South Africans - What makes us tick!

Monday, 12 April 2010 14:37 administrator
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This country of ours has a history which goes back many centuries. After all, it is generally accepted that the earliest humanoid remains come from – um – were discovered a bit to the left of Johannesburg, South Africa. So, WELCOME HOME! It’s been a while ……..

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For the purposes of this little “guide”, we will use the year 1994 as the start of our history – for practical and somewhat selfish reasons. There will, of course, be references to events and “things” which occurred before this year, but we’re sure you will understand our motivation.

South Africans, hereafter referred to as Seffricans (we even speak our own English – the language experts refer to it as S.A.E. – South African English), tend to talk about the “Old” and the “New” South Africa. The ‘old” bit means before 1994 – i.e. the Apartheid era; and the ‘new’ thereafter – i.e. after our first truly democratic election, and Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

We are, as you may or may not know, a real hotchpotch of races, languages, cultures, religions, etc. Archbishop Desmond Tutu (one of the finest South Africans EVER!) dubbed us the “Rainbow Nation”. Quite appropriate, that! AND we’re not even referring to the fact that South Africa is the first country in the world to specifically guarantee same sex rights in its constitution (widely regarded as one of the most liberal, accommodating constitutions ever).

So – in 1994, Seffricans consisted of a lot of originally African people, otherwise known as “Blacks”; a mish–mash of largely and originally ex-European “Whites”; quite a few so-called “Coloured” citizens of mixed ethnic backgrounds; a significant dose of Indian folk (from INDIA!); as well as lashings of various others (hope they’re not offended that they’re not listed here!).

To add to our glorious blend, we also tend to speak a variety of languages – not just S.A.E.! We are certainly on the medals table when it comes to having the most official languages – 11 in all! S.A.E. is the really “official” official one, but we chat away to / at / past each other in a real assortment, sometimes understanding, often not. But – life goes on. Fortunately, we do not have to have all our signage printed in all the official languages!

Religion is another wonderful patchwork over here at the southern tip of the world’s largest continent. There’s a lot of Christianity, quite a bit of “traditional” African, Islam, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhist, Rastafarian, Aetheist and much more. Sadly, the worship and glorification of Mammon is also one of the favourite religions here!

When we welcome you “Uitlanders” (that’s Afrikaans for “foreigners”), we know that sometime soon you’ll enquire as to our national dish. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but we don’t really have such a thing. As mentioned earlier, we are a pretty mixed bunch, with so many culinary backgrounds, so it’s impossible to single out A SINGLE national dish. In different parts of the country – and in different communities – locals will have very different ideas as to what would constitute our national dish. However, there are a few which are generally regarded as coming close to that elusive single dish.

• SAMP AND BEANS: “What the heck?” you say. Relax – it’s only maize-meal porridge and beans, spiced up with whatever is available. For those who can afford it, the deluxe version would include a meat sauce or stew – commonly known as “pap en vleis” (porridge and meat).

• BOBOTIE: (bo-bo-tea) Minced (ground for the Yanks) beef with a dash of curry, raisins, bay leaves and a layer of milk and egg custard on the top, baked in the oven and served with yellow rice and sambals (usually chutney). Actually a Malay dish introduced by the slaves from the old Dutch East Indies.

• WATERBLOMMETJIE BREDIE: CRIPES!! Quite a mouthful, if you’ll excuse the pun! Literally “waterflower stew”. Considered an Afrikaans favourite, it consists of the fruit from a type of water lily cooked up with lamb and spices into a stew, served with rice (and lots of booze!).

• BILTONG: Not actually a dish, as such, more of a favourite snack. This consists of strips of spiced and dried meat (beef or game – NEVER chicken!) Think of it as African carpachio! A variation is DROEWORS (dried sausage). This is dried spiced sausage – VERY good with lots of beer!!

* A BRAAI: Again, not a dish as such - a way of cooking and social occasion combined, referred to elsewhere as a barbecue. Here, however, real wood is used - and while the wood burns down to coals, the "social" part takes place, usually accompanied by fair amounts of beer, wine, Brandy and Coke (a very popular local drink) or other alcoholic beverages! When the coals are ready, meat, vegatables, bread and other items are then grilled over them. Often by this stage of proceedings, the "braai-er" is so inebriated that much of the stuff is burnt - but nobody really notices!

National dress? WHOA! Sorry – no such thing! And that romantic notion you have hidden in your head about the good old tribal outfits – “natives” running around in animal skins with spears at the ready – forget it!! That’s pretty much like going to England and expecting everyone to be strolling around looking like Queen Victoria! So – the only time you’ll see those traditional outfits will be at cultural shows. Otherwise, we tend to dress pretty much like the rest of the world. And as for the youngsters, they dress pretty much like youngsters everywhere do these days – BADLY! We are as much a victim of the American gangsta – rap – bling stuff as everyone else!

As for our money (we know it’s difficult getting used to foreign currency), it’s actually quite simple. Our currency is known as the “Rand” (from the ridges around Johannesburg where gold was discovered in the 1800’s). You must have read (you DID read up about South Africa before embarking on this trip, didn’t you?) about the “Big Five” – rhino, elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard. Well, there you have our banknotes! Rhino = R10,00; Elephant = R20,00; Lion = R50,00; Buffalo = R100,00 and Leopard = R200,00. As for the small change (that’s the coins)…… Wildebeest = R5,00; Impala = R2,00; Springbok (our national animal) = R1,00; Strelitzia or bird-of-paradise flower = 50 cents; Protea = 20c; Arum lily = 10c; and Blue crane (our national bird) = 5c. There are 100 cents in a rand. There, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Sport? OK. Sorry to disappoint you again, but we do not have any peculiarly African sport. No national spear throwing contests or suchlike. Pretty ordinary, actually. Having been a British colony for so long, our favourite sports tend to be “colonial’ in nature - with a few interesting features, given our racially divided past. Amongst Black Seffricans, the favourite is soccer (football). Look around you as you travel across the country, you are bound to see stickers (decals) on cars and taxis identifying the owners as supporters of Kaiser Chiefs (Amakosi), Mamelodi Sundowns, Bucs or Pirates. Among Whites, Coloureds and Indians it will be cricket and rugby, as well as some soccer, but NOT local!! The latter groups will sport stickers such as Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea. (Any of them ever benn to these places? Of course not!) Then there’s also baseball, tennis, swimming, athletics, etc……

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 February 2012 09:38