Friday, 14 March 2014

Frivolous Friday: The Difference between South Africans and the English.

I know, I know, political correctness says we should embrace similarities, not differences, but sometimes the differences are so glaring that to ignore them would be like pretending the freight train barreling down the track towards you isn't really moving. That's just daft and I try not to do daft. Too often at least. But still, here I go into the shunting yard of national quirks and idiosyncrasies of both South Africans and the English. (Please go easy on me in the comments section.)

In my last Frivolous Friday post I mentioned English accents and how unspeakably difficult it sometimes is to figure out what people are saying. Well, it seems the knife cuts both ways. South Africans have accents too, apparently.

Of course I knew that before I came to England. I mean, I can recognise a guttural Afrikaans accent thick with rolled r's and g's anywhere. Not to mention a quirky Cape Coloured accent filled with 'jay's' and 'nay's. Or a black accent peppered with 'wekers' and 'eishes'. But I never thought I had a South African accent. No siree, I was exempt, because back home most people asked if I came from England. Now everywhere I go people ask if I'm from South Africa. How weird is that?

But one thing that having an accent does do is open doors to interesting conversations. Like the differences between the English and the South Africans.

Did you know that the English think us South Africans brash? A bit like Americans and Australians apparently. In fact, just by writing this post, I'm probably being 'brash'. But you must understand, the English would never actually use the word 'brash'. That is far too in your face. 'Brash' is what South Africans would say. My English friends gently accuse me of being 'direct'. That is not necessarily a compliment.

That is not the only difference between us. There is another that has taken me almost seven months to figure out. You see, where a South African would use one word to explain something, the English will use seven. That is being polite. Longwinded, but polite. Back in South Africa, we say why use seven when one will do? See? Brash.

Now I'm in England I have become ever conscious of how I am perceived. After all, I do want to become part of the nation. So suppressing the urge to speak bluntly and to express strong opinions has become a daily quest. I admit, I'm not very good at it yet, but watch this space . . . who knows, one day I might even be as English as the English: self-depreciating, with razor-sharp sarcasm delivered with a deadpan face. That would be a fine thing.

Enjoy your weekend.


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