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10 South Africanisms (and how they can get you in trouble overseas)

Common South African words and phrases just don’t really gel outside of South Africa.

pants problem photo by

Every nation has its own local lingo – From Cockney rhyming slang (which no one really understands, do they?) to Australian contractions for every word under the sun.

And South Africans are no different. Here are some of the top South Africanisms and why you may need to avoid using some of them while overseas!

1. Pants

Let’s clear this one up first. If you’re in the UK, never ever tell someone you like their pants. They will freak out and think they forgot to put clothes on.

This is because pants in South Africa, are actually trousers in the UK. Pants in the UK means underpants/underwear/boxers/panties/whatever you want to call them.

So never ever compliment the Brits on their lovely pants.

2. Packet

In the UK this is known as a carrier bag. So do not ask the shop assistant for a packet, as more than likely their response will be: ‘A packet of what?’.

3. Shame

Such an innocent term of endearment in South Africa. You see a cute baby – ag shame! You meet a gorgeous puppy – aaaah shame man!

But pretty much anywhere else in the world, this makes absolutely no sense at all!

4. Just now & Now now

Ah, the eternal confusion for anyone who is not South African. In the UK, just now means something has literally just happened, and therefore refers to something in the immediate past.

In South Africa, it’s something in the immediate future – as in ‘I’ll be there just now’.

Now now doesn’t actually seem to exist anywhere else in the world, and could mean anything from 10 minutes to a couple of hours later!

5. Takkies

You’ll soon learn that takkies anywhere else in the world are called trainers or sneakers. No one else has any clue what the hell takkies are!

6. Braai

This is one word that is becoming more and more used all over the world. Probably because there are so many South Africans scattered across the world these days and they are teaching all their new countrymen the meaning of the word.

It is not a BBQ, it is a braai!

7. My china

Bound to confuse most people, who would probably think you are having delusions of being the leader of the 4th largest country in the world.

Greeting those who do not understand South African with ‘Howzit my china?!’ is not recommended.

8. Robots

If someone asks you for directions while overseas and you tell them to turn right at the robots, be prepared for some skeef looks! They are traffic lights, not robots.

9. Circles

As above, don’t tell people to turn left at the circle. They’ll most likely think ‘A circle of what?’. It’s called a roundabout.

10. Bunny Chow

If you’re feeling lus for some bunny chow, you’re better off Googling where to find some than asking someone in person (unless they are South African).

You don’t want people thinking you like to eat cute bunny rabbits!