South Africa is no where near Australia

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A few days ago, I saw a funny video clip on YouTube. It was from an Australian TV program where Americans were asked to point to countries on a map. Needless to say, many got it wrong, so so wrong. But Americans should not be alarmed, they are not alone in this world – the one outside these borders!

When we lived in England, the English were fascinated by my accent and that of my husband and daughter. Both Hubby and I are from South Africa but he is from an Afrikaans speaking family (in language only, trust me) and I am from an English speaking family. Our eldest daughter can speak and understand both. There were three different accents in the same family. My daughter and I were in the Disney store in Oxford when the store assistant asked me where I was from. I told her, not expecting much response – you see at any given time there are over 1 million South Africans in the UK, so I was not a rarity. However, she asked me if South Africa was part of Australia! Say what? I told her ‘No’ and she proceeded to ask on what continent my country was. When I told her Africa, she said that she thought Africa was a country on its own. You know, as much as what I wanted to sit down with this girl on the Mickey Mouse emblazoned carpet in the store and teach her a crash course in World Geography, I had other places to be; I politely smiled and left.

Just after we moved here, I went to a local Starbucks and ordered the usual. The very polite gentleman behind the counter, asked my name for the cup and then asked me where I came from. I answered. “Wow, that is far away. I love your French accent.” My what? I have never been able to speak French in my life despite the desire to. Now, they do speak French in Africa but the continent is the second largest in the world measuring a whopping 30,065 000 square kilometers! At the last estimation over 2000 languages are spoken and South Africa alone has 11 official languages and French is not one of them. I smiled politely as I received my coffee and left with Au Revoir as my choice of greeting – cruel maybe, but hey for at least 10 minutes I was French (just don’t tell my friends in England!).

Whilst in a store the other day, paying for something, another customer turned to me and asked: “What part of Australia are you from?” So yes, it was assumed I was Australian again and when I said where I was really from, there was surprise from the blond. “I could swear you were Australian.” she said with her Aussie accent shining through quite strongly. I was thought of as Australian by an Aussie! How in heavens name does that happen?

So yesterday I was in Starbucks again after my daughter’s eye appointment and ordering a tall cinnamon dolce latte and a tall strawberries ‘n cream frappachino became an exhaustive 15 minute nightmare. The dude behind the cash register did not understand ONE SINGLE WORD. I think he was still under the influence from the night before or severely hungover.He looked tired and while I overlooked the first blunder of adding extra whip to a drink where no whip was requested, the blurting of “I have no idea what you are saying” was the last reaction I expected to my request of “One cinnamon twist, please.” Eventually, against the background giggles of the two barristas, he finally got the order slightly correct but by that stage I would be happy to have walked out with a dry slice of bread and two cups of water – just set me free.

Accents are a funny thing and currently in our house we have a buffet of them. Hubby and I are still South African, our eldest is 70% British and 30% American and our youngest is 100% American. It makes for an interesting dinner conversation and word interpretation.

So while Americans (and one Australian) think I am Australian or French or British, I am truly South African and proudly so. And one day, somebody might just recognise the accent and surprise me with knowing that Africa is a continent, South Africa is a country and despite the alphabetical listing, is no where near Australia.

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~ by ski holidays on March 17, 2008.

3 Responses to “South Africa is no where near Australia”

  1. You should make up a country and tell them you are from there…at least have some fun.

    I was an excellent student in school (graduated in 1989) but if it were not for the “retirement” of Botha and the changes that followed, I am not sure when I would have become aware of any of South Africa. History is taught very differently in this country…and I guess poorly. We homeschool our children.

  2. This was highly entertaining! I would guess you sound lovely, no matter where people mistakenly believe your accent originated:) I, too, homeschool my daughter, like the above commenter. We live in New Jersey, but I am originally from Illinois. I worked very hard to lose the midwestern accent because people on the west coast, where I lived for a short time, believed I was from the south. Midwesterners tend to have quite a twang.

  3. Thanks for your comments. I am thinking of inventing a country but knowing my experiences, some one is bound to know where the fictional one is before the real one! Any suggestions of names would be welcome!

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