Goodbye South Africa, It's Been a Pleasure
By Jenny McLarney
Last updated: 27th December 2011
As I sat in Joburg airport waiting for my flight to Heathrow I mulled over a few little South African quirks that I had relished. All of them I would have gladly picked up and brought home if I could even remotely replicate the accent.
1) Hectic. EVERYTHING is hectic. You go to the supermarket and there’s a queue…that’s hectic. You’re plane gets hijacked…that’s hectic. I’ve never heard of one word being used for such a range of events. It seems that any little kerfuffle through to life endangering situations, as well as life itself, can be measured on the same ‘hectic’ scale. Perhaps the more you emphasise the word the more hectic it really is, but all I know is the use of the word is hectic in itself.
2)We’re leaving now now. Let’s go now now. You may THINK this means faster than instantly leaving, your not leaving right now, your leaving sooner than now, in fact you should have already left. This is what it does mean, but most South African time keeping is pretty laid back: five South African minutes probably means twenty English minutes. So we’re leaving now now probably means in ten. But the actual phrase ‘now now’ amused me the most. Especially when they text it. So you are taking more time to text another word in order to say you’ll be there sooner…makes absolutely no sense but it’s great.
3) So long. Usually used in this context: ‘Ok if you’re gonna be five minutes late I’ll get a table so long.’ Whaaat? What has my timing got to do with the length of the table? And how can I see what length you mean when we’re on the phone? This is another SA timing quirk, so long means now: I’ll get a table while I’m waiting. Because there is such a mix of languages in SA the English is often influenced by the other African languages. That is why, as many Dutch told me, Africaans is very similar to Dutch but they often put words in an order that seem illogical…just like these seem illogical to me. However who’s to say we’re the logical ones, perhaps, as one South African wisely imparted to me…God gave Africa the time and the rest of the world a clock.
Well six weeks, five projects, and 900 pictures later I am back in quaint little Kent. A place where people don’t sit in the back of trucks, the night sky rarely holds one star and everyone gets excited over seeing a squirrel. Yes it is the post holiday blues, where your country barely holds up to the excitement of a foreign culture and the sights and sounds that accompany it. I’ll swap you a hedgerow for a savannah ANY DAY.
The main thing the trip made me realise is how little of the world I’ve seen. I’ve not even stepped into some continents let alone experienced or even tried to sample any of the millions of cultures out there. Also it’s shown me I’m more than capable and happy to be a lone traveller. South Africa was a great starting point to entice me into the world of travelling and lets just say when the travel bug begins to nibble, you soon realise how you are already well and truly bitten.