South African Flag over a person's face

Does the South African in you ever fade into something else?

You can take the girl out of South Africa, but can you ever take South Africa out of the girl?

Can you ever really assimilate into a new country and identity? Writer Jade Sheldon decides not to overthink it and be South African-American and just go with it

South African Flag over a person's face

Does the South African in you ever fade into something else?

Do you ever lose the South African in you? The longer you live in another country, the more you become part of that country and less of your birth country, no matter how home proud you are. It’s just happens. But there a few distinct moments when I realised that I might not be as South African as I once was.

1. Talking American
It took about three years after we moved to the USA for my South African family to start having trouble understanding what I said. I could understand them no problem, but I apparently spoke too fast. And with my burgeoning American accent, our conversations were peppered with: “what did you say?”

2. Home country?
I could not tell you where I went, what I ate or who I saw during my first visit back to South Africa, but I can tell you how that trip made me feel. The country was vivacious and the people were warm and welcoming, but that was just it, they were welcoming me to their country, not mine. But while my surroundings felt foreign, my South African family felt familiar and like home to me, and it was just as everything was beginning to feel like home again, I had to return to my new home: the USA.

3. We all speak English, right? Um, not always…
Almost all South Africans understand American English, so when I say ‘barbeque’, we know I mean ‘braai’, or that a shopping cart is the same as a shopping trolley, but there are still times when I say something and I am met with a confused stare. There are also times when my family use South African terms and quickly explain what they mean to me, as if I have never heard it before. It’s moments like this that make me feel more American than South African.

4. My passport
Exactly three years ago, I became a US citizen and took the oath to pledge my allegiance to the United States of America. It was truly an unforgettable day and as happy as I was, a part of me felt like I was betraying South Africa in some fundamental way.

I used to feel a sense of guilt for leaving South Africa – even though I was 12 – and I often feel torn about whether I am American or South African, but I still get excited at the smell of fresh biltong, I would probably sacrifice my Pomeranian for a slice of Melk tert or a packet of Flings, and two of my best friends in the USA are South African, so the South African in me still clings on.

I am no longer fully ‘South African’, I am also not fully ‘American’. I will just settle for ‘South African-American’, for now.

Also read:
13 Things non-South Africans will never understand

10 things all South Africans love about coming home