*This is part of my This is South Africa series where I talk about my perceptions as an expat living in SA. Learn more about it here.*
My inaugural post for This is South Africa appropriately deals with the security measures taken in South Africa surrounding the home. Security is a HUGE part of life here in SA and one that I wasn’t fully prepared for before my arrival. It is also one that I hope I don’t ever fully adapt to.
First, I should speak about crime here in SA. Crime is for real and is definitely no joke. Every single person I have met has a scary tale, so it is understandable that they are vigilant in all aspects of their daily life. That explains why SA homes are built more like fortresses than houses. Seriously, when you walk down the street here there are lawns in front of lovely homes, but they all lie behind huge layers of security. The is the typical view when walking down the street is wall, gate, electric fence, wall, gate, dog, fence. You don’t see lawns and homes unobstructed. Instead you see fences, gates, walls, and signs all designed to keep the people inside safe and keep the criminals out.
The most interesting thing to me is the sheer variety of measures that can be taken to protect one’s home in SA and some homes employ numerous measures. For example, my residence has a brick wall with barbed wire on top and barbed wire on the ground at the base of the wall hidden in the foliage. There is an electric gate that the cars and residences are behind. The gate has spikes on top of it as well. Then, my flatlet has a security gate on the door as well as bars on the windows. Plus, there are a couple of barking dogs on the property for good measure. Phew! That is a lot of security.
Around town I have spotted other security measures.
First, there is basic signage warning criminal to stay off the property. The signs vary in their intensity from warning criminals about security systems to informing criminals of dangerous pets on the property such as your classic guard dog or the more unique poisonous snake!
It should be noted that the signage is no joke. A lot of houses have giant dogs who bark at you as you walk by (for example this beast barked up a storm at me)! Thus, heed the warning signs. Do not enter! There could be many many poisonous snakes lurking behind the gate.
Another criminal deterrent and fortification to the property is the classic barbed wire. Used worldwide as a protective measure, barbed wire is found on many houses in SA including my own guesthouse.
Other houses have chosen electric fences as opposed to barbed wire. One sound that I will always associate with SA is the sound of popping electric fences after a rainstorm. Pop pop pop goes the electric fences when raindrops fall on them.
One thing that was observed on virtually all houses was the gate. Gates are a necessary addition to every house as a means to get into and out of your gated/fenced in property with your car. Cars also need to be locked up tight and not left on the street.
The final barrier for security is protection of the actual house which can be physical with bars on the windows and doors or can be vocal such as alarm systems, which warn everyone including the criminal that the house has been breached. My residence has a security door as well as bars on all the windows.
I am getting used to the layers of protection and try to accept them as part of my life. I do miss my safe Seattle days when leaving your door unlocked was not cause for alarm. Now everything must be locked up tight at all times.
As in any place, there are always outliers. While most homes are hidden behind layers and layers of protection, there are still a few houses in SA that don’t have fences or gates or walls. This site was so startling to me that I had to document it with a photo and it caused me to wonder why they didn’t feel the need to fortify their home like everyone else.
In conclusion, be safe out there my South African friends. For those of you residing in other places, count your blessings because all this security can be a drag.