By Megan Dhlamini
When most people hear the words “South Africa” you get a lot of funny, strange, or sometimes rude questions like, “OMG, don’t you guys have Ebola?” or “do you have a pet lion or giraffe?” or in some cases, people think that we are in a war (thank you 9Gag). The list of questions goes on and on. It’s like in the movie Mean Girls, where the one girl asks Lindsay Lohan’s character why she is white and not black, when they find out that she comes from Africa (*facepalm*). I have actually been asked this questions in real life and it left me feeling gobsmacked because there are so many people who are uneducated about other countries, especially South Africa.
So let me start by clarifying some things. Yes, we do have wildlife, but they are in captivity. No, not all of us live in mud huts, we do have houses and fancy cars. Yes, we have crime, just like any other country. No, we are not at war, however, we are in a racial dispute, which is annoying and tiresome. Oh, and we have eleven official languages. Yes, you read that right, eleven. English is one of them, and another language called Afrikaans which is descended from Dutch but spoken in other countries such as Germany, Holland etc. Afrikaans is a really fun and unique language, and actually my first language.
We are generally a friendly, helpful, and very funny bunch unless you call South Africa, “Africa”. We hate that, we really do. Why? Because “Africa” is a continent with 54 countries whereas South Africa is one of those 54 countries.
South Africans also love their sport. Mainly rugby and cricket. One of the best things to do is watch a rugby game at one of our stadiums. South Africans feel the same about rugby as Europeans feel about soccer. It is one of the things that unites us and brings people with different backgrounds together.
I am from the busy city of Johannesburg. It is almost like the New York City of South Africa except we don’t have yellow cabs, or walk around wearing the latest shoes from Manolo Blahnik, and carrying a Hermes handbag. But we do have Uber, and we wear brogues or Converse sneakers with a backpack or trendy handbag. Our public transport sucks, but most people result to driving their own personal vehicles or walk.
We have a hip part of town filled with hipsters and afro-chic people called Braamfontein in the Maboneng precinct. There, you will find places like Neighbourgoods, The Living Room, and many other hipster hangouts. While we do have interesting fashion choices, colorful makeup and hair, we really are the nicest and most down-to-earth people who will leave a genuine mark of positivity in your life.
When it comes to food, you will see a variety of cuisines, ranging from Italian (of course) to traditional South African cuisines like Mopani worms (dried out worms), Bobotie, spicy Indian curry and the most prized cuisine Braaiing (barbecuing). You will usually have people braai while the rugby or cricket is playing, accompanied by alcoholic beverages like brandy and coke.
Going towards Cape Town, you will find various landmarks such as the famous Table Mountain, over 200 Winelands, and at the southernmost tip, you will find Cape Agulhas. This is where the two oceans, the Indian and Pacific, meet which is said to be breathtakingly beautiful. You can also go to Robben Island and visit the prison cell where the late Nelson Mandela was kept for 27 years. In the same light, you will see places with poverty such as Khayelitsha or Zandspruit, which are some of the informal settlements we do have.
What I love most about my country is that you are constantly meeting people from all over the world. Some who are just visiting and others who have immigrated to South Africa. I have made friends from all over the world, including Germany, Great Britain, Brazil, Italy, and Portugal to name a few. Our weather is also amazing. Cape Town is mocked for having four seasons in one day. Port Elizabeth is called “the windy city” for a very good reason, and Johannesburg is mostly sunny, but when it rains, it pours. The weather does not reach silly temperatures as some people suggest, however, I feel that the heat in Italy is hotter than most areas in South Africa (no joke).
Our currency is also quite affordable. For example, with €2 you can buy yourself a Big Mac meal from McDonald’s with fries and a drink included (bonus part: it really does tastes like a Big Mac).
A few low jabs… Our current president, Jacob Zuma, is uneducated and corrupt. We have more strikes than a typical soccer match. We do have a lot of crime and a high unemployment rate. But, I always say, name one country that is 100% perfect. You won’t be able to. My country does not always sound as glamorous as other countries, but I do assure you that you will have a life changing experience when you visit. You will meet interesting and friendly people, and fall in love with our
different styles of fashion. You will get to touch lion cubs, swim alongside sharks at uShaka Marine World, and quite possibly, run into people from your own country.
Plus, you will probably return home with a whole new wardrobe or maybe not even go back home at all (and by that, I mean that you will probably want to live here forever).
You will quite simply, fall in love with South Africa.