South Africa: Frequently Asked Questions

One way for South Africans to invite questions while living abroad is to tell people where they are from. There are numerous misconceptions about the country and continent I grew up in. Here are a few of the more frequently asked questions I have been hit with while carrying out daily errands.

“If you’re from South Africa, why are you white?”

This sounds like a line from “Mean Girls” but after I tell people that I’m South African, this is often their first response.  (While the line is funny in the movie, it isn’t that entertaining in real life.) South Africa has been dubbed the rainbow nation, not because of its colourful politicians, but because it is home to people of many ethnicities.

“Why can’t you speak Swahili? Is that used in a different part of the island?”

South Africa has eleven official languages but Swahili isn’t one of them. Swahili is an official language of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo but is spoken in a number of other African countries, including Mozambique, Mauritius, Oman, Seychelles and Somalia.

As for South Africa being an island, it isn’t, and neither is Africa. If Africa is an island, then so is North America.

“Is South Africa is still using the Rand, or have you switched over to the Euro?”

When considering South Africa’s history, the question makes some sense (not much, but some).  South Africa was a British colony which used the British Pound. In 1961, it left the commonwealth and the Rand was introduced. But even if South Africa was still a British colony, it would not be using the Euro; it would be using the Pound.

As far as I know, South Africa will not be joining the Euro-zone, probably because South Africa is not in Europe. It is, as the country’s name implies, the southern-most country in Africa. If you’re unsure where Africa is, have a gander at a world map. It’s the second-biggest continent. That’s right – it’s bigger than North America. Not that size matters, but the fact that Africa is larger than North America is worth repeating, I think.

“South Africa… that’s near Brazil, right?”

Many seem to use South Africa, Brazil, South America and Australia interchangeably.

When you apply logic, there is really no reason to confuse these. South Africa is s over 7,700 km (or over 4,800 miles) away from Brazi, (which is in South America), and over 10,000 km (or over 6,900 miles) away from Australia.  Mistaking South Africa for Brazil is like mixing up Canada and China.

A wise high-school teacher once said, “The only stupid question is the question not asked.” While this is true, there are certain questions that would be less offensive if addressed to Yahoo Answers. Especially questions regarding race.



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