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Understanding South Africans


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Understanding South Africans - Tips for 2010


What is a braai? It is the first thing you will be invited to when you

visit South Africa . A braai is a backyard barbecue and it will take

place whatever the weather. So you will have to go even if it's

raining like mad. At a braai you will be introduced to a substance

known as mieliepap.


This one of the most useful South African words. Pronounced like the

"ach" in the German "achtung", it can be used to start a reply when

you are asked a tricky question, as in: "Ag, I don't know." Or a sense

of resignation:"Ag OK, I'll have some more mieliepap then." It can

stand alone too as a signal of irritation.


A rude word, it comes from the Afrikaans "donder" (thunder).

Pronounced "dorner", it means "beat up." A team member in your rugby

team can get donnered in a game, or your wife can donner you if you

come back from a braai at three in the morning.


Widely used by all language groups, this word, derived from the

Afrikaans, means "ouch." Pronounced "aynah".You can say it in

sympathy when you see your friend the day after he got donnered by his



Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the importance of

what has just been said, as in "You're only going to get donnered if

you come in late again, hey?" It can also stand alone as aquestion.

Instead of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon me?" when you have not heard

something directed at you, you can always say: "Hey?"


This is another great word to use in conversations. Derived from the

two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to

contribute if someone tells you something at a braai. For instance, if

someone would say: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for

capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private

ownership." It is quite appropriate to respond by saying:"Izit?"

Ja well no fine

This is another conversation fallback. Derived from the four words:

"yes", "well", "no" and fine",it roughly means "OK". If your bank

manager tells you your account is overdrawn, you can, with confidence,

say: "Jawelnofine."


Pronounced "klup" - an Afrikaans word meaning smack,whack or spank.

If you spend too much time in front of the TV during exam time,you

could end up getting a "klap" from your mother. In America , that is

called child abuse. In South Africa , it is called promoting education.

But to get "lekker geklap" is to get motherlessly drunk.


An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by all language

groups to express approval. If you enjoyed a braai thoroughly,you can

say: "Now that was lekk-errrrrrr!" while drawing out the last



These are sneakers or running shoes. The word is also used to describe

automobile or truck tyres. "Fat tackies" are reallywide tyres, as in:

"You've got lekker fat tackies on your Vôlla, hey?"


This word has two basic meanings, one good and one bad. First the

good: A dop is a drink, a cocktail, a sundowner, a noggin. When

invited for a dop, be careful! It could be one sedate drink or a

blast, depending on the company. Now the bad: To dop is to fail.If

you "dopped" standard two (Grade 4) more than once, you probably won't

be reading this.


This is a sandwich. For generations, school- children have traded

"saamies" during lunch breaks. In South Africa you don't send your kid

to school with liver-polony saamies. They are impossible to trade !!


This word is pronounced "bucky" and can refer to asmall truck or

pick-up. If a young man takes his "girl" (date) in a bakkie it could

be considered as a not so "lekker" form of transport because the seats

can't recline.


This is a universal South African greeting, and you will hear this

word throughout the country. It is often accompanied with the word

"Yes!" as in: "Yes, howzit?". In which caseyou answer "No, fine."

Now now

In much of the outside world, this is a comforting phrase:"Now now,

it's really not so bad." But in South Africa , this phrase is used in

the following manner: "Just wait, I'll be there nownow." It means "a

little after now".

Tune grief

To be tuned grief is to be aggravated, harassed. For example, if you

argue with somebody about a rugby game at a braai and the person had

too much dop (is a little "geklap"), he might easilyget aggravated

and say.: "You're tuning me grief, hey!". To continue the argument

after this could be unwise and result in major tuning of grief..


This is an Afrikaans word meaning "brother" which is shared by all

language groups. Pronounced "boot" but shorter, as in"foot", it can

be applied to a brother or any person of the male sex. For instance a

father can call his son "boet" and friends can apply the term to each

other too. Sometimes the diminutive "boetie" is used.But don't use it

on someone you hardly know - it will be thought patronizing and could

lead to you getting a "lekker klap".


From the Afrikaans phrase meaning "Watch Out!", this warning is used

and heeded by all language groups. As in: "The boss hasn't had his

coffee yet - so you better pasop boet" Sometimes just the word

"pasop!" is enough without further explanation.Everyone knows it sets

out a line in the sand not to be crossed.

Skop, Skiet en donner

Literally "kick, shoot and thunder", this phrase is usedby many South

African speakers to describe action movies. A Clint Eastwood movie is

always a good choice if you're in the mood for of a lekker skop,skiet

en donner flick.


Pronounced - "frot". A expressive word which means"rotten" or

"putrid" in Afrikaans, it is used by all language groups to describe

anything they really dislike. Most commonly intended to describe fruit

or vegetables whose shelf lives have long expired, but a pair of old

tackies (sneakers) worn a few years too long can be termed "vrot" by

some unfortunate folk which find themselves in the same vicinity as

the wearer. Also a rugby player who misses important kicks or tackles

can be said to have played a vrot game - opposite to a"lekker" game

(but not to his face). A movie was once reviewed with this headline:

"Slick Flick, Vrot Plot."

Rock up

To rock up is to just, sort of arrive (called "gatecrash" in other

parts of the world). You don't make an appointment or tell anyone you

are coming - you just rock up. Friends can do that but you have to be

selective about it. For example, you can't just rock up for a job



To scale something is to steal it. A person who is"scaly" has a

doubtful character, is possibly a scumbag, and should rather be left

off the invitation list to your next braai.


"Yes No" in English. Politics in South Africahas always been

associated with family arguments and in some cases even with physical

fights. It is believed that this expression originated with a family

member who didn't want to get a klap or get donnerred, so he just

every now and then muttered "ja-nee". Use it when you are required to

respond, but would rather not choose to agree or disagree.

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Thanx for this!! Made me a little homesick, but was a nice to read all these words again ;)

My personal favourites are "Ja-Nee" and "Saamie" :P

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