Friday, November 4, 2016


In October of 2015, Mr. Deep and I came to South Africa for the first time. This trip, which I now know to be called a "look-see" in the expat world, was required by Mr. Deep's company. We were told we had to visit, take a look at Joburg and determine whether or not we could live here. 

When we arrived, and by arrived I mean a few hours after we landed for the first time ever on the African continent, Mr. Deep had some work meetings to attend and so a representative from our assigned relocation company took me around. She showed me the places that Mr. Deep told her I'd be interested in seeing, grocery stores, shopping centers and a gym. We also looked at a few houses just to get an idea of what was available. Because there are lovely stores of all kinds in Joburg, and because I desperately wanted to move here, I was thrilled with everything that I saw. 

One of the places she and I visited was Clicks, a drug store which has hundreds (360 according to google) of locations across the country. The first few times I visited Clicks it seemed to be very similar to the large chain drugstores that I was used to shopping at in the U.S., selling drugs, cosmetics, lotions, candy etc. 

But after a few shopping trips to Clicks I realized that while it has some similarities, it also has some differences. 

The biggest difference is that at Clicks the real drugs are not available on the shelves. Maybe this is common in other parts of the world as well? Clicks, it seems, takes the phrase "over the counter" literally. This means that if you have a headache and want something like Advil that you have to go to the counter and ask the pharmacist or the pharmacist's assistant for "something that will help a headache preferably with Ibuprofen" you then rely on that person to bring you something good. What I really feel like doing is jumping behind the counter, seeing what's available and then selecting my drug of choice, but that is not an option. This is the case for any type of ailment, congestion, allergies, sleeping problems, sore throat, cough, etc. In the U.S. we are used to grabbing a bottle of 500 Advil tablets and being set for the next year or more. Here, you are lucky to get 12 tablets because remember you said you had a headache, you didn't say that you expected to have another headache tomorrow or the next day. 

Prescription medicines are also kept behind the counter and if you visit the counter to get either over the counter meds or a prescription filled your drugs are put into a "cage. " You will then carry this cage up to the cash register to pay. Once paid, the staff will open the cage and give you your drugs. I am assuming this is done to dissuade people from stealing drugs but the cage is secured with a zip tie so any thief with a scissor could likely find a way around this system. Of course I am not recommending that or condoning theft. 

The "cage" and the zip tie.
So if all the real drugs at Clicks are kept behind the counter, then what type of merchandise fills the numerous aisles? Well some of the things I've already mentioned. Things like shampoo, lotions, soaps, make-up and candy. And that is why the first few times you visit Clicks seems to be quite unremarkable. But, there are also a lot of interesting elixirs and remedies for sale at Clicks that I've never seen before many of which I find quite funny.

I tried to google to see what Sejeso means. If anyone knows please comment. 
Who doesn't want to be super chill all day?
"To comfort babies with gripes." 
Or, if you don't want a baby with a gripe, try these. 
This one is my favourite for so many reasons. The name of the product, the man's hair, the woman's expression, the fact that it's needed because of "today's demanding lifestyle" and of course his seemingly extra long finger. 
Man Juice
More condoms.
Apparently featuring a photo of Dr. Long himself. 
One item that is for sale galore is Grand-Pa Headache powder. You can grab this stuff right off the shelf. Which is funny because although headache powder is sold in the U.S., very few people know about it or have ever tried it. I actually have tried it thanks to a friend of mine who is a huge proponent of headache powder. I think it's really just crushed up aspirin but it comes in a little folded piece of paper so you can pour it right down your throat. 


  1. Very interesting and super funny! Do you stock up on good old American remedies when you visit the US? The graphics and advertising is so outdated! The Man Juice is intriguing but could very well lead to griping babies! lol

    1. Yes! We stock up on American remedies! I will try to post a pic for you. Thanks for reading.

  2. Be VERY careful with those headache powders. They contain ingredients that can cause stomach and intestinal bleeding. While the ingredients are the same as excedrin the dosage is higher in the powders.

    The condom selection is odd. The packaging is so tacky and the brands unfamiliar I don't know that I would trust them. Weird about the over the counter stuff.

  3. I also love the guy on the picture with the long finger. Straight from the 70s it seems! Which a lot of the South African stuff at Clicks seems to be dating back to. I remember being in the market for a head lice remedy (not a very fond memory at all) and the stuff the guy at Clicks recommended looked like from the postwar era. I'm sure it's been banned in the US for a long time, it seemed like it was straight-up petroleum. Smelled like it too. Although I can say that you're willing to pour anything on your kids' heads when it comes to headlice, even if it just about kills them...

    Glad you mention the cages. Too weird, right?

    1. So you have never seen the cages anywhere else? I thought maybe they were also used in Europe?

  4. The Clicks cages are an oddity, but were probably introduced to prevent stealing medications which are purchased from the dispensary. When Clicks started selling scheduled medicines (until a few years ago there was no pharmacy in Clicks stores) they would hand you the medication that you needed to pay for in a small brown paper bag, with the invoice attached to take to the till point. There must have been quite a few incidences of people not paying for their medication, hence the introduction of the cages. It has nothing to do with the medication itself, as when you buy medicines on your medical aid and their is no additional cost to you, it is not placed in a cage.

    Old-fashioned, dated, packaging is quite commmon in SA (and probably all of Africa) for CERTAIN items. Many (traditional) Black Africans are often very suspicious of new packaging, and will often stop purchasing an item if the packaging is in any way changed. This was very evident a few decades ago when one of the most popular brands of tea in SA (with Blacks) - Joko - tried to change their packaging, and suffered the consequences. Many blacks (outside of the urban areas) are also not literate, or not very literate, or cannot read English, and identify goods by their packaging - and this is where colour is also extremely important, as well as PLAIN design. So, with items like tea, coffee, mealiemeal (a staple food in most of Africa),sugar, and certain products popular with the Black African market, you will hardly ever see that the packaging is changed, and most definitely not MODERNISED in any way. So, it makes business sense not to change it, and is also a respectful nod to their culture and needs.

  5. With regard to having tp get certain medications at the dispensary - this is law in SA. Scheduled medication may not be taken off the shelves, and medication higher than schedule 2 need to be recorded (although some pharmacisits do not do this).

    Rather oddly, certain items which before could be taken off the shelf by the customer, is not behind the counter. Such as Safyr Bleu eye drops (not EyeGene), which, apparently, are used by drug addicts (would you believe). I assume they inject the liquid into their veins. Tablets containing codein (such as Syndol) cannot be taken off the shelf, as even these are abused by drug addicts. Certain cough mixtures are on the shelf, but many are behind the counter, for the same reason -d rug addicts abusing them.

    WA Jeffrey is right about the GrandPa headache powders. They are dangerous when abused, and do indeed lead to stomach ulcers. However, they do help for a headache, if you can tolerate the bitterness for a minute!

    I have lived in Europe, and SA (and probably the US - I'm not sure about UK and Aus) is one of the few countries where you can so easily buy strong pain killers (esp. containing codein) without a prescription. In the Netherlands you can only get mild pain killers, such as aspirin, without a prescription.

    1. Thanks Lorenda for the information. Very insightful and helps to explain what seemed strange to an outsider. Thanks for reading my blog.

    2. I enjoy your blog, and Sine's. Helpful tips on places to visit and things to do. Learn more about my country and Southern Africa from foreigners than I knew before - haha!

  6. Should read, 'certain items which before could be taken off the shelf by the customer, are NOW behind the counter.' Excuse the typos!


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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.