Up till now I’ve shared all the sunshine and rainbow fuzzy’s of being in the wonderland kingdom of England. But now it’s time to share something of a different nature.

I’m suffering from what can only be described as PTSD. Or should I say, PTSAD – Post Traumatic South African Disorder.

I had heard about it before, that there was this sense of fight or flight in us all and MUCH stronger in South Africans moving abroad. We don’t know it’s there, simmering through us constantly till we don’t need it anymore, and suddenly it surfaces like a slick of oil rising to the top once the burner has been turned off.

One of the first things that struck me about this new land was the sense of security wafting around like cig vapes – no one seems to know that crime is a thing, or no one cares. There are no burglar bars on the windows. People don’t clear all visible’s out of their cars before parking on the street. Back home, leaving so much as an empty pick’n’pay packet on the seat would end in tears and an insurance claim for a broken window at the very least. But here women drive with their handbag right there on the seat for all to see. I have witnessed a neighbour packing the boot of their car to go away for the weekend, and they disappeared into the house between trips for ages, while leaving the car boot wide open! That would simply never work where I come from.

People keep telling me that, like cig vapes, crime does happen here but it doesn’t really affect their daily lives. Down in the old country, I don’t know a single soul who hasn’t been a direct victim of some kind of crime at least once. Which explains the underlying fight-or-flight feeling I have.


An overgrown shrub should be security enough, right?!?

How do I know? Because the postman gives me heart failure EVERY SINGLE time he puts a letter through the letterbox. I’m not talking about the deliveries I order and they knock on the door for – I’m talking about the strange shadow suddenly appearing at the same time as the clatter of the letterbox opener and something being manhandled through it. I find it very aggressive – almost like they are trained to jump at the door and attack that letterbox with full force! Post-Ninjas! By the time the Indian food delivery flyer hits the floor my heart is in my throat and drumming out a solo from a Led Zeppelin concert. I need a STRONG cup of tea to calm my shaken nerves. Old country me just doesn’t trust the man at the door. On one of these occasions, there was a parcel to be shoved through the letterbox and it didn’t fit, so the man at the door took initiative and put it through the window, which was open a crack, while I took cover in the kitchen by the knife rack.

Then I laugh at myself for being so jumpy.

Of course, unlike any criminal I’ve ever encountered, he left a nice hand written note telling me he could not fit the parcel through the letter box so chose the window instead. I did see him retreating, headed for the next house after I gathered myself and peered out the window – he was a very unassuming fellow. I felt really stupid.

But that was the last time I left the front window open.

I struggle a bit with ominous twinges when people walk heavy footed behind me on the sidewalk. Sometimes I’ll stop and pretend to help my kid with something just so they can pass and I can get a good look at the face of my would-be attacker. Only to find it’s just an old woman in orthopedic boots, stomping off to the library or maybe the pub.

At night when I hear people walking up the stairs even though we are all in bed (we are in a semi-detached so it’s the sound of the neighbours walking up their own stairs) I skrik and can’t fall back asleep. My heart races and I lie staring into the dim light and imagine shadows coming to slaughter us all in our beds.

2 weeks after our cats arrived, we let them out into the yard for the first time and the girl cat, Skiddy, made a break for it. She ended up in a neighbour’s garden, then promptly ran into his house. The gate to the back yard was open – but we daren’t go in. We are South Africans, we explained to said neighbor when he met us carrying the prison-break cat, We don’t go in to people’s back yards unannounced. Because back in the old country, we would get shot. He found this very funny, in the wide eyed ‘Did she really just say that?’ kind of way…and now crosses the street with his children when he sees us coming. Those South African’s be cray-cray! Nope, we just have PTSD and an overly heightened sense of self-preservation.

A guy offered to help carry my suitcase down the stairs at the subway when I was traveling with my toddler and I was nervous to let go of the handle. My inner-warning bell seems to be faulty and keeps blasting away at me when everything is just fine. People are truly helpful here and he was just trying to be nice. Eventually when I succumbed and let go, I kept a peripheral lock on him all the way down the stairwell, ready to give chase, kid on hip, if need be. Of course need be not.


Ayayay! When will I get over my South African PTSD? If people can keep their boots outside on the front step (open to street) or only have a fence to keep things IN (like pets) rather than keep things out, then surely I can trust my surroundings enough to leave the front window open?

I will say this though. No matter how relaxed I become, how settled in the sense of security everyone seems to be lucky enough to have round here, just like the noon-day gun in the Cape Town CBD, I will never ever get used to that damn postman at the door.








IMAGES: 1. Via Wikipedia