Saturday, 27 March 2010

You've Still Never Met a Nice South African

I'm a bit multi-cultural.  That doesn't mean that I think I'm Irish because my great, great grandfather ate a potato once, but my parents are from different countries and I've lived on three different continents.

There are several advantages of this -  I can understand the differences between people better, this makes me more tolerant and centred, I'm an interesting conversationalist and I can get away with calling people 'dirty foreigners' due to the fact that I too am officially a foreigner.  It also means that I have a more than averagely large vocabulary of words and phrases that mean absolutely nothing.
  • Ja well no fine - South Africans say this, it means 'Yes, well, no, fine' so absolutely nothing
  • Just like that - My Indian friend Chirag taught me this one, and I've noticed other Indian people using it.  You could use it when you don't feel like answering a question.  'Why did you spend all your tuition fees on booze?'  'Just like that' or 'I thought you were a vegetarian but you're eating a hamburger...' 'Just like that'. 
  • La - People from Liverpool in England say 'la' at the end of every sentence.  Try it out.
When people find out that I'm a dirty foreigner, most are shocked.  I look the same as a native, if a great deal more handsome and sound like many other British people, and the fact that you wouldn't know is a matter of pride to me.  Not because I'm ashamed of my birthplace, but because people often treat their status as a foreigner as a badge of stupidity.

I went to Ireland a couple of years ago and loved it, but I was totally shocked when I spoke to the very friendly and hospitable Irish people.  They didn't sound at all like the moronic 'top o the morning diddlee dee' crowd, who can't rest until everyone within a 5 mile radius knows that they're Irish,  I had met in mainland Britain. In fact their accents were quite mild and these were country folk without an ounce of pretension.  Some of them didn't even drink Guinness.  Gasp!

I would like to offer some handy hints on the proper etiquette when meeting a South African, just so you don't repeat the faux pas to which I am frequently exposed:
  • Don't tell me about every South African person you've ever met
  • I don't want to hear how you could barely understand them and yet my accent is barely noticeable
  • I'm not interested in your views of apartheid or Nelson Mandela or any other ill informed opinions you may have about decisions people made before I was born
  • Forget about trying to engage me in sports talk about how country x beat SA in rugby or cricket.  I base MY self-esteem on things I personally achieve.
  • No, I've never had a lion in my garden and tigers are from Asia you idiot.

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