1. You frequently use and understand the meaning of “just now” and “now now.”

You know “I’m coming just now” means expect me when you see me. This can be anything from 5 minutes to a couple of hours from now.

“Dinner will be ready now now.” Translated this means you should have a snack in the meantime before you pass out from hunger. Why do we say now twice? We have no idea…

2. Friend or foe is addressed as ‘brother’ using the terms bro, bra, bru, or broe.

“My Bru, I must tell you what happened last night!”
“Bra, if you do that one more time I’m gonna kick your teeth in.”

3. You don’t speak any of the African languages, but aikona, hayibo, and hawu are part of your daily vocabulary.

They’re our way of expressing shock, surprise, indignation, or simply just WTF?!

4. You braai at least once a week.

You just have to. It’s like brushing your teeth. Every boy is taught to braai from the time he is allowed to play with fire. It’s a fine art with many layers to it, starting with building the perfect fire and making sure the temperature of the coals is just right before placing the meat. Relentless taunting, social shame, and disgrace await you should your meat be overdone, dry, or charred. Many girls braai too, but we at least have the option to just sit back and enjoy the outputs of the oh-so-masculine “braai masters.”

5. You’ve heard of / seen the following bands / artists: Fokopolsiekar, Snotkop, Johannes Kerkorrel, Cheezkop, and Bongo Muffin.

Translated:

Fokofpolisiekar: F* off Police Car
Snotkop: Mucus Head
Johannes Kerkorrel: John Church Organ
Cheezkop: Cheese Head

6. You know someone named Patience, Innocence, Wisdom, Charity, Happiness, Goodwill…

In traditional languages (9 official traditional African languages in SA), names bestowed usually mean something. If you don’t speak the language, these names can be hard / impossible to pronounce or spell. To facilitate communication, they are generally directly translated into English.

7. Your teacher was crazy.

One of my high school teachers was a very prim and proper English lady. She was always perfectly groomed and her hair was perfectly coiffed. She only ever wore pastel blue with white stockings and laid down the rule that we were NEVER to bring anything orange in colour into the classroom.

Another teacher, as perfectly groomed and meticulous, told us daily that she would kill us. Literally, her words as she looked you dead in the eye, were spoken seriously, softly, clearly and slowly: “I WILL KILL YOU.” We loved them dearly!

8. You blow the vuvuzela.

We love soccer and are highly patriotic, but Bafana Bafana hardl​y​ ever win. So we devised an instrument to drown out the victory cries of the opposing team’s supporters and irritate them to high hell at the same time. It’s as good as a win in our books.

9. You know the festive season has begun when Boney M and “Last Christmas” by Wham blares from every radio station.

These are our Christmas anthems. Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas” is also featured on every DJ’s playlist, but Boney M and George Michael reign supreme. They are rarely played during the rest of the year, but come Christmas, your life is incomplete until you’ve heard those songs.

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10. You’re a born storyteller and communicate that way.

Particularly in the rural areas, people tend to converse animatedly and in metaphors.

Overheard: As a particularly gossipy hairdresser was trying to regale an unappreciative, captive client with the latest town scandal, the client politely responded that the things on the sides of her head were not garbage cans and were not to be filled with rubbish.

11. You know the Boogey Man ain’t got nothing on the Tokoloshe.

Say someone dislikes you intensely. They can go to their local Sangoma (healer / witchdoctor) and have them put a Tokoloshe on you. The Tokoloshe is an evil little creature who becomes invisible by drinking water. He is wicked and plays nasty pranks to scare you, irritate you, and generally ruin your life. He can also cause illness and death depending on his mandate from the Sangoma.

Examples:

You’ll be in bed at night and hear footsteps running across the roof. That’s the Tokoloshe.
You’ll wake up in the middle of the night and all the lights in the house will be on. That’s the Tokoloshe.
Your car breaks down. You get pneumonia. You know what it is…

12. When the clouds (tablecloth) roll over Table Mountain, you know it’s Van Hunks and the Devil still at it.

Jan van Hunks was a retired pirate who settled in the Cape in the 1700s. He fancied himself as and boasted about being the best smoker around. One day a mysterious stranger challenged him to a smoking contest on Table Mountain which went on for days. The ensuing smoke covered the mountain like a tablecloth. Turns out the mysterious stranger was the Devil himself. Van Hunks won the initial contest, and with the Devil being a sore loser and all, he forced a re-match…for all eternity.