Being a South African in a foreign country poses more difficulties than you’d think. Other than having a strange accent that people just can’t place, or being white, some people think that just because you come from Africa you should have dark skin. I can’t count the times people have said to me, « how can you come from Africa if you’re white? » This has improved since the soccer world cup which was held in SA in 2010, people know a lot more about South Africa now. Most people don’t think you’ll be attacked by a lion as soon as you get off the plane anymore. South Africa is still Africa and sometimes crazy things do happen, but honestly crazy things can happen anywhere.
I have also had people tell me because i am white and from Africa that must be racist. I once was at a train station early once morning somewhere near to Bologna in Italy, where i received a big slap in the face to what some Europeans think of white South Africans. There was this young man who came over to me and was insisting on having a conversation, i said that i just preferred to be quiet and alone. He then asked where i was from and i said South Africa, so he replied i know what you’re problem is, you’re a racist! Let me add here that he was a young white male. I just ignored him and he started screaming on the top of his voice « racist » too make sure everyone around could hear him. I was so embarrassed, i just wanted to run and hide. It was an awful experience, thank goodness something like that has never happened again.
South Africa has such a huge sad story surrounding racism, it is very hard to get away from what people know and remember about apartheid. I wish i could say i was not a part of it because i was very young when it happened and ended. But without wanting to be involved i am as i am a white privileged South African, and i have benefited greatly from that. It is also not my fault, and i do not need to feel bad about it. All i need to be is grateful for the life and opportunities i’ve been given, never waste them and where i can show love and kindness to others.
Let me continue on to what i really wanted to talk about. South Africans are some of the most pleasant, helpful and genuinely caring people i have met in my life. I can say this as i have travelled extensively around the world and met many different people from everywhere and anywhere. I don’t know why South Africans are so lovely, it could be the huge amounts a sunlight they receive all year round, or the huge diversity of race, religion and nationality you find in the country. I’m not saying that all South Africans are wonderful, i’m generalising here. I find South Africans to be very curious and friendly by nature. It’s very easy to find someone to help you with something, and they will help you with a big smile on their face. If a South African says « ag shame », which is usually said when they feel sorry for you, it’s because they genuinely feel sorry for you!.
Living in France makes me miss South Africans a great deal, the french aren’t exactly what you’d call warm, open or helpful. Again here i am generalising, i have met some truly wonderful french people, some of them are my friends and family. It’s just different here, the feel of people is different and i often find it very difficult to understand and read people here. The french take a long time to warm up to me, i’m not used to that, usually i get along quite easily with people. I think people here are confused by my friendliness and desire to help if i can, i think it comes across as if i have an ulterior motive, or maybe they think it’s just fake. Honestly i don’t know. All i know is that i don’t think i will ever really be able to call this country my home, i just don’t fit in, and that’s ok! It is not terrible living here, there are lots of things to be grateful for, i know i am lucky to be allowed to live here.
Another funny thing that happens when you are immersed in a foreign language is you begin start substituting English words for French words. Your English vocabulary and sometimes grammar goes down the drain. You start to learn funny little expressions and words you are unable to translate back to English. I am at the point now where i’m starting to make mistakes in English and my French isn’t great, so i’m in no mans land, it’s so frustrating. I often have these wonderful perfect french sentences swimming around in my head, and as soon as i try say them out loud, it comes out gibberish and i just look like an idiot.
So for the moment this is where we live and breathe, but who knows what the future will bring, i’ve learnt to be always open to new opportunities!
I will be returning home to the land of sunshine and smiles at the end of the week, sunshine is desperately needed at this point, it’s been a very grey rainy start to the year. Hopefully by the time we come back it will be nice and warm and people will look lighter and happier.
I have attached 2 links to some South African slang, enjoy!