The Beach is Free but the Showers Are Expensive
Category : Life in South Africa
I love living near a beach! And a beautiful beach at that! It’s not uncommon to see dolphins while eating breakfast, drink your morning coffee as the sun shines on the water, or watch as Judah throws rocks back into the ocean. One great thing about Port Elizabeth is the free beaches– they’re beautiful and you can swim while watching surfers catch the next wave or while sailboats move on the horizon. We often repeat the cliche of not being in Kansas anymore, but…
Taking showers are expensive! Let me explain… In the US most homes are metered and you get a fluctuating electricity bill every month. South Africa uses a prepaid electricity system. Most homes have an indoor meter (like the one below) and must go to a local store or ATM and purchase electricity. For example, I just bought R200 ($22) worth of electricity and then loaded it onto our meter with the code the store generates. Once I put in the code, my meter is credited about 192 units. It’s really a great system (as long as you don’t run out!).
The only downside is that I can tell you exactly how much it costs to cook a meal, take a shower (measuring the cost to reheat the geyser), and how much it costs when you leave on a light. It is actually cheaper to boil water in my electric kettle and pour into the sink than to run hot water from the tap when doing dishes. It costs about R3 ($.35) to take a hot shower and R2 ($.25) to heat the stove for dinner. We average about 17 units a day– unless we go to the beach which results in three showers and two baths!
I’m sure it’s comparable to what we paid in the US, but I never paid attention. I guess I’m one of the reasons the US uses over 80% of the worlds resources.
As a side note– our family has been taken care of and our needs are met– but it’s not uncommon to see people in line at the store who can only afford R10-R20 worth of electricity until their next monthly paycheck. Breaks my heart when I see that they have babies and young children.