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Tag: South Africa

One thing that leaves a lot of non-South Africans at a loss is trying to work out what a South African means when he says he will do something now.

You see, South African English has several similar phrases that mean somewhat different things: now, just now, now now, right now might look identical but are not.

So, as a service to mankind, here is what these phrases really mean.

  • Right now – it will happen immediately
  • Just now – it will happen sometime in the nearish future, but not right now. Anywhere from half an hour to two hours from now.
  • Now now – it will happen sometime in the very near future, so sooner than just now, but later than right now
  • Now – this could indicate any of the above

Hope that makes clear what we South Africans mean, so when we will see you just now, you shouldn’t quite open those beers yet, expecting the doorbell to ring any second.


Ah! The sound of meat sizzling on an open fire, combined with that unmistakable smell of smoke and roasting meat is enough to make any South African’s mouth water.

The humble braai is so central to South African life that we have even co-opted one of our public holidays – Heritage Day on the 24th September – as National Braai Day, where everyone takes part in a very South African tradition…..or is it?

As South Africans, we think that we own the copyright on braai’s, but I have discovered that that is not exactly true. Many countries have a tradition of braaing, except it goes under the name of barbecues, or if you find yourself Down Under, a barbie. It is an immensely popular way of cooking around the world.

Even here in the Netherlands, braaing (or barbequing as I am forced to call it here) is a very popular pastime, and the range of different barbecues available is probably better than back in South Africa.

The only real difference between what us South Africans do compared to the rest of the world is what we put on to the braai. The Americans love doing burgers, the Dutch love kebabs and pork braadworst, while the typical South African braai consists of pork chops, boerewors and chicken drumsticks.

I certainly have no need to miss braaing while living in this foreign land – it is just the meat that isn’t quite the same….


Over the last several months I have been writing a lot about things that I find rather strange or unusual about the Netherlands and the Dutch people based on my experiences living here in the Netherlands. One of the things about being a stranger in a strange land, is that as much as there are many things I find strange here, I have also come to realise that I, myself, having grown up in South Africa, have many things about me that appear strange to the rest of the world.

So, after looking outwards at the world around me, here follows the first part of me looking inwards toward myself, and what better topic to begin on than South African English.

South African English is my mother tongue, and it has some quirky differences to the more generally known dialects.

Lets start with our accent. I have met very few people in the Netherlands who correctly guess where I am from based on my accent. Curiously, many people immediately think that I am American, which I find a bit strange, since the majority of the Dutch I have met speak English with a distinct American accent, and the South African accent is nowhere near the American accent, so I have no idea where they get that from.

The Americans, on the other hand, tend to have no idea where to place my accent, sometimes thinking I am British or Australian, while the Brits tend to be fairly good at placing my accent – probably due to the thousands of South Africans that call the UK home.

There are huge differences within the accent as well. Region plays a fair role, so Capetonians, Durbanites and Johannesburgers tend to speak differently, but the speakers home language plays a far greater role. South Africa has a wealth of languages, and each language group – Indigenous, Afrikaans and English native tongue speakers speak English with vastly different accents.

The South African accent is apparently very difficult for foreigners to imitate with any degree of accuracy, and I must say that I have very seldom heard a good South African English accent in a Hollywood movie.

Now let’s look at vocabulary. South African English borrows extensively from both American and British English for words, as well as from the other South African languages.

So, for example, we use the American word truck for what the Brits call a lorry, while we use the British boot (of a car) while the Americans use trunk.

Pure South Africanisms though include words like lekker (nice), takkies (sneakers), braai (barbeque), bru (brother). There are many more you can find here at this link. I often tend to use these words without thinking that noone else has a clue what I am on about.

Now that you might be able to understand me better, my job is done…


It is now safe to do this, since I have informed the company I work for already, so the latest news flash is that myself, Claudia and Cole are going to be emigrating from South Africa to the Netherlands in a few months time.

Currently our planned departure date is set at the end of April, largely to give us enough time to get all our passports sorted out before we go.

So, now I am sure the first question you may be wanting to ask is, “Why would a South African want to go live in the Netherlands?”

Well, the reasons are many, but one very powerful driver of our move, is that I have dual Belgian/South African citizenship, and Claudia (and by implication, Cole) has dual Swiss/South African citizenship, so making a move to Europe is very easy for us. Since Switzerland has very close ties to the EU, and me beign an EU citizen, there is no issue at all for us to move over. Very little paperwork to worry about.

This still does not answer fully why we chose the Netherlands though, since most South Africans heading off for Europe tend to centre around the UK. Well, firstly, my mother and brother already stay in Haarlem (near Amsterdam if you are wondering where that is), which gives us a free couch to sleep on until we get settled.

The Dutch are also very easy going, and many of them speak pretty good English to boot, and for an English speaker, I have the greatest probability of success there, outside of the UK.

And in addition to that, Dutch would be one of the easiest European languages for me to learn, as in South Africa, Afrikaans is one of the major languages, which I did 7 years worth of at school. Afrikaans is a closely related language to Dutch, and originated in the early Dutch settlers in South Africa. The pronunciation and spelling are slightly different, and there are a few minor differences in vocabulary, but the two languages are very close to each other, to the point where, based solely on my fluency in Afrikaans, I am able to understand most written Dutch, and spoken Dutch when spoken slowly and clearly.

As to the reasons we are leaving South Africa, well, my entire goal is to provide the best life that I can to my family, and that is becoming increasingly difficult in South Africa. If I start naming reasons, I will start to look like one of the many whingers we have in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved South Africa as a country, but the problems we have here are starting to become too much for me, and it is now time to seek a better life.

There will be many things I am going to miss, but what I am looking forward to is decent public transport, and fast cheap internet, over everything else.
As the move comes together I will blog more about the experience of uprooting ourselves and planting ourselves in a foreign land.


South Africans are a bunch of avid genealogists. So much so, that the family trees of the early settlers is very well established, and for most of the white (and coloured) families in South Africa, the kinship can be proven easily and most South Africans have common blood. Heck, even I am provably related (albeit distantly) to just about every Afrikaans person in the country.

Now this is all very good for working out genealogical links, but South Africa in general has a rather large genealogical brick wall, and that has to do with beginnings of the Cape colony.

South Africa is a relatively new nation, only first being settled by European colonists at the Cape in 1652 – just over 350 years ago. And, yes, I know there were indigenous people here before that, but they play little part in my story, since I have found no trace of them in my ancestry.

South African genealogy is very well established up to the founding of the colony, but then the records go silent.

South Africans seem to be content in finding the “stamvader” (or “stammoeder”) – which roughly translates as “founding father” – which would be the first person of a particular lineage to immigrate to South Africa. So for example, one my ancestors, who is also a “stamvader” is Jacques de Savoye, who came to the Cape in 1688 with his family.

Now it is all very well and good knowing that, but then how do you go back further? Most of the settlers came from Germany, the Netherlands, France and later England, but most of their genealogies are not very well known.

There are exceptions though, such as the du Plessis’s, whose ancestry can be traced to the French aristocracy (and from there to royalty and nobility throughout Europe), and the Laubschers, who hail from Switzerland. Quite a few more can be traced back two or three generations in their native countries, but for the vast majority, the trail stops at the moment they stepped on South African shores.

Is the problem the fact that obtaining records for these people here in South Africa is difficult, since researching these families would requite digging through genealogical records scattered across Europe, or is it just that knowing who their “stamvader” was is good enough for most South Africans?

The answer to that, I do not know…


Taxes are the bane of everybody’s life. No one likes to pay tax, but we all know we need to.

Yesterday, I submitted my tax return, and I must say that it was a painless, quick and easy process. The SA Revenue Service allows eFiling, which is a great way to electronically submit your tax return.

The great thing about this is that the form you need to complete comes pre-populated with all the IRP5 data from your employers, so most of the time, doing your tax is simply a matter of double-checking that everything is right and then clicking submit.

It is most surprising to find a government department that works so well. The South African government is full of corruption and ineptitude – I just need to mention Home Affairs, or Eskom to send shivers down any South African’s spine – but the revenue service is the one efficient bastion out of the lot.

At least they can get something right…


A few days ago, I saw an article which said that the German soccer team were advised by their security firm that when they came to South Africa next year for the Soccer World Cup, they should wear bullet-proof vests when they venture out of their hotel rooms.

The reason for this is that South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and they just trying to be careful. It is overreacting a slight bit, but does give a very interesting view as to how South Africa is viewed on the world stage.

Crime exists everywhere in the world, but South Africa has one of the highest rates of crime. Now, how exactly do South Africans handle this war zone we live in? We just simply carry on with life.

Crime is the number one topic we South African love to complain about (justifiably so), yet life goes on. We may live behind electric fencing and burglar bars, but very few fear walking down the road. We know that there are risks, and we try to minimise them as much as possible – you could say that South Africans are a heck of a lot more street-wise than our overseas counterparts. We don’t show off flashy items such as cellphones or expensive jewelery in risky places, and are always aware of our surroundings.

But has it reached a point where we need bullet-proof vests? I think not. We may be street-wise but we certainly are not petrified of getting gunned down.

I will say I understand the German security firm’s stance, and I certainly think that South African crime is out of control, but I still feel safe enough to walk down the street leaving the body armour to the security guards who patrol our streets.