Hansie Smit
Hansie Smit

How to act foreign at a local backpackers

I recently slipped up at a backpackers in Cape Town and greeted the guy behind reception with a friendly “howzit”. He gave me one look and asked me to leave. It’s no secret SA backpackers have a dirty habit of turning away locals. As a local I can’t afford mistakes like that. I’m living in a tent at the moment, missioning around on my motorbike so it’s important I blend in and make it past reception in these marijuana-friendly havens for the budget traveller. They have hammocks in the garden and condoms in the toilets — who wouldn’t want in?

So I’m growing my hair and talk under my breath when I book in. The preferred greet is a short “hi” or “hiya” if the situation requires. Under no circumstances do I sign in under my real name, Hansie. I go for a common alias like John Smith or pull a quick Donald Duck if it looks like they don’t check (everyone does this). I try to leave the vellies on the bike as long as possible and walk into the establishment drinking Pepsi. If they can’t help me straight away, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking through the brochures and admiring the local art on the wall. During the customary tour of the facilities I make a point of asking if those are the only plugs they have and whether they recycle. If I have to drink wine I go for something fancy instead of the usual Chateau Libertas. brandy and Coke is obviously off the menu. I never put vetkoek deeg in the fridge or start the day with Maltabella pap. At times I’ve made it look like I was having a royal struggle making fire and when the thing did get going I put some pork rashers on a stick and tried to fry them in the flames. If at all possible I try to pay with a R100 bill at least once and when I do, I treat it like it’s a R10 bill. I never wear Crocs. I never wear fleece tops.

At night I refrain from taking dumps in the garden and burning the furniture.

So far it’s been going well. Was just the one girl who looked at me suspiciously when I said “jissis” a little too loud. Not sure the method will work at Ashanti though. They’re very uptight there.