A wide picture of Clifton Beach in Cape Town, South Africa at late afternoon in a beautiful sunset. Colorful and satured taken with a Canon 6

Meet the locals in Cape Town

1. First Thursdays

What is First Thursdays?

First Thursdays is a uniquely South African event which happens in Cape Town , Johannesburg and Durban. Many art galleries and exhibitions stay open until 9pm or later on the first Thursday of every month. It’s free and everyone is welcome. It tends to be more popular in summer, but it happens all year round.

There are lots of cultural activities happening around the city.  Galleries such as Deepest Darkest , Ebony Curated , Young Blood and 4 Arts Foundation host exhibitions where you can view contemporary art.  The American Corner arranges talks where you can listen to ‘rappers, poets, coders and astronauts.’ There are also slightly unusual things like Yogi’s Barber Shop, where you can practise your English to ask for a haircut and shave!

Explore live music – you can find anything from jazz (with ‘world-class cocktails’) to rock, classical, and DJ sets. If you’re more interested in food, many of the restaurants have menu specials. The party continues late into the night, so check out one of the rooftop bars.

Where is First Thursdays?

Cape Town city centre, especially around Bree Street, is buzzing with pedestrians that night!  It’s best to take a friend, check out a few places and then settle somewhere to enjoy the vibe.

Before you go, do a little online research and see if anything catches your eye.  While you are out exploring the city, read the captions that explain with the artwork. Speak to people, sometimes the artists are there to discuss their work. When you settle on a restaurant or bar, chat to the waiter and other customers in the restaurant. By the end of the evening, the restaurants and bars are packed (that is, full of people). In summer, most of the sidewalks are packed too!

2. Listen and Read

Listening and reading are natural ways to learn English. Soon you’ll be dreaming in English (which is a sign that you are Advanced).

Listen to radio and podcasts

Find Cape Talk on 567 on the AM radio wave or on their website. It partners with a radio station called 702 which is based in Johannesburg so you hear the news from two parts of South Africa.  Listening to this radio station is a great way to tune your ear to English and listen to hot topics.

The talk shows have presenters who facilitate talks with guests about current affairs in South Africa.  Before you say you’re not interested in the news, it is so much more than the boring political stuff. The station does discuss national and international news, but there are many cultural topics too. There are all sorts of different shows throughout the day, tune in and find out. They also have podcasts .

The Daily Maverick is a fantastic local newspaper.  You can read the articles and listen to some short podcasts here and find out exactly what is happening in South Africa!

Read everything

Read magazines, whether they are about cooking or fashion  or cars. The short articles and pictures are a good start for second language speakers.

There are 11 official languages in South Africa, but English is the common language. As you walk around the city, read the signs and street names. Ask if you get lost, Capetonians are friendly, and before you know it, you’ve had a conversation with a stranger in English.

3. Meetup

What is Meetup?

Meetup is a website that operates globally, but mostly in big cities such as London and New York. Meetup’s tagline is ‘We are what we do’ and it is a way to connect with other people who like similar things to you.

What is it not?

It is not a dating site.

What can you do through Meetup?

Here’s a list of SOME of the activities that are possible on Meetup: creating a Lean Startup, doing Tai Chi, playing Board Games, coding, drinking wine, kayaking, improv acting and comedy, partying, exercise bootcamp, going on a sunset cruise, photography, games nights, watching movies, eating burgers, playing mini-golf, dancing, going to music shows, drumming, creating websites, designing software, hacking… The possibilities are endless!

How can you join Meetup?

You need to create an account for yourself at Meetup and choose your location i.e Cape Town.

The next step is entirely up to you.  Look for activities you enjoy. For example, let’s say that you like hiking. Search for hiking groups and join the group. The group will post upcoming events, for example, a hike up Lion’s Head and the time and date.  You can RSVP to these hikes and go on the day. It’s really that simple: Sign up, join a group, RSVP to an event, and go meet like-minded people.

Some rules

  • If you say you are going to go, it would be best if you actually go, because they will ‘blacklist’ you if you don’t!
  • Also, don’t be fashionably late – no more than 15 minutes – they will start the hike without you!
  • If you’re shy, take a friend.

Costs depend on the event.  If you are going to join some ‘new’ friends at the movies, then you will have to pay for your movie ticket. The same goes for a concert.  However, if you are going to a talk about coding, then you can buy yourself a coffee. Hiking and outdoor activities are usually free. —
By Christelle Van Niekerk

See our blogs on Learn English Abroad , Bohemian lifestyle, Volunteer in South Africa.

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