People, languages and cultures

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As I mentioned in my first blog on travelling in South Africa, my home country, we have now travelled to and spent varying times in each of our current 9 provinces. It has been a wonderful experience discovering our country and we have learnt so much of its beauty and its people. All of us are so wont to generalise about nations, language groups, races and religious groups and yet, when you travel and meet people you discover that we are all the same and yet all very different even within the blocs mentioned above. What is most important is that we all deserve to be treated with respect. As Nelson Mandela said, “Treat your enemies with respect …” (just as you would your friends is what he meant). No wonder he was admired by so many.

In South Africa we have a number of indigenous languages which is why we have 11 official languages protected by our Constitution. There is only one which was created in South Africa – Afrikaans.  This was developed between the Dutch and French settlers to the Cape in the 17th & 18th centuries.  The amazing thing is how differently it is spoken in each corner of South Africa.  On my first ever trip to the Cape and heard the local people speaking in Afrikaans, I genuinely thought it was another language altogether.

Having visited many places in South Africa but also in Europe and America, for myself. In fact, when I first visited the USA in 1968 I stayed in the midwest. One morning this show called The Hillbillies and, although they were supposedly speaking in English, for me it was total 'gobbledy-gook'. I spent a year there as an AFS Exchange student and one of my aunts wrote to me and told me to "go and spend some time in Boston to learn to speak English again." When my husband and I travel we often ask people if they can guess from which country we come and they usually say Australia or New Zealand.

These differences in language, culture and way of life within every country have made us realise that one just cannot generalise about any group of people. This is why I think that we are so lucky to live in South Africa with all its diversity in peoples and geography. Within a couple of hours one can be in the mountains or at the sea or at a game reserve and similarly areas with different peoples can be met within a short drive. Our own city of Durban has a huge variety of people from different hereditary backgrounds – Zulu, English, Indian and many immigrants from all over Africa. This also means that we have annual parades and celebrations of varyious religions, cultures and heritages.

As I have said previously, I acknowledge that we have some very serious problems but I do believe that we are privileged to live in this beautiful country.