True South Africanisms

‘Ja no, well fine hey’ -South Africans

South Africa is quickly becoming a hot spot destination for all types of tourists across the globe in search of a range of things from adrenaline sports to fashion to pristine beaches to the Big Five. As you may have discovered from your own holidays in foreign countries, it sometimes gets a bit tricky to identify who is a true local and who is ‘claiming’ to be a local, and let’s be honest everyone wants the proper authentic experience! So if you ever find yourself in South Africa, the land I call my home, these are a few signs & symptoms that you can look out for in order to identify a true South African.

1. Stop, say what? Despite the fact that we have the universal STOP sign written in capital bold letters as well as a large complimentary STOP sign written on the road in front of us, any true South African will lose their sight for a brief moment when approaching this foreign object, usually due to sun in the eyes, and merely slow down by ramming the car into 3rd just as the stop street is nearing closer, whereby they will promptly speed up again just after their front wheels have crossed the line in order to continue their journey.

2. Green Robots – First lesson: In South Africa we happen to call a traffic light a ‘robot’. I”m not sure why or how this strange phenomena occurred but you see, over here we interpret the different coloured lights a little differently to anywhere else in the world. The green light means drive as fast as you can so that you avoid getting caught at the red light, the orange light is often innocently mixed up and instead of meaning ‘slow down’ it gets misinterpreted to ‘speed up’, and the red light usually has a transition time of about 30 seconds until drivers acknowledge that in fact it would be a wise choice for the safety of everyone to stop.

3. We are Babies – When it comes to cold weather, South African’s are babies. If it drops to freezing temperatures, often classified below 20 degrees, it’s definitely time to layer up. These layers include a choice of a jacket, a hoody, a beanie, boots and a scarf. This is often a great way to spot outsiders, particularly the British as they are often seen sunbathing or wearing a wife beater when temperatures reach ‘freezing’. The older German tourists can also be easily noticed due to their trend of wearing khaki trousers, often with high socks and sandals.

4. Driving in the Rain – As soon as it starts to rain, particularly in Cape Town, drivers automatically forget how to drive. I haven’t quite figured out how this exactly works yet and I hope that I will be able to clear this up with you guys as soon as I have conducted further research, but to make things easy to understand for everyone, when the rain comes down, the traffic doubles, the accident rates increase and the number of tow truck call outs exponentially increases.

5. Sunday Braai – Pronounced B-R-I. The trend that started Sunday roasts across the world. In true South African style, a braai is used for almost all occasions and can be observed in numerous different forms. We have the classic Boerewors braai with traditional South African sausage, we have the spitbraai, the chicken braai…anything goes really. The braai is synonymous with sports events and can be used as a tactic to lure old & new friends around as well as give men a testosterone boost when complimented on how well they braaied. It is predominantly practiced on Sundays, local holidays particularly camping, and of course on National Braai Day, previously known as Heritage Day. Same thing I guess.

6. Love for Outdoors – South African’s, well most of us anyway, live for the outdoors. In Cape Town, we have a wide array of hiking, cycling, running, surfing, kite boarding and so the list goes on but nevertheless, South African’s will always make time for the outdoors.

7. Street Art – Although I’m sure that we do have great street art somewhere in this country, I am actually referring to pedestrian crossings. These ‘people saving drawings’ on the road is often confused, and understandably so, for street art and as a result people will cross the road, usually when the red man is flashing, a couple meters further down from the designated crossing in order to not walk over the paintings. I’d say that’s quite respectful to be honest.

8. Window Shopping – For us, going to the shops is a luxury and quite honestly a waste of time when in fact we have everything that we could possibly need sold to us at every red light from street vendors. This wide array of ‘everything’ covers anything from rugby jerseys, beach balls, car chargers, rubbish collectors wire Christmas trees, fresh fruit, wooden decor and even car badges if you happen to lose yours. Talk about customer service!

9. Ja, No Just a Little Bit of Slang, hey – Unless you’re from Constantia and you don’t quite speak the local language on the street, you will often overhear guys using endearing words such as ‘bru’ ‘oke’ ‘china’ or ‘boet’ when conversing to friends, family and strangers. It is also common to hear very conflicting words strung together such as ‘Ja, no’ , and many will end off their sentence with ‘hey’, just to make sure that whatever they said was heard or to encourage support for their statement. It can also be used in place of a question mark. In my neck of the woods, where walking barefoot or in a wetsuit around our local shopping centre is deemed as utterly normal as well as where the most concentrated population with sun bleached hair can be found due to spending too much time in the ocean and too little time in the office, it is common to hear words describing recent ocean related activities such as ‘cooking’ ‘banging’ ‘sick’ and ‘cranking’.

Despite all issues in our country such as tax evasion, our leaders having little more than a woodwork degree and the constant power cuts in what we can now call ‘previously lit areas’, there is never a dull moment that goes by in this beautiful but conflicted land of ours. This is why I love it.