What it means (to me) to be South African

South Africa. It’s a part of you.

Hoo boy, this topic is a toughie. I dithered and contemplated. Internally debated and outwardly frowned. How do you sum up something that’s part of your heart and your heartbreak? I figured a list would work. And I stopped when I got to 20 items.

Happy Heritage Day, South Africans.

To me, being South African means…

  1. Cursing the Sandton traffic and praising the neon sunset, in the same breath
  2. Having no interest in any sport, unless one of our national teams is playing
  3. Outdoor washing lines
  4. Admiring my nation, while disparaging my government
  5. Drinking Joburg water
  6. A constitution that safeguards the rights of same-sex couples to marry and parent
  7. Teaching my child to speak Zulu and English
  8. Generously tipping petrol attendants, waiters, car guards and those whose struggles we can’t imagine
  9. Loving the bush as passionately as dung beetles love… well, dung
  10. Being inordinately proud of the Gautrain
  11. Dreaming of a better public education system, a better public healthcare system, better roads, better police and better infrastructure
  12. Having a second family living alongside us, that loves and looks after my child while making our home life cleaner, safer, easier and better
  13. Moaning about load shedding and e-tolling, until I’m conversing with a formerly South African Australian. At which point, South Africa becomes paradise.
  14. Loving, with equal intensity, the music of Kurt Darren and Judith Sephuma
  15. Raising a child who defines people’s colour by ‘pink’, beige’, ‘dark beige’, ‘light brown’ and ‘dark brown’ – not by White, Black, Indian, Asian or Coloured
  16. Making jokes about sensitive issues, when it’s far too soon to be appropriate
  17. Drinking red wine; eating red meat; gossiping about white shirts and red berets
  18. Using Afrikaans to keep secrets from small children and large Americans
  19. Taking a personal stand against bribing traffic cops and civil servants
  20. Having public holidays, Jewish holidays and ultra-long December holidays


*This post originally appeared on jozikids.co.za for Heritage Day 2015.