Local is Lekker, or something like it: Your guide to South Africa’s amazing colloquialisms

South Africa is a melting pot of people and cultures- and that shows in her languages. ‘South Africanisms’ abound, the result of picking and choosing the very best slang from among the host of languages that call this corner of the continent home. Here’s your handy one-stop guide to the best South Africanisms around- and how to use them like a local, thanks to your team at Go Touch Down Travel and Tours.

Talking from the heart

There’s no place like South Africa for a host of slang that imparts just the right emotional tone to the conversation. Master the subtleties of the ultimate filler word- there’s the irritated ‘ag’ [said as aghh] and the resigned ‘ag’– and you’re well on the way there. Toss in a hefty dose of ‘lekker’ to show your appreciation for everything from delicious food to good company. Add another hefty dose of ‘eish’, a Xhosa-derived exclamation covering everything from regret and exasperation to surprise. Don’t forget ‘shame’, either…used in this case for admiration or sympathy. In fact, ‘ag shame’ makes a perfect way to express your empathy with a sticky situation! ‘Sharp’, or ‘sharp sharp’ means either goodbye or that everything’s fine and agreed on. Don’t be floored by ‘is it’ either! It’s just another [better] way to say an incredulous ‘really’. Round off the collection with ‘kief’ [pronounced ‘kif’] as an expression of something being cool, great, neat or awesome, and you’ve got a good toolbox to get by. Take it to another level with ‘sho’t left’, a phrase for ‘close by’ or ‘right here’ that evolved from local taxi lingo, when commuters only wanted a short hop around the corner.

Having a good time

South African’s party hard. Expect to pick up at least one braai invitation while you’re here. You may think this is a mere outdoor bbq, but believe us, it’s so much more. This is the country’s most popular social event and even earned itself a national celebration [as National Braai Day] alongside Heritage Day on September the 24th each year. Plus, we guarantee you it’s better than a barbeque any day! Don’t forget to skinner [gossip] around the braai too, but be nice! Someone will eventually poor you a dop, slang for an alcoholic drink [or just possibly, for failing an exam].

Any party, gathering or fun social event can earn the title of ‘jol’, as long as great fun was had. Don’t forget to stop by the shebeen either. Originally the unlicensed bars that sprung up throughout the ‘townships’ during the apartheid years, this critical component of the culture of black South Africans has become a mainstream institution. An ‘indaba’ is a little more serious of an event, however- think a conference, expo or roundtable instead.

Eat the culture

If you’re in the mood for something quick, slap chips are bound to make the menu- deep-fried potato chips which are oilier, soggier and larger than fries, that go perfectly with seafood, tomato sauce or a dose of tasty spices.  Biltong is a snack of cured and salted meat, similar to jerky but with some extra pep. Boerewors is a traditional herbed and spiced beef sausage that makes an appearance at every braai. Pap, a fine porridge or meal made from maize [corn] is a staple in the diet of every South African, and traditional morogo takes creamed spinach to dizzy new heights.

With these handy phrases under your belt, you’ll have a good grounding in local slang and how to have fun. Just don’t get tripped up by the common phrase ‘just now’ or ‘now now’. While it may sound like the speaker’s about to leap immediately to the task, it actually means they’ll get to it later! Adjust your expectations accordingly.

With Go Touch Down Travel and Tours help, you’ll be feeling like a native in no time- and partying like one too!