One of the cool aspects of serving in a country with English as a dominate language is learning new slang. In South Africa, English is mixed with indigenous languages. In the Soapies (soap operas) here, people will speak 7 languages in one conversation! Just as Spanglish is a prevalent combination where I am from, in KZN professionals interact flawlessly in Englulu, They use Zulu and when there is phrase not covered by the Bantu languages, they glide into an English phrase. Sometimes it is hard to keep up with South African creativity but seldom boring . Here are a few of noteworthy phases…in South African Style that may sound cool (or lekker) with a bit of my illustrious commentary when semi-relevant!
In America, we say vacation.
South Africans have holidays.
Yebo those national days off are called holidays also, but South Africans simplify the process by giving them one term.
In America we say Barbeque, but in South Africa (Afrikaans) it is a Braai.
Braais are not just the style of cooking but a full out social event. From what I can tell there are not barbeque wars here in South Africa like there are in…most meat friendly American States (Carolina BBQ forever!…Sorry).
In America we ask for a Band-Aid,
but in South Africa they are Plasters.
Not plasters like the paper mache materials (although those are also common place in first aid kits), but a less childish way to ask for the sticky bandage to place over basic cuts.
In America we sometimes go to town,
but in South Africa(specifically in KZN) we go to drop-in.
This is probably the most creative of all the phrases. Town in isiZulu is edolobeni, but rearrange the letters and add an English context and you get drop-in. Here in Schnizeland, since there are 3 possible towns with direct taxi routes, we say the town name after drop-in. However in Site 1.0, everyone called Shopping Town 1.0 drop-in. It took me 5 months to learn that “drop in” was a specific destination and just a general visit!
KZN vs. K.Z.N.
After living 7 months in beautiful KwaZulu-Natal, I cannot say K.Z.N., KZN (K, Zet, N) just sounds right.
In America if someone thanks you in English, the response is You’re Welcome,
But in South Africa the response is pleasure.
I actually like the South African approach better, no contractions to misspell and I am welcome to pester you again? Pleasure makes me the requester feel a little bit less bad about asking for services, hey you enjoyed helping me, it was a pleasure!
When someone is having a hard time in America, we say that they struggle.
But in South Africa they are really battling right now.
I am not a fan of “war analogies” especially in the context of health, but while I will stick to struggling, people talk about others who are battling with sincere compassion.
Awesome is a go to praise phrase
but in South Africa we go to Sharp (accompanied with a thumbs up)!
In America we search for passion fruits
but in South Africa the grenadillas are in abundance in the supermarkets
side note, grenadillas mean little pomegranates in Spanish.
In America, eggplants make a delightful Parmesan dish
but in South Africa, Indians utilize brinjals for their cuisine.
In the United States we use traffic lights in give directions
but in South Africa they will tell you to turn past the robot.
When you enter an American clinic, you ask for a nurse
But in South Africa when you want something done you ask for the sister in charge.
There are Catholic medical facilities in South Africa, but sister is used regardless of religious identity across all clinics.
In America we try to have enough gas in the tank,
But in South Africa, taxi drivers frequently take a detour for petrol.
A favorite snack in America is a cookie
But in South Africa if you want to find Oreos, you ask where the biscuits are.
Finally South Africa is the land of awesome onomatopoeia, Eish and Shosholoza (which sounds like a steam engine powered train.