9 Questions South Africans Are Sick of Hearing
1. “Can you speak that click language?”
This is like asking, “Can you speak that Asian language?” There are many languages that use clicks in Africa and at least five of them are spoken in South Africa. You’ll really have to be more specific.
2. “If you’re from Africa, how are you white?”
It’s like that scene from Mean Girls (yes, I’ve watched Mean Girls). Although I’ve been enticed to answer that I’m allowed to be African because my parents are black, the real answer is that South Africa is what Archbishop Desmond Tutu called a ‘rainbow nation,’ encompassing all races and ethnicities — including whites. With our infamous Apartheid history, it’s shocking how often this question comes up.
3. “Is there still racism in South Africa?”
Yes, just like there’s racism everywhere else in the world. The difference is that the conversation about racism is constant in South Africa.
4. “How do you know this song?”
After bursting into song with a new American friend, singing “Hot in herre” during a strenuous hike, I was asked, “How do you know Nelly?!?” To which I responded, “The same way you do!” That’s right, we have radios, TV and internet access in South Africa.
5. “How did you hear about [insert place] in South Africa?”
Walking the Camino de Santiago in the North of Spain, some university students from Indiana where dumbfounded how I heard about Camino all the way out in South Africa. See point 4 again.
6. “What is a typical South African dish?”
With so many cultures and heritages with their own traditions, we would be lying if we named one dish as typical South African cuisine. From Indian cuisine, to Cape Malay, Xhosa and Afrikaans (just to name a few) there’s a massive variety, each with its own history in South Africa. There’s bunny chow, gatsby, pap, boerewors, droëwors, trotters and beans, maize and sugar beans, tripe-like dishes, braai, samosas, roti, koeksister, melktert, Cape Malay curries, Durban curry, pumpkin fritters, fish stews, potjiekos, ostrich fillet, rusks, malva pudding… get my drift?
This story was produced through the travel journalism programs at MatadorU.
7. “My friend is from Kenya, do you know her?”
Eish… Do we even need to explain how big Africa is?!
8. “Is it safe to go outside with all the animals roaming around?”
It’s tempting to answer, “We have to be indoors before sunset,” and proceed with an elaborate story about the time I was chased by a jackal on my way home from Woolworths. While there are places in South Africa where animals wander freely (and that people pay megabucks to visit), a quick google search of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban or Port Elizabeth will show you that we do not, in fact, have elephants roaming across our highways. Nor do we ride elephants to school or keep chimpanzees as pets.
9. “English is the official language there, right?”
Wrong. South Africa actually has 11 official languages: isiXhosa, isiZulu, English, Afrikaans, Sesotho se Leboa, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Xitsonga, isiNdebele and Tshivenda. And before you even think of asking me — NO, I do not speak all eleven languages.