The Fate Of A South-African Abroad..

10 Sep

Just because I’m bored and my shift isn’t over: a few interesting questions I’ve been asked about the country where I was born and spent most of my childhood. All comments below are made by Dutchmen.

The most stubborn and most annoying one:
When did you move to South-Africa then?
I did not. Well, unless moving from my mother’s uterus into the world counts?
But your parents are Dutch, right?
No. My parents are South-African.
Your grandparents?
No. 3 out of 4 grandparents are South-African born and raised, one came all the way from Scandinavia.
(Very puzzled by now): But… you’re white!
I’ve noticed, yes.  (I do NOT understand this automatic assumption that the colour of my skin makes me Dutch. Last time I checked I’m very much black on paper, actually… with my formal descent being from ‘Africa below the Sahara’…)

The most baffling one, I was young at the time:
So, you’re from South-Africa? Did you turn white on the plane?
Yes. Of course…

They speak Dutch in South-Africa?
No, they don’t.
But, there’s this language that’s like old kitchen Dutch?
You wouldn’t understand it if I spoke it to you.

Can you speak African for me?

South-African is such a funny little language!
I’m assuming you’re referring to the language internationally known as Afrikaans, but this comment deserves a punch in the face as it’s offensive.
But it IS a funny little language to Dutch people… how is that offensive?
Look, we laugh at Dutch. Get it?

Isn’t Johannesburg dangerous with all the lions and hyenas in the streets?
Hey, now there’s a brilliant idea to solve some of Jo’burg’s safety issues!

So, where do you like it best?
This is a non-question. The answer must be Holland, else they’re offended. The truth? I’d be out of here in a heartbeat if I could do my job in SA… and if it weren’t for the ‘lions’. Actually, I’ve had a complete emigration planned twice. Turns out you need money to move these days.

The filthiest:
I’ve been in South-Africa for two weeks and I know [insert random obnoxious and short sighted opinion about Apartheid, Afrikaners, South-African current affairs]
There is no response to this. This person is too self-impressed to even listen to me, or to realise that they’re basically being offensive.

The what-the-hell
‘All Afrikaners are racists’.
This was in secondary school, I overheard this. I looked around, perplexed, at my group of friends: one from the Middle East, one from Congo, one from China and two from Bosnia. None from Holland, they preferred to hang with fellow Dutchmen. (My school also placed almost all the foreign kids in the same class as all the kids with ‘problems’. How am I the one discriminating?)

South-Africa isn’t really Africa!
Where in South-Africa have you been?
Cape Town.
I rest my case.

We Dutch are so tolerant and hospitable!
Yes, that’s exactly my experience. Except that we hold different definitions to ‘tolerant’ and ‘hospitable’. I needed a university degree to get past the ‘stupid’ label that comes with an accent (usually this other person speaks no other language than Dutch). Other opinions than the ‘standard’opinion are met with a frown and dismissal, not with open conversation. And there is only one country in this world where guests are offered a single biscuit after which the tin is closed and put away. In terms of welcoming foreigners: I figured out everything I needed to know to move to the UK, including wether or not I could take my pet rats with me.  After 10 years in Holland I still couldn’t figure out how and if I could stay, as it turns out I was illegal because I had been given a wrong residence permit. I spent more time holding the line than I did doing the entire research about the UK.


Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Random, Rant, society


Tags: , ,

2 responses to “The Fate Of A South-African Abroad..

  1. moleculefest

    September 10, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    What you hear a lot over here is the classic “I’m not racist, but…” I don’t know about the rest of Canada, but in Quebec, you hear it a lot. The french-canadian like to pride themselves on their openness to other cultures and to differences, but dig a little deeper and they can be a tad xenophobic sometimes. There’s variations to the “I’m not racist, but”. You have the delicious: “I’m not homophobic, but…” or the “I’m not sexist, but…”

    I’m sorry to hear (read) you have to go through discrimination. That sucks.

    • busydarling

      September 12, 2013 at 6:16 am

      Oh, that too! I’m not… But… LOL.


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