I moved from South Africa to the United States for college in 2017. I have been studying abroad for 2 years now. The culture shock was to be expected, but what I had not anticipated was the differences in food between the two countries. I suspected I was not alone, so I tweeted about writing this article and asked some of my friends studying abroad what they thought ... 


Ruth Anderson

From Tex-Mex to Turkey during Thanksgiving, there is a meal for every occasion. In the U.S I tend to eat out more often. Some of my favourite fast food chains include Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A and Bento. You can also enjoy food from other cultures such as, Indian food and Vietnamese food. The U.S also has Nandos restaurants, a fast food chain that was founded in South Africa in 1987. Currently, there are 42 Nandos restaurants in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, the most popular fast food restaurant in the U.S has Golden Arches and is very popular with college students after a night out; Mc Donalds. 

In South Africa, there is variety in food options as well, but it does not represent as wide an array of cultures. There are similarities between cultures so they tend to overlap. The most popular fast food chain in S.A is KFC with 885 restaurants nationwide. There is a growing number of foreign fast food chains in S.A. Popeyes, Star Bucks, Burger King, Mc Donalds, are just a few popular American franchises in S.A. This made the transition into American food slightly easier.

What my friends and I have also enjoyed are the portion sizes in the U.S. Ordering take-out is made even better by the fact that you can have left overs. Although I do not have evidence to back this up, I do have anecdotal evidence. I ate one portion of coconut curry for three meals last week because it was just too much for one sitting. I am not complaining though, and neither are my friends

Grits vs. Pap

vegetable, dairy product, rice
Parsa Lotfi

Pap is made of maize meal, aka mielie, and it is a staple in S.A. It is usually made into a soft porridge, stiff porridge or even into a flaky texture called uphuthu. It can be eaten in many ways with many things. I would usually eat pap with chakalaka, a spicy relish that is usually made of vegetables and beans, and meat. Uphuthu is another way pap can be prepared. Uphuthu can be eaten with amasi, fermented milk, which tastes like plain yoghurt or cottage cheese, but some people like to add sugar to it (this is a no from me though). 

Grits are made of cornmeal, which has a grainier texture than maize meal. Grits are also versatile as they can be eaten with an array of things. They can be served with breakfast and other food. I can confirm that grits and pap are not the same thing. Grits tend to be prepared to be softer than pap. However, grits are fantastic to eat in their own right. In a small halal cafe in downtown Orlando, I had grits and fried fish and it was amazing. Even though grits can be eaten with breakfast, I cannot shake the feeling that I am eating eggs and porridge. 

Is Food More Expensive in the U.S or in SA?

sweet, money, coins, cash, us dollars, currency
Anna Arteaga

A McMeal from McDonalds cost $8 in the capital city of the U.S. (Washington D.C) and only $3.97 in the capital city of S.A (Pretoria). Need I say more?

Okay, so the cost of food varies from country to country. But I have found that food in the U.S. is more expensive than in S.A. Healthier options are more affordable in S.A than they are in the U.S. This may be due to some sophisticated economic reasons that I cannot understand, but what I do know is that when I was a student in S.A I could afford more healthier food options than I can in the U.S. 


chocolate, blueberry pie, tart, pie, cake, sweet, pastry, cherry pie, cherries, fresh pie, homemade pie
Julia Gilman

My favourite South African dessert is milk tart. It came to South Africa through the Dutch settlers that arrived in South Africa during the 1600s. It has a thin crust, a custard filling, and is often sprinkled with cinnamon. It is served chilled or room temperature.

There's nothing more American than apple pie, or so I've heard. This dessert is different to the South African milk tart because it contains pieces of apple and is often covered in pastry at the top. It is also much sweeter and can vary in colour. 

Final Thoughts

Comparing food from different continents is tricky and  controversial. It depends on preferences. But I am a college student, so it also depends on the cost. Food is cheaper in S.A so it is a great place to study abroad in. There is also a very distinct culture around food that can be exciting if you are a foodie. The variety of food available in the U.S makes it a great place to study and live in as well. Luckily, globalisation allows us to try food from other places right where we are. If you are in the U.S go and try some Nandos and see how you like it. If you are in S.A buy yourself some fried chicken and a biscuit at Popeye's. We do not have to travel very far to get a taste of different cultures anymore.