Thursday, June 11, 2015

Petrol and a Chat

Thanks to all of you who subscribe to the blog. I appreciate your interest and your comments on the posts. If you have missed past posts you can check them out here. There are 45 posts in total now! If you'd like to subscribe or know of someone who would enjoy the blog you can add a new subscriber email address where it says follow by email. New subscribers will receive an email with a link from feedburner and will need to click on the link to confirm the subscription. Thank you! Now here is today's post about visiting the petrol station.

In South Africa, you can't pump your own gas, or petrol as it is called. Filling up the car with gas feels like going back in time to the 1950's (I'm guessing.) As you drive into the station the petrol attendant gets very excited and starts waving so that you'll drive over to his area. And yes, he is wearing a uniform. Then, after you tell him what kind of gas you want and how much, he offers to check your oil and your tire (tyre) pressure. He also washes the windshield front and back while the car is getting filled. For these services you are expected to tip him, about R10, which is less than $1 U.S. dollar.

When speaking, often I am self conscious about my American accent. The person I am speaking with knows, within a few seconds, that I am a foreigner. Sometimes, that causes a little bit of challenge in us understanding each other. Most of the time, it doesn't get any reaction and sometimes, it leads to curiosity and questions. Today, the petrol guy was really excited to learn I was from America. And he had lots of questions.

He recognized my accent right away as being American. This isn't always the case. Believe it or not sometimes people think we are British. Can you imagine? But today, he asked right away, where in America are you from? 

He then asked me how I am liking South Africa and he was happy to hear that I like it very much. He then wanted to compare the two countries which he referred to as "this side" and "that side." He said he knows that on "that side" (USA) things are very expensive. I said yes, that comparatively food in the US is much more expensive than it is here, but that other things like petrol are much more expensive here. It cost me the equivalent of over $60 U.S. dollars to fill up my little Volkswagen today! 

Since I mentioned food, he wanted to know which side had better food. I said I really liked the food here. He wondered if that meant I liked the restaurants here and I explained that I like both the restaurants and the grocery store selection. He asked if I had my own chef. I assured him that I did not.

At this point, my credit card was declined - awkward.  Yesterday, I lost my South African bank credit card and the new one hasn't come yet so I had to use one of my U.S. cards. Don't you just love fraud protection? Anyway, I had another card and he was not phased so we continued to talk. He wanted to know how crime compares this side vs. that side and he then wanted to be sure that I was being careful here but still enjoying myself, going out, feeling comfortable. Finally, he said he hopes to visit the "country that never sleeps" someday. He continued to ask me questions even after the car was full and I had paid for my gas.

I really appreciated that he was so interested. Maybe he was hoping to increase his tip amount, but I truly think he had questions and wanted some answers. I try not to have my blog posts have any kind of lesson attached to them but I can think of so many times when I was back in the U.S., I would speak to someone and notice their accent and I never bothered to ask where they were from or how they were finding things. I think this is something that I'd like to change if and when we return. Worse than that, sometimes I would be annoyed (not outwardly I hope) when hearing an accent and think, "great, this person is not going to understand me. I don't have time for this." Now, as the person who sounds different than anyone else, I can tell you that kindness and interest really made my day today at the petrol station.


  1. what a great lesson for all of us!

  2. Love this post! Do you have a name? Or will I just have to call you My Thoughts from the Deep End which is such a mouthful, maybe MTFTDE, no, that's bad too, how about Mrs. Deep? Or Mrs. End?
    Anyway, I SO miss the gas station (see, now you can tell I've been back "that side" for a while already, or I'd be calling it petrol) attendants and their easy smile and the fact that I could just sit there and chat and not get out of my car because let's face it, getting gas is THE WORST job ever, even if it only takes like 2 minutes every 2 weeks.

  3. I always ask people with accents where they are from and I have guessed successfully most of the time. Only a couple of times did the person in question seem annoyed. Funny that people think you are British sometimes. I would think they would know the difference. I could see people from Mass. throwing them off or maybe if you were born and raised in one of the five boroughs other than Manhattan. Anyplace else wouldn't be similar enough. Very fascinating.


About Me

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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.