Local traditions and culture in South Africa

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Most Viewed Local Customs in South Africa

  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo

    Is it Fanagalo ???

    by kenHuocj Updated Oct 27, 2012

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    useful lingua franca : Local slang for foreign visitors

    Aikôna - no, amazement
    Bra, bru - brother/
    Dof - stupid
    Donner - batter
    Eina - ouch
    Eish - sympathetic exclamation
    G-string - BMW 3 series
    Hau - expression of astonishment
    Howzit - hullo
    Hola - greetings
    Jislaaik - you don't say
    Jol - party
    Just now/now now - later
    Kak - not so good
    Kif - nice
    Lekker - nice
    Skeem - think
    Sharp - good
    Yebo - yes
    Zola Budd - taxi

    my favourite Afrikaans expression is 'ek is gatvol '

    Wrong slang results in Confrontation with ...! !

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    by canuck68 Updated Mar 9, 2012

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    I did not get to visit a township until my second visit to South Africa. It was something I had long wanted to do. I came away with a mix of emotions. I loved the children and was amazed at how happy they were and they seemed to have so little. I was saddened by the very obvious poverty. The inhabitants lived in the most humble of shacks which were put together with bits and pieces of sheet metal, wood and everything else they could find.
    Many young men hung around on the streets and I wonder if they have tried to find jobs and find it impossible or they are just not motivated. I don't know the answer to that.
    Watching the soup kitchens in action were a treat. The people came with some kind of a receptacle to hold their soup or stew. They stood in lines patiently and the little kids went first.
    I later found out the soup was made in the most humble of kitchens but I think with a lot of love.

    I noticed the kids plays with ingeniously made home made toys. Wire cars and other wire toys were the most obvious.

    Typical Township Street A Dwelling In A Township Wire Car

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  • Moirads's Profile Photo

    Zola Budd, athlete or taxi?

    by Moirads Written Jan 15, 2012

    Zola Budd epitomises much of the best of South African culture.

    There is no doubt in the minds of South Africans that sport is one of the strongest elements which contributes to the delicate and important process of nation building. There are few South African athletes who have made such a startling contribution to the South African sporting culture as Zola Budd.

    In 1984 the then seventeen year old Zola Budd from Bloemfontein broke many world records, some of which still stand. Her speed was legendary and gave rise to the mini-bus taxis of a certain type being referred to as “Zola Budds” because of their speed. Scenes from Soweto showing at the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square later this year refers to these Zola Budd taxis, as does Woza Albert! currently showing at The Market Theatre.

    Of course, it was Zola Budd's youth, humility and down to earth nature as much as her diminutive stature which endeared her to the nation. The Johannesburg Press Club awarded her their very first Newsmaker of the Year award, but the trophy was not ready for the presentation which took place at a glittering function at Ellis Park.

    Zola Budd is now a mature woman, back in her homeland where she is promoting a range of running shoes, Newton, in a run up (yes, that pun is intentional) to her making her debut in the Comrades Marathon in June. The Johannesburg Press Club took this opportunity to make the presentation of the actual trophy which went with the award of Newsmaker of the Year. This reprise of the event was again sponsored by Momentum who sponsored the original event.

    Her modesty and quiet grace still endear her those who meet her. I will be looking out for Zola Budd on June 16 when she runs the Comrades, cheering for her and the marvellous contribution she has made to the overall cultural impact of sport throughout the world.

    The Johannesburg Press Club's Newsmakers of the Year for 2011 are the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela.

    Zola Budd, more than a taxi, a star athlete!
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  • Moirads's Profile Photo

    Code Switching

    by Moirads Written Nov 23, 2011

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    South Africa has eleven official languages. It is also a cultural "melting pot" to use an overused idiom, and one will hear most other African and world languages here on any given day.

    Our own people tend to mix English into most of their conversation, so you are likely to understand part of the conversation. Even when they speak English there is likely to be a mixture of other languages interspersed with that.

    One of the reasons this is done is because it links people of two different cultures, making both feel part of the group. The other is to identify as part of a specific sub-culture which uses that particular mix of languages.

    Foreign tourists may find themselves being "subjected" to it in order to provide them with a little local colour. The places where one is most likely to find this phenomenon as a "tourist treat" are in Cape Town and in Soweto. Elsewhere there will be serious attempts at making communication easier, not more difficult.

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  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo

    "Now", "now now" and "just now"

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Nov 8, 2011

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    Visitors to South Africa may be somewhat bewildered by the locals' loose use of the seemingly simple word "now" - which comes in three main forms ("now", "now now" and "just now").
    The beginners guide to South African nows is as follows:

    * "Now" means pretty well what it would mean anywhere else in the world - but doesn't imply much of a sense of urgency
    * "Now now" conveys a greater sense of urgency and is often part of a strongly worded instruction (for example, "This arrangement needs to be confirmed now now")
    * "Just now" conveys no sense of urgency whatsoever, and is little more than an acknowledgement that you have heard what was requested, but have little or no intention of doing the required action until it suits you - if at all. It is not surprisingly a phrase much employed by truculent teenagers (for example, "I'll clean up my room just now")

    Confused? You should be. Anyway, that's all for now ...

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  • Moirads's Profile Photo

    A delicacy - biltong

    by Moirads Written Nov 7, 2011

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    Biltong is basically dried meat. It is typically South African, although one finds it in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe as well. While the meat of any animal can be used to make biltong, you are most likely to run into beef or ostrich biltong. My favourite, although very difficult to get, and very expensive even if one can get it, is eland biltong.

    The word “biltong” is from the Dutch “bil” (rump) and “tong” (strip or, literally, tongue). It is made by applying vinegar then rubbing the strips of meat with a mix of herbs, salts and spices. This is done immediately to meat to prevent it from going off in the hot South African summers, and the biltong is usually ready within two weeks.

    Biltong is usually sold packed into plastic as small sticks or sliced, but one can sometime also find it shredded finely. A butcher or specialist biltong stall will usually be able to sell biltong wet, medium or dry, while pre-packaged stuff is usually medium or dry. A butcher will also be able to sell fatty biltong or lean biltong according to the taste of the customer. They will also have the whole strips of biltong.

    While biltong may not usually be taken out of South Africa most countries with South African expatriates will usually have one or more supplier of this delicacy in whichever country they live. Or they do as our ancestors did – learn to make it themselves!

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  • Moirads's Profile Photo

    Goggas - local terminology

    by Moirads Written Nov 7, 2011

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    A "gogga" is any insect or arachnid - a "creepy crawly" (but "Creepy Crawlies" here are pool filtration systems). The word is derived from the KhoiSan languages. The "g" is pronounced like the "ch" in the Scottish "loch". It is doubled when it is repeated, giving the word a very gutteral sound.

    One of our most feared "goggas" is the "Parktown Prawn" which is really a king cricket. They look frightening, but are relatively harmless, unless being frightened half to death is finished off with heart failure. Actually our most dangerous insects are probably mosquitoes, found in the NorthEastern parts of South Africa.

    This is not to be confused with a "gogo" where the g's are hard, like "gore" with the o's being pronounced as in "gore". A "gogo" is a "grandmother" and it is a polite term of address for older women used mostly by young black people.

    A Parktown Prawn.  They are usually darker.
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  • Moirads's Profile Photo

    Gifts giving and receiving

    by Moirads Updated Oct 7, 2011

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    Gift giving in any culture can be fraught with cultural dangers. In South Africa it takes the following forms.

    Gifts are opened immediately in the presence of the gift giver. Special note for dealing with black people. It is considered polite to use two hands when giving and receiving anything and even the exchange of money for everyday business transactions will usually involve tendering the money with one hand while the other hand is placed on the wrist of the tendering or receiving hand. This becomes even more important when giving and receiving gifts.

    Money in the form of cash apart from the usual practice of tipping is considered an appropriate gift for people lower down in the social strata or people who render small non-professional services, but is never used for social equals.

    Gifts are given for the following occasions:-

    1. When one is invited to the home of a South African for a meal it is customary to take the host/hostess flowers OR chocolates (not both) and/or a bottle of wine. In other words the bottle of wine can be given alone or with flowers or chocolates, but flowers and chocolates, especially if accompanied by wine, may be regarded as effusive. The only exception to this is if one is Belgian and the chocolates are Belgian. There is no onus on the host/hostess to serve either the chocolates or the wine at the meal to which you have been invited and this will only be done if it is suits the host/hostess to do so. If the gift was wrapped it is customary to open this in your presence, but host/hostess gifts do not need to be wrapped so as to save the host/hostess from the need to break into their preparations to unwrap gifts.
    2. Birthdays/anniversaries/weddings/baptisms and other special events. These gifts should always be wrapped. Gift vouchers are also acceptable. Other than for weddings or other very big functions, you can expect South Africans to open gifts in your presence.
    3. Thank you gifts. Same as for host/hostess gifts except that they should always be wrapped.

    Old fashioned courtesies such as writing thank you letters or even just a follow up telephone call which does nothing but say thank you seem to have died out and doing so will mark you as an especially courteous and gracious person.

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    by DAO Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    South Africa uses 230 V 50 Hz for its domestic supply and a 3 round pin plug. This consists of 2 circular metal pins with a large circular grounding pin (pictured). Bizarrely some electrical appliances like fans use a simple 2 small pin European plug. Look at that picture again! You may need 2 adapters – not just one!

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  • Moirads's Profile Photo

    South Africa's biggest church

    by Moirads Written Apr 2, 2010

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    The biggest religious denomination in South Africa is the Zion Christian Church (or ZCC). It is an African Initiated Church, (an African indigenous church, also known as African Independent Churches because they are not under white control) and has an estimated 10 to 15 million members. This is approximately one in four or five South Africans, and definitely more than 25 percent of black South Africans.

    Founded in 1910 by Engenas Lekganyane, and officially recognised as a church denomination in 1942, and now run by Barnabas Lekganyane and Saint Engenas Lekganyane, the grandsons of the founder.

    The church’s headquarters are in Moria, called Zion City, to which members make an annual pilgrimage over Easter. The ZCC arose in reaction to the cultural deprivations suffered by Christian converts under western missionary circumstances. The missionaries insisted that the converts give up their cultural lifestyles and adopt “Christian” behaviour and names. There are lots of biblical names, with a particular love for long old testament prophets, in the black community even today.

    ZCC takes indigenous customs into account, emphasising the retention of these customs and norms, and then slots the concepts of western Christianity into that.

    South African black people, like the Welsh, are a group known for their beautiful harmonisation and gorgeous voices as well as natural musicality. The ZCC , as do most churches, offer a number of opportunities for people to develop and use their musical talents.

    Members of the church sometimes wear the symbol of the denomination, a silver star engraved with ZCC, on a ribbon, on their clothes. It amuses me to ask them if it stands for Zulu Cricket Club. The person on the other side of the question usually doesn’t find it nearly as funny as I do. Try it at your own social graces risk.

    ZCC Emblem
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    Gumboot Dancing

    by tini58de Updated Sep 25, 2009

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    Gumboot Dance goes back to the times when the workers at the gold and diamond mines in South Africa were not allowed to talk with each other. Instead the people invented a new language by stomping on the ground with their gumboots and clapping on the shafts. This has later developed into a dance culture of its own.

    The pictures and the video were not taken in South Africa, but here in Germany, when the "Corroboration Dance Company" from Heidelberg near Johannesburg was performing here in Karlsruhe.

    A very fascinating performance, indeed! So if you get the chance to see it - go for it!

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    by PierreZA Written Sep 5, 2009

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    It is customary to greet people by shaking hands. If you meet a black person, it is a tripple shaking ritual which you will easily learn. Europeans use a single hand shake. Family members and close friends do greet with a kiss.
    Hello, Hi, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good night, Bey, Cheers - are all commonly used

    T-shirts on sale

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    by PierreZA Written Sep 5, 2009

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    Biltong is a favourite delicacy in South Africa. It is dried meat which is quite spicy. Biltong made from beef is most probably the most common, but do try Springbok, Kudu and Ostrich biltong.
    You will find biltong in most supermarkets.

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    by PierreZA Written Sep 5, 2009

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    You will most probably hear this word when you visit SA. It is the local word used for a barbeque - and is VERY popular in SA. Usually a braai would include meat (lamb, beef, pork) chicken, sosaties (kebabs), boerewors (local spicy sausage) and salads. Depending on the area of the country, you might also have roosterkoek (it is bread made on the coles) in the South and pap (a type of porridge) in the North.

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    South African English

    by PierreZA Written Sep 5, 2009

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    English is spoken by most South Africans, although it might not be their first language. Most South Africans can speak more than one language. We have 11 official languages! The business language is English.
    You might here words used which sound unfamiliar.
    Once you have been in SA, you will recognize the SA accent very easily!
    Words from Afrikaans and certain Indigenous African languages are often used in day-to-day language use.
    Here are a few words you might come across
    Lekker = nice
    Just-now= means within a short while
    Dankie= thank you
    Braai = barbeque
    Ja or Yebo = yes
    (Boere)Wors = a local sauasage
    Eisch = is used in the case of amazement or surprise
    Robot= traffic light
    Berg = mountain
    Howzit = how are you
    Bakkie = Truck (Toyota, Nissan, Ford etc)

    Zulu Hut

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