully added to my experience, I can’t say that I haven’t learnt anything new, as its been quite the contrary. A fully-fledged cook, baker, and cleaner. It’s safe to say that we can definitely take care of ourselves and each other. I’m sure our parents must be proud of us.

Catch up soon, another day with another story...

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