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Most of us have a story to tell that someone else can relate to, or things we have done that other people have also done. These are things that normally make us feel connected to each other. There are things we experience as a group, or as a nation, some of them are sad and some are funny. So, I made a list of 10 funny/relatable things we experience as South Africans.

Finding humour in everything

“This country must be closed.’’
“It can only be in South Africa.”
“South Africans don’t deserve the internet.’’

When you hear or read one of those sentences, you know that you are probably going to have a good laugh. Those sentences mean that someone made a funny savage meme, made fun of someone, maybe a celebrity, or joked about something serious like Coronavirus.

Even our president knows this very well. On Thursday, 23 April 2020, Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation about what would happen after the 30th of April. After his speech he tried to put on a mask and ‘struggled’ a bit – at some point he even covered his eyes with it. The country went crazy, and in less than 5 minutes people had already made memes and WhatsApp stickers. He became a hashtag on Twitter (#Ramaphosa). On Friday, the president himself was laughing about the mask incident on the news… He is South African after all, so he has a sense of humour.

South Africans have no chill!

Walking barefoot

If you have never walked around a mall barefoot then you have probably seen someone else doing it. There are a lot of pictures and memes about this South African tradition. Growing up, I would always see people walking barefoot whenever I went to the mall with my mother. I didn’t find that weird at all because I didn’t like wearing shoes, but my mother never allowed me to walk barefoot. I always looked at those kids and adults walking around without anything restricting or hurting their feet, and I envied them.

Taxi maths

If you have used a taxi, and sat in the front seat, then you probably know very well what taxi maths is. Before giving people their change, you have to remember how many people paid a certain amount, how many are going where, how much are they supposed to pay, and then calculate how much their change is. Then there’s that embarrassing moment where someone says you gave them extra change or their change is short. “Everyone will think I don’t know how to count,” is what I thought when this happened to me. Taxi maths is an extreme sport.

Here are links to videos and memes explaining and describing exactly what taxi maths is and how much of a struggle it is.

Data struggles

Data is so expensive in South Africa that a whole campaign (#datamustfall) was started as a way to get service providers to decrease data prices. Here’s an article comparing South African data prices to other African countries’ prices.

Because of these mad prices, the first thing most of us do when we get to malls or restaurants is check if there’s free WiFi, and then ask for the password. I once saw a joke on Facebook about buying data and it describes how expensive data is very well: “The only thing standing between me and being rich is buying data.” I spend around R200 a month on data, sometimes more.

Flip flops and slides

“Naughty Corner”- I had never heard of such a thing until I watched Nanny 911. In South Africa, most parents don’t bother negotiating with their children or telling them to go to the Naughty Corner. Flip flops and slides were used to punish most of us. If you had done something wrong, you knew that your mother would have a flip flop in her hand in no time, and you would be crying. Some mothers count up to 5 before they spank their children with flip flops. My mother never did that. She would tell me to stop doing something once, twice if I was lucky, and if I didn’t stop I would get spanked.

Not knowing Afrikaans

I went to schools that don’t teach Afrikaans and I have never had Afrikaans speaking friends. This means I can’t speak nor understand Afrikaans. Most South Africans also don’t know Afrikaans. There are some people who learned it at school, but still complain about not knowing it. So what do we hear when people speak Afrikaans? Most of us just hear the ‘ge’ sound. That’s all we hear because we don’t hear words. If you know Afrikaans then you can’t relate to this, so think about a language you don’t know like Sesotho. What do you hear when people around you are speaking Sesotho?

Dictionary? What for?

“Shame” doesn’t always mean “shame” in South Africa. It can mean a lot of things depending on the context. “Sorry” also doesn’t always mean”sorry”, sometimes it can mean “excuse me.” The only time we ever care about the definition of a word and how it is supposed to be used is when we are writing essays or emails. South Africans also seem to enjoy mixing their languages. You can say a sentence using words from multiple languages. For example, “That meat was lekker.” This simply means ‘the meat was nice’ but I’m sure you already knew that because that sentence is normal.

Chappies and Love Candy wrapping

Most of us learned a lot from Chappies wrappers. I remember in primary school my friends and I would never throw them away without reading the information written on it. Love Candy also has really nice love messages. Some people would buy those sweets for their girlfriends back in primary school. Some would copy those love messages and write love letters to their girlfriends/boyfriends.

Chalkboard erasers

A chalkboard eraser has/had two jobs in South Africa: to erase the board, and to punish those learners who decide to break the rules. Not doing your homework, talking in class, and fighting meant that your hand or fingertips were going to become one with the chalkboard eraser. Holding a pen was a struggle after beaten with a chalkboard eraser, it was like a second punishment. I believe that the chalkboard eraser punishment is one the most brutal punishments ever.

Sunday dinners

Sunday has always been my favourite day of the week for several reasons, one of them being food. I don’t know where this tradition comes from, but Sunday dinners are unlike any other in most South African households. ‘Sunday kos’- When I hear those words I imagine a plate with rice, meat or chicken and a lot of salads. My mother used to cook a lot of food so that I could take some to school on Monday. Alot of mothers did that. There was one annoying thing about taking Sunday kos to school – beetroot, I hated how it used to dye the rice.

There are things we experience as a group or as a nation, some of them are sad, some funny. What’s important is that no matter what we go through as a nation, we are always able to laugh and see the funny side to everything.

Selloane Ntlatlapo is a 2nd year BSocSci student majoring in Politics, Gender studies and Journalism. When she is not stressing about assignments instead of starting them, she spends her days crocheting, watching movies/series, or watching videos on TikTok. She is a firm believer of “wear it anyway”. She is passionate about equality and inclusion.
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