8 useful words you’ll need in South Africa

South Africa is a mix of cultures and there are eleven different official languages in the country so it’s no wonder that they have a lot of words and expressions that can be hard to understand for foreigns. If you’re heading there soon, maybe this is useful for you!


I am sure that you won’t spend more than two days in South Africa without hearing this word. Braai is an Afrikaans word that means barbacue. In a country where the weather is mostly sunny and hot and with the great meats and wines they have, how can someone doubt that barbacueing is a national thing?


In most countries of the world this word means the same “a machine that can do work by itself”. In South Africa, beside of this meaning, it also refers to traffic lights. Why? Aparently, when people started using cars, the police controlled traffic with hand signs. As the time went by and the number of cars increased, these police officers where replaced for traffic lights, robots that did the job of humans.


Like many other words in South Africa, this one comes from Afrikaans. Essentially means “delicious” but it can be used for almost anything: good, great, fine, OK, enjoyable, relaxing… It a works-in-every-case word!


Again an Afrikaans word. This one is a kind of dry and salty meat that you usually eat as apetizer. If you don’t know what to buy as souvenir from South Africa, this is a great option.


When you go to a different place, maybe the first thing to do is trying the typical food. Bobotie could be one of the dishes you should try in South Africa, it’s an example of the malay cuisine of the Cape. It’s a meat dish, very spice and with a savoury custard topping.


In British and American English the meaning of this word is always negative, but in South Africa can be used to express suprise or even joy. If you use it combine with “ag”, nobody will notice that you’re not South African.

Just now

One could think that this expression is very understandable but not in South Africa. When someone says “just now” is not strictly saying that is happening now or just happened. This time expression can refer to yesterday, tomorrow or in a few minutes. Time travels in a different speed in South Africa.


This word comes from Xhosa, one of the eleven official languages in South Africa. You can use it to express surprise, regret or annoyance.

Did you hear any of these word when you were in South Africa? Do you know any other words? Comment and share!


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