Tag Archives: differences

Not “weird” but “different”

While living in South Africa, we have caught ourselves describing something new we’ve observed or experienced and referring to it as “weird”…we quickly catch ourselves and switch out weird for “different.” I thought I’d reflect a bit on this in today’s post, since I don’t have any exciting news to report or sites to describe. Students, please feel free to reply and post other differences you’ve noticed.

First, a few differences related to race…
For instance, isn’t it weird, I mean different, how many Afrikaaner (white) families have black maids? Isn’t it different how the term “colored” is not derogatory here, but rather descriptive of those who are neither white nor black? Isn’t it different to perceive racial tensions in the air, even though we are 18 years removed from the official end of apartheid? These differences cause discomfort at times.

Second, a few differences we like…
There are very few SUVs on the roads (now that is weird!). People here drive itty bitty, manual transmission cars for the most part. Generally speaking, people seem more conscientious about conserving resources, whether it is petrol (R11+ per liter…have fun converting to $ per gallon), water, or electricity (homes are not heated!). We like the multiple languages we hear every day, as well as the diversity of people that surrounds us. We like how inexpensive things are, for the most part anyway. We like how kids wear uniforms to school. We like the dinners our hosts make us each night…yum.

Third, a few differences we don’t like so much…
Pedestrians are not valued very highly here! Those itty bitty cars race down the streets, and I have yet to see one yield to a pedestrian…even in a crosswalk (I kid you not). The sidewalks are often in poor condition with quite a bit of trash alongside (despite the frequently placed green “zibi bins”). The only photo today is of the sidewalk that I walk down every day…there has been a huge hole in it the past three weeks. Today I was glad to see someone barricaded it off with some big rocks and wrote “please fix my hood” next to it. I feel safer already. 🙂 We are not crazy about the minibus taxi drivers that yell, whistle, and honk (or hoot, see below) to see if you want a ride…they get annoying when you’re waiting FOREVER to cross a street.

Fourth, some different terms we’ve learned…
Nappy = diaper
Cot = crib
Pram = stroller
Bonnet = car hood
Hooter = car horn (we did convey what we usually refer to when we talk about hooters)
Robot = traffic/stoplight
Geiser = hot water heater
Esh = kind of like “good grief”
Comfort stop = potty/snack break on a road trip…we like that one
Toilet = restroom/bathroom…easy translation but we don’t like asking for the “toilet”

I’m certain there are many other differences yet to describe, but this is a start. Jen, Kym, Kelsey, Courtney, Crystal, and Kjersten can share more…

20120612-082421.jpg