I was so lucky to be recently afforded the opportunity to briefly immerse myself in the innate richness and wild beauty of South Africa. What I found was a country as welcoming and ageless as the fantastic local people I had the pleasure to meet.
As with many places that I have traveled that were English speaking, I often struggled with the regional terminologies and customs that I shall now humbly pass along. Hopefully these little pointers will allow you to navigate through South African society better than me.
When someone tells you that they met their husband at a “Brie”, they are not talking about a type of soft French cheese, they are referring to what our dear friends in Australia would call a “Barbie;” a barbecue.
When Sean told me that his wife has a large boot, I briefly feared for his safety and well-being. Believing he was commenting on the size of her backside, I was incredibly relieved to find out that he was simply telling me that her car has a large trunk. Yikes! If I said something like that about my wife, she would probably stuff me in the trunk of her car and take me for a very long ride!
When Sean mentioned that his dog had been “knocked,” I assumed he meant that he was going to have some puppies to play in the very near future. No such luck. Apparently “knocked” means “hit by a car” so once again, I was way off target.
It seemed to be a cruel, cruel world indeed when we discovered that Diet Coke does not exist in South Africa but our faith in humanity was quickly restored when we were told that they did have “Coca Cola Light” which aside from being slightly sweeter is blessedly pretty much the same thing!
While dining out or shopping, you will notice that your credit card will never leave your sight. Servers bring the machine right to your table and swipe the card in front of you. I guess this prevents your server from taking your credit card to the back of the restaurant and going to Amazon.com and ordering himself a brand new living room set before you’ve had the chance to finish your coffee.
While it is common convention in the U.S. and several other countries (like Italy) to turn your fork over onto the plate when you are done eating, it is quite the opposite in South Africa. Leaving your fork upright means that you are done and before you can ask for the dessert menu, away goes your plate! On three separate occasions, I almost bit the server as they tried to remove my food prematurely!
In closing, South Africa is truly a majestic country with an illustrious history and proud people who have really made tremendous accomplishments in recent years. We are honored to be a part of their successes and look forward to them sharing their accomplishments.
If you come to our User Group Meeting in May, please search out one of our South African friends. I am sure you will be impressed with all that they have achieved just as I am now, I guarantee you will walk away smiling.