As a South African expat abroad, you’ve probably encountered more than a few stereotypes about your homeland. These usually cause us to laugh or roll our eyes in disbelief. Let’s take a look at some of the most common misconceptions and funny South African stereotypes about South Africa and her people.
The funniest South African stereotype of all: wild animals roam the streets
We’ve heard this one numerous times. Lions roam our streets, we use elephants as our main means of transport and we keep wild animals as pets. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We don’t have wild animals as pets. Just cats, dogs, birds, and fish – like most people around the world. In reality, you’ll only see lions and elephants in our national parks or zoos. Unfortunately, elephants are not a mode of transport in our country, as much as the petrol price makes most of us wish this was true.
To be fair, there was that one time a lion roamed the streets of Braamfontein, Johannesburg, but it turned out to be a publicity stunt for a movie.
“You’re from South Africa? You don’t *sound* South African”
Why do people think South African accents sound Australian? We definitely do not. Not all South Africans sound the same, however. This is because we have 11 official languages, and English is only a second or third language for most people. Like everyone who speaks more than one language, their mother tongue (their primary language) often comes through in the pronunciation or sentence structure of the second or third language they speak.
South Africans also sound different, depending on their cultural background and the province they grew up in. Although we might not all sound the same, the South African accent was voted one of the sexiest accents in the world.
Africa is a country. South Africa is small
Africa is most definitely NOT a country. It’s the world’s second-largest continent and it’s made up of more than 54 countries. It takes up 6% of the planet’s surface and 20% of the land surface. South Africa is a country at the southern tip of Africa, made up of nine provinces. It is twice the size of France and five times the size of the UK.
South Africa is also in the Southern hemisphere, below the equator, which means that our seasons are the opposite to those in the Northern hemisphere. So if it’s summer in the UK, it’s winter in South Africa.
All South African people know each other. And people from other places in South Africa
“Oh, you’re from South Africa! Do you know such-and-such, he’s in Nairobi?”
Cue eyeroll. With a population of 1.216 billion in Africa and a population of 59.31 million people in South Africa, we don’t all know each other. It’s physically and geographically impossible.
All Afrikaans people live on farms and wear khaki safari suits
The safari suit with knee-high socks is not the official attire of our country. Not all Afrikaans people live on farms. Not all Afrikaans people wear khaki. Not all people who wear khaki are Afrikaans. Not all people who live on farms are Afrikaans. You get the drift.
South Africans do generally have a sharp eye for fashion. Special occasions do call for culturally-appropriate attire, but for every other day of the week, South Africans dress the same as most other people. We love sporting brand labels as much as the next guy. In fact, South Africa’s most popular clothing brand is Nike, which should tell you a lot.
All South Africans hunt and play/watch rugby
This is a laugh riot. Although South Africa is a popular hunting destination, it’s probably safe to say that hunting is a bigger sport in the United States. Most hunting in South Africa is done for culling purposes (when herds of wild animals on game farms get too overpopulated) or for eating, as game is a very popular meat. Trophy hunting in South Africa is more of a tourist thing.
As for rugby, while it is one of our national sports, not everyone enjoys playing it or even watching it for that matter. South Africans also enjoy cricket, golf, and soccer, among other sports.
It’s always hot and sunny in South Africa
As mentioned, South Africa’s seasons are different to those in the Northern hemisphere, purely for geographical reasons. So, when the Northern hemisphere has winter, we have summer. When they have winter, we have summer. It’s not always hot, and it definitely does get cold in South Africa. Although we’re not guaranteed snow every winter like some countries, we do get sub-zero temperatures and it has been known to snow on occasion. Climate varies from province to province, although it is generally agreed that KwaZulu-Natal has the most moderate climate.
It’s definitely not always sunny and hot in South Africa, and the weather has been known to change at the drop of a hat. It is possible to experience all four seasons in one day, however, particularly in Cape Town.
There are no white people in South Africa
One of the biggest shockers for the rest of the world is meeting a white South African. Or an Indian South African. Or a coloured South African. Or an Asian South African. There’s a reason why we’re called The Rainbow Nation, and in South Africa, that rainbow does include those who lean toward the pale end of the melanin spectrum.
There is only one culture in South Africa
This is very much an incorrect assumption. South Africa has many, many different cultures and subcultures. The fact that we have such a racially diverse population with so many different official languages should tell you as much. When everything is so culturally diverse, what unites South Africans? Our love for food.
That you could get murdered walking in the streets
South Africa has a high crime rate, it’s true. But it’s no different to many other countries in the world. Most South Africans are extremely security conscious, but being murdered in the street is not one of the things we worry about the most.
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