Dare to Wear Shorts
This is the most common greeting I’ve heard here in South Africa, short for “how is it?” It is said in passing to strangers, to friends, texted, scrawled on bathroom walls. Often it is followed by, what’s your name, where are you from, what year are you? And, much to my surprise, “Can I visit you at your residence?”
Call me crazy, but I’m not comfortable having someone whose name I barely know over to my room. But that’s just a cultural difference – while Americans enjoy and guard their privacy, South Africans are much more willing to open their homes to anyone. I’ve seen this in other situations as well; after only half an hour of talking to the manager of a local restaurant, she invited us to her home and was planning weekend trips for us, volunteering her son as our tour guide.
The boys/men here are also more forward than I’m used to. In my teaching placement at Sobantu Secondary School, where I teach 11th and 12th grade English, the boys are forever asking me to date them, repeating, “I’m available, pick me!” And even though I assured them I wasn’t available, in an effort to prevent more offers, one of my students approached me after class whispering, “You know, cheating isn’t a bad thing…”
Conversely, the girls are timid, nothing like us rowdy Americans who push for equality in all things. Here in South Africa it is not culturally acceptable for girls to:
-Drink beer (ESPECIALLY not straight from the bottle)
-Grill or barbeque
-Go to the gym
This is certainly eye-opening and often challenging for those of us who’ve grown up with abundant freedoms and equality between the sexes, but we do our best not to offend anyone. And when it comes down to it, it’ll only give us a new appreciation for the things we’re able to do in America, whether it be wearing shorts or drinking a beer from the bottle.