Local traditions and culture in South Africa

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Most Viewed Local Customs in South Africa

  • canuck68's Profile Photo


    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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  • canuck68's Profile Photo

    The language is quite different.

    by canuck68 Updated Jun 19, 2005

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    I see that Jennflower has covered the language differences in her tips.
    I was often served rusks with coffee in the morning. A great tradition that sometimes takes a bit of practice so you don't end up with your coffee all over your chin. My SA friends here in Canada got me used to doing it right.
    Know what your "takkies" are. They are your running shoes and you will be using them a lot.
    Also, for North Americans the parts of the car are quite different. For example, the "boot" is the "trunk". The passenger sits on the left. If you sit on the right you will end up on the driver's lap.

    The Kids and Me

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  • canuck68's Profile Photo

    Learn As Much As You Can

    by canuck68 Written May 29, 2005

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    For several years before going to South Africa, I read quite a bit about the country. My favorite authors are Andre Brink, Alan Paton, Bryce Courtenay and JoAnne Richards. Fortunately, I have South African friends who have moved to my town and so I was able to ask countless questions. Their patience was admirable. So as my passion for the country grew, my desire to go there was right at the top of my priority list. Lack of money and fear of planes put my dream on hold for awhile.

    Meeting New Friends.  Taken by my friend Julius.

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  • africaking's Profile Photo


    by africaking Updated Aug 13, 2004

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    If you travel South Africa, please be aware that tipping is important.

    If you drive somewhere and park your car, there is bound to be someone come up to you, and ask to watch your car, they may have a uniform or be off the streets, usually you tip them about 2 rand or depending on what you want. If you don't tip them, you may find your car missing it's wheels or radio.(they might not be responsible, but they will probably turn a blind eye)

    Some even wash your windscreen while you wait at the lights, you sometimes don't have a choice in it, but it's up to you wether you tip them or not.

    Restaurants pay low wages, so tips are a vital source of income, usually 10% of the bill, but more will always be appreciated.

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  • Acirfa's Profile Photo

    Local Language

    by Acirfa Updated Jun 20, 2005

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    Braai = BBQ
    Donner = To beat up (rude word)
    Eina = Ouch
    Hey = Used at beginning or end of
    entence or request to repeat
    Isit = When nothing to add to

    Jawelnofine = Also when nothing further to
    Jislaaik (Yislike) = Astonishment

    Klap = To smack/hit
    Lekker = Very nice
    Dop = A drink or to fail
    Sarmie = Sandwich
    Bakkie = Pickup truck
    Broek = Shorts/pants
    Howzit = Greeting
    Boet = Brother
    Pasop = Be careful
    Vrot = Rotten
    Graze = Eat
    Rock up = To simply arrive, no invitation
    Totsiens = Till I see you again

    and finally (at the request of Glennkasner, VT'er)

    Voetsek = A request for the rapid departure
    to take place of unwanted
    company, in no uncertain terms.

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  • ATLC's Profile Photo

    African Joke (English)

    by ATLC Written May 27, 2004

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    A monkey sits in a tree and smokes dagga.
    A lizard sees him and calls: 'Monkey, Monkey! What are you doing?'
    The monkey answers, 'Hey you: I'm smoking a bit of dagga, Want to join me?'
    The lizard climbs in the tree and smokes together with the monkey.
    'I'm thirsty', the lizard says to the monkey.
    'Go and drink some water from the river', the monkey says.
    The lizard goes to drink some water, but he's so high, that he falls into the water.
    A croc swims by and helps the lizard out and asks him how he got so silly.
    The lizard tells him that he and the monkey were sitting in the tree and smoking dagga.
    The crocodile says he doesn't believe it, he wants to see for himself.
    The croc stands under the tree and calls: 'Monkey, monkey!'
    The monkey looks and is startled.
    'Fu*k'! How much water did you drink?'

    Related to:
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  • saraheg77's Profile Photo

    Baby on Back!

    by saraheg77 Updated Feb 27, 2004

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    This lady was working at a little convenience store and had her baby strapped on her back while she worked. I need to find out how they expertly tie the baby on, cause he was awfully secure and I'm sure he was there for several hours at a time! She was also very nice about letting me take her picture!

    Wow!  I need to figure out how to do this!

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  • ATLC's Profile Photo

    African Joke

    by ATLC Written May 27, 2004

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    Afrikaans is very similar to Dutch. In fact the former is based on Dutch. So here's a funny joke and if you can't understand it, read the next tip.

    Die aap sit in die boom en rook dagga.
    Die akkedis sien hom en roep "Aap, Aap! Wat maak jy?"
    Die aap antwoord, "Hey daar. Ek rook bietjie dagga. Wil jy my join?"
    Die akkedis klim op en rook saam met aap.
    "Ek raak dors", sê akkedis toe vir aap.
    "Gaan drink water daar by die rivier", sê aap.
    Akkedis gaan toe om water te drink, maar is so gerook hy val toe in die water.
    Krokkodil swem toe verby en help akkedis uit en vra hom hoekom hy so funnylyk. Akkedis vertel hom dat hy en aap in die boom sit en dagga rook.
    Krokkodil sê hy glo dit nie, hy wil self gaan kyk wat aangaan.
    Krokkodil staan toe onder by die boom en roep"Aap! Aap!"
    Aap kyk af en skrik.
    "F*k! Hoeveel water hét jy gedrink?"

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  • tini58de's Profile Photo

    Greeting etiquette

    by tini58de Written Apr 13, 2009

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    It is never good to make a bad impression on people when you first meet them - even if it is only because of cultural differences.

    Our friends luckily pointed out to us, how a proper greeting etiquette works in South Africa - and boy, was I glad to know that!!!

    Before you start any conversation, you should greet the person in a way like this:

    "Good morning - how are you?"
    "I am fine, thank you, how are you?"
    "Fine, thank you!" - and then you can start your conversation!!!!!

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  • sof76's Profile Photo


    by sof76 Written Dec 18, 2003

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    In South Africa I saw for the first time a fruit called Litchi.
    Here i attach a brief description of it, it is not originally from South Africa, but everybody eats it in South Africa. I loved it! It's very tasting!
    Litchi, Lychee, Lichee
    The Litchi (Litchi chinensis) a member of the Sapindaceae family, which includes the Akee, Longan and Soapberry tree, is native to the low elevations of southern China, where it has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. It is now cultivated throughout most southern Asiatic countries, including India, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines; they have been grown in the Caribbean since the 18th century, and were introduced to Hawaii, Florida and California in the late 19th century. The fruit, commonly called a litchi nut, are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter when fresh, and have a red brittle shell, with white translucent flesh and a single large seed. Litchi are eaten fresh or dried, and are also available canned in syrup. The flesh is fragrant and sticky, sweet and juicy; the dried fruit has a smoky taste somewhat like a raisin. A versatile fruit, they are excellent in fruit salads, sweet and sour sauces, and dessert sauce. The may be used in stir fries, salads, poultry dishes, and even served over ice cream.

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  • geanster's Profile Photo

    Rooibos Tea & Rusks

    by geanster Updated Sep 15, 2003

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    If you spend anytime in South Africa, chances are that you'll develop an addiction to Rooibos tea as I did. :) Luckily, it's becoming easier to find in the US as well so if you're an American, you can support your habit. The name comes from "Red Bush", It's a completely natural herb tea prepared from the indigenous plant aspalathus Linearis which only grows near Cape Town at the Southern tip of South Africa in the Cederberg area.

    The tea is also supposed to have numerous health benefits. They claim it's full of polyphenols and flavonoids which help protect the body from free-radicals that weaken natural defenses and eventually lead to aging and the onset of disease. "Studies show drinking red tea daily can reward you with powerful anti-oxidants that help create a healthier longer life." It also has all the benefits of green tea but it's completely caffeine-free.

    It has a great taste and smell and it's one of the only tea's that can be drank with a milk or creamer added. You can usually order a cup or pot even at more "fast-food" type places like Wimpy. Another good side item for a morning cup of tea are Rusks. They're similar to biscotti except they're more like buttermilk biscuits baked within an inch of their lives . Once you dunk them, they soften up to an edible texture. I've also been able to find them at World Market which is a store chain we have around Dallas.

    Ouma Rusks
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  • cokes's Profile Photo

    A Mixed South Africa

    by cokes Updated May 24, 2005

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    South Africa has a lot of different people all living here , various tribes , religions and so forth. As for local cutoms ...gee there is plenty , wanna see.

    Check it all out

    Cape Coons
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  • mvtouring's Profile Photo


    by mvtouring Written Dec 27, 2005

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    1 kg minced beef
    1 slice of white bread
    250 ml milk
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    125 ml seedless raisins
    125 ml blanched almonds
    15 ml apricot jam
    15 ml fruit chutney
    25 ml lemon juice
    5 ml chopped mixed herbs
    10 ml curry powder
    5 ml turmeric
    10 ml salt
    10 ml oil
    3 eggs
    4 bay or lemon leaves

    Soak bread in 125ml milk, squeeze dry and mix with minced beef. Mix in all other ingredients except remaining milk, oil, eggs and bay leaves. Heat oil in a frying pan and brown meat mixture lightly. Turn out into a casserole. Beat eggs with remaining milk and pour over meat. Garnish with bay leaves and bake at 180 °C until set.

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  • Kurtdhis's Profile Photo


    by Kurtdhis Written Jul 1, 2003

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    My favorite traditional South African dish "Bobotie" is not readily obtainable outside of Afrikaners homes these days.

    1 kg minced topside
    25 ml oil
    12,5 ml butter
    2 medium onions, chopped
    2 cloves garlic
    10 ml green ginger, chopped
    12,5 ml curry powder
    10 ml turmeric
    25, ml apricot jam (smooth)
    3 slices white bread
    3 eggs
    375 ml milk
    juice and rind of 1 lemon
    3 bay leaves
    salt and black pepper
    flaked almonds (optional)

    Sauté onions in oil and butter, add the chopped garlic and chopped green ginger, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the curry powder and turmeric, add the minced meat to the pot and brown.

    Soak the bread in cold water. Beat eggs with milk and add the lemon juice and rind. Squeeze all the water from the bread and crumble. Add the bread and milk and egg mixture to the meat, as well as the apricot jam. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper. If you find the curry flavour too mild stir in 5ml curry paste. Spoon into a well-buttered oven dish, and push the bay leaves into the bobotie. Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes.

    For the custard, beat another 2 eggs with 180 ml milk and pour over the top of the bobotie. If you want to be extravagant, sprinkle some flaked almonds over the custard. Bake for 30 minutes or until the custard is golden brown. Serve with rice, some sliced banana, toasted coconut and tomato and onion sambal.

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  • ronaldpk's Profile Photo


    by ronaldpk Updated Jun 29, 2003

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    It was really refreshing and charming to listen to the locals speaking English. After living in U.S. for too long, I was quite happy listening to correct English with local flavour.
    South Africans are proud of their distinct expressions and will greet you "Howzit?" instead of bland "Hello".
    When you board the South African Airways, your lunch box will have written inscriptions explaining the meaning of different South African idioms, f.e.
    "Skeem" - to think. f.e. "I skeem I'll have a little nap until the plane touches down" or
    " Oh watch out world! Milions of South Africans are skeeming every day!"

    "Tune" - to talk bull, f.e. " Don't tune me grief, china" - one of S.A. favourite phrases whcih roughly translates into: "Don't talk bull, mate".

    Native languages are encroaching into local English, too, f.e. some people say "Aite" ( from Xhosa "Hello") or call their granfather "Mandiba" ( Xhosa).

    Flying on South African Airways was quite an educational experience for me!

    Learning South African English while eating lunch

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South Africa Local Customs

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