South Africa is culturally, economically and racially diverse, and this is probably the thing to be most prepared for when you move here. Safety is a hot topic where this country is concerned, and it’s not advisable to walk alone in quieter, unlit parts of any town or village. Keep your car doors locked whilst driving, and – unsympathetic though it may sound – resist stopping to assist broken down cars or roadside causalities. Too often these are planned ambushes.


South Africans may speak Zulu and Afrikaans depending on where you are in the country, but the national language is English. Here’s a quick lesson in honing your South African tongue. These all come from the rich melting-pot that is the South African language. Slang is made up of influences from Afrikaans and Xhosa, as well as some Portuguese, Lebanese, Jewish, Indian and Zulu to name a few.

Lekker is a general term of approval, and means ‘great’ or ‘lovely’. So, man that braii was lekker means ‘golly that was a delicious barbecue.’ Boss is another term of approval: ‘that car is boss.’

Howzit is your standard casual term of address. Like ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘hey’.

Buck, like the American slang, refers to South African currency, the rand.

Just now actually means ‘later.’ So it’s not to be taken too literally. So I’ll call grandma just now actually means it’ll happen at some point, probably at some point today.

As well, with the stress on the word ‘as,’ means ‘me too.’

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Time zone

Believe it or not, South Africa is only two hours ahead of GMT, so fly overnight and you’ll arrive fresh as a daisy with no jet lag to speak of. Don’t believe us? Grab an atlas. It might be a twelve hour flight to Johannesburg but it’s practically straight down all the way. Good news for arranging those Skype-dates with friends and family, and doing business with the UK.

Boerewors, braais and biltong

The typical South African diet is meaty, and if you don’t like biltong now you’d be best advised to get used to this salted, dried meat snack. A braaiis a barbecue, and if you think men are territorial over BBQ duties in the UK, you’ve seen nothing until you go to your first South African braai. Boerewors is a rich tasting curly wurly sausage – quite herby tasting.


A couple of things might surprise you a little about eating out in SA. First of all, waiters and waitresses are known as ‘waitrons’, which is a unisex term. Secondly, waitrons will clear plates away from the table before everyone has necessarily finished eating. This always raises an eyebrow amongst Brits at first, but it’s a practicality thing and you’ll soon get used to it.

Petrol stations

As in lots of other countries (but not in the UK), petrol stations are manned by pump attendants who do the filling for you, and take your payment. Often they’ll also clean your windscreen and check your oil and water levels as part of the service, so make it clear if you don’t want this done, or offer a small tip when you pay. R2-5 is fine.


The blood alcohol limit for prosecuting a drink driver is just 0.02% in South Africa, a quarter of the UK limit. So no grey areas and no ‘small beer with your meal.’ You touch alcohol and you’re over the limit, so steer well clear if you’ve got to drive.