Sunday, January 2, 2011

10 (really funny) questions asked about South Africa

First post of 2011!!. It's been a very lazy new year for us. I am just enjoying the calm before the storm.

Everyone in my family with exception of my sister is well travelled. My mother spent 18 months in her 20's travelling around Europe and she has travelled exstensively through Africa and America. My Dad has been everywhere from Japan to Cuba. I have lived in three countries and travelled to a few more. You will not believe the questions we have been asked about South Africa. And while they are genuine questions asked by people just trying to satisfy their curiosity, it most has us in fits of laughter. We were talking about this today and I thought it would be a good idea for a post. So here are 10 questions that either someone in my family or I were asked about South Africa while abroad:

Are there white people in South Africa? (The most asked question when I was overseas...mostly by *ahem* Americans)
Yes.....actually there are about 4.5 million of us....having been colonised by Dutch, German and French settlers back in the 17th century.

I would have thought Charlize Theron and Dave Matthews would have put this rest.

How is the traffic with all the lions and elephants running around/ do you have a pet lion?
The best way to see lions and elephants and other wild animals is to drive 8 hours (from where I live) to the Kruger National Park, sit for another 5 hours in your car until you see something that kinda sorta looks like a lion or hyena through your binoculars. Whatever you do....STAY IN YOUR FREAKING VECHILE, some people have actually died by walking up to a lion in order "pat" it. Oh and it is illegal to own one as a pet.

Do you have to hunt for your food?
I have my very own spear! I call him Danger. Whenever I'm hungry I make sure he's nice and sharp....then I hold him in a horizontal position and then I go running through the bush like a bat out of hell and then...........NO.

So I guess Tescos/ Walmart must be very new to you? (asked by an American while I was living in London)
There is talk that  the folks at Walmart have taken pity on us and decided to grace our shores with their presence......not that we need them since we already have Pick n' Pay (very much like Tescos), Checkers, Shoprite, Spar, 7 Eleven, Woolworths.....the list goes on.

Can you speak "African"
Sure, which one of the HUNDREDS of languages spoken in 54 countries ( covering 30.2 million km² ) would you like me to speak?

South Africa has 11 official languages and of that I only speak English and Afrikaans (most people here can speak at least 2 or 3 languages).

Do you guys get electricity?
No, we watch T.V in the dark :)

OMG! You're from Africa! Did you come here ( to the U.S ) to get treated for AIDS?.
This was the worst question that I got and by the time I finished with this guy, he walked away about 3 feet shorter. Normally I am very patient will all the curiosity about my country, no matter how dumb it seems, but there is certain ignorance that I have no tolerance for. Firstly you NEVER ask someone, even if they are from an African country, if they have AIDS- it is the same as asking a stranger if they they have genital herpes. And don't just assume that everyone from Africa has AIDS!. Those people who have chosen to speak out about their AIDS status have done so on their own terms. But there are millions of other people who see it as an extremely private and sensitive matter.

I saw Blood Diamond!.....I'm so sorry!.
For what? Firstly, the sole plot of Blood Diamond is actually set in Sierra Leone during the civil war. The story of the film is pure fiction however, the brutality portrayed in the film is accurate but does not depict the daily occurrences in South Africa. Special attention should be paid to the child soilders in the film- a tragedy that still continues to this day. Several African countries actually have resources that could ( in my opinion) make them very wealthy but because of war, greed and power the are plunged into poverty. Blood diamonds are diamonds mined within a war zone and sold to fund a war lord's activities (usually illegal). The meeting that took place at the end of the film was real- the Kimberley Process Certifcation Scheme is designed to ensure that rough diamonds come from sources which are free of conflict. Take a look at that sparkly ring on your finger....where does it come from?

By the way Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon are the only actors who've managed to conquer the true South African accent.

Is South Africa a country?
Yes! Yes! YESSSSSS!!!!. We are a democratic republic and.....we even have a president!!!! ( Jacob Zuma). One guy actually got annoyed with me trying to convince me that I was from AFRICA just the Southern part of it.

An e-mail sent to me through this blog asked me a number of questions just like the ones above. One of them was: Do you have internet in South Africa?

If you have any questions you want to ask me about South Africa, I can't promise that I won't find them funny but I will answer them honestly. Consequently there are South Africans ( mostly poor) who have asked me if there are really flying cars in America. One guy saw  iRobot and thought that was the way everyone lived in America!. So you see the only way ignorance can be conquered is by learning:)

Baie dankie almal, lekker week :)


  1. Oh my goodness. Some people are just so ignorant about the world!! I am so sorry that you have been asked such silly questions!! I got similar things when I went to the USA to work on a Summer Camp a good few years ago. I am from New Zealand, and people just don't know much about us down here :) Ah well! It does make me laugh!!

    ps thank you so much for that Hillsong song on your other post, my journey with God is a bumpy one, but at least I have been reacquainted!!

  2. Hey Rebecca,
    It is funny, but my hope when people meet me overseas, is that they will be motivated to learn more about there world. I met a couple of Kiwi's in the US and some of the questions they got asked were just as funny. A lot of people didn't even know NZ was a country and then there was the idiot that thought every kiwi must be a sheperd because of the amount of sheep they had. Someone else thought they were no people in NZ....just sheep!!!

    Many blessing to you on your journey. You are very precious to your Father. Believe me, I know how bumpy that road is, but He will walk every bit of it with you because He loves you so much and wants you to succeed:)

    Much love to you x

  3. Stephi, you made me laugh out loud so much that one of my kitties on my lap was startled. I live in California and I'll have to do the same with questions that I'm asked. What I loved about this post, was not so much the questions which shows people's ignorance as Rebeccca pointed out, but your answers. I actually went to East Africa for my honeymoon (now divorced from the jerk) over twenty years ago and fell in love with the land and people. Back then, S. Africa was still segregated so I didn't want to travel there for personal standards. But I heard that S. Africa is the most beautiful part of Africa and the wildlife where you do have to travel to the right places is amazing. Have you actually been to Kruger? I just loved this post :)

  4. OMG! Wendy! You live in California!? You must live in Beverley Hills1 Do you know Madonna?.

    That's the type of questions I got asked to some (extremely ignorant South Africans) found out that I lived in California.

    South Africa is such a beautiful country to live in. I have been to the Kruger Park several times and seen lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, rhino's all that. The winelands of the Western Cape remind me of parts of California and there are places that remind me of even England and Switzerland. 20 years ago (you were visiting) apartheid was just coming to an end and we were on the verge of a civil war so I don't think anyone wanted to visit!

  5. Great post as usual Stephi- made me laugh out loud in some parts! And btw- Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to you! x

  6. Thanks Fox! You were in London with me so I'm sure you got some of these:) Compliments of the season to you too! x

  7. I got asked once by a German guy, "Are you sure you are from the country of South Africa, is there a North Africa country too?"

    1. Yep I got asked that too!...and if there was an East and a West Africa...

  8. You all sound like you run in a rather ignorant inane inebriated social circle, I wouldn't expect someone with an IQ of 3 to ask questions as stupid as these.

  9. @Anonymous There is nothing wrong with asking questions out of curiosity and If you are going to be nasty about anyone here rather not read my blog.

  10. I am currently living in South america, originally from jhb, almost every time i meet someone new and strike up a conversation i get asked where i am from, and and soon as i tell them i get the same response "but your white".