Wednesday, 12 November 2008

And the Queen said: "Ja boet, ek pis Cristal*"

You would think that as a white, English speaking South African, with British ancestors no less, I would find it easy to adapt to life in the UK. And for the most part it is easy. But there are some cultural differences that are larger than you think.

For instance. When I first arrived and worked on farms, English people informed me that I was posh. They said this like "posh" was a swear word. Well, in South Africa I was not posh. My family always struggled with money. For a white family.

But my English friends told me that only super posh people say "ja" over here. Only I think it should be spelt "yah" in accordance with English pronunciation.

I thought they were having a laugh. "Ja" is one of the few common denominators in South Africa. Surely every South African, regardless of race or language group has said "ja" at some point in their lives? And then there are the Germans, Belgians, Dutch, Nordic countries; and I think even Minnesotans in the US have a version of "ja". It's like saying the word "yeah" is posh.

So I ignored this piece of information. Until last week when I watched Skins. If you haven't seen it, Skins is a popular English drama series involving a bunch of cool kids. From this show and from my time here I have learned exactly how English culture works and I am going to break it down for you (treat this interpretation as... modern art or something, ie. vaguely based on a version of possible half-truths):

"Chavs" or "townies" wear sports gear and come from working class backgrounds, and own bull terriers or bull dogs (never make eye contact with either owner or dog), or other bullish animals, and say "innit" and despise "posh" people whose parents are upper middle class and often send their kids to private schools (but not neccesarily) and to uni to study banking. They hate "Chavs". Cool kids are middlish class; intelligent but troubled and edgy, and they despise both "chavs" and "posh" people.

Now. As I have learned from Skins. The people who say "yah" do not fit into any of these categories. The people who say "yah" are so very posh that they are despised by everyone. They are too posh to be just "posh". These people are descendents of lords and the landed gentry and stuff, like in Pride and Prejudice. These people have tea with the Queen, play polo, carry parasols, that sort of thing. And all of us common and garden Saffas speak like them. English people think we are like the despised ones.

So my advice to you if you ever come over to the UK and want to fit in is:

1) minimise your use of "ja".

2) If you find this hard, like me, do not ever admit to new friends that you had a pool back home, or even that you had a friend with a pool. This is like saying you dined with Prince Charles each Friday afternoon, wearing pantaloons, counting your dubloons and munching macaroons.

3)If you say "pants" for trousers, you WILL get laughed at. However, this is coming from a nation of people who call tracksuit pants "jogging bottoms".

Now just who should be laughing here?

(my artistic interpretation)

*And the Queen said, yes mate (real translation: brother), I pee Cristal.


po said...

Ooh I am the first commenter on my own blog. How cool am I.

Writing exam today again, have fun, be good, bottoms up!

Dash said...

You can work it out, if you really like.

Which side did you sit on, on the way to the UK?

Port Out, Starboard Home.

Maybe the tricky part is working out which is home?

Kitty Cat said...

Ja, good post! And I bet you shouldn't tell them we have maids here too!

MidniteGem said...

OMG I loved Skin - was so sad when it ended. Looks like they are starting a new one next year tho :)

I get teased for how I say No - apparently it sounds very posh.

Yeah the pants thing! It always catches me out. My first week here and BF and I were standing in a car hire place on the easter long weekend (read SERIOUSLY busy) Bf is trying to sneaky coin into my jean pocket.. so what to I say so everyone can hear - Ha ha you cant get it in cause my pants are too tight!!! - Talk about CRINGE

LadyFi said...

Spot on, old thing and jolly hockey sticks... Ja is posh.. you need to say innit? a lot more!

Pants in Britain are underwear. We wear trousers or track suits, although I would say that track suit bottoms is more common than jogging bottoms!

And please don't say fanny - that does not refer to one's bottom, but (as Dame Edna once said so delicately): to one's front bottom... So you can say bum bag but NOT fanny pack! Please....

Tamara said...

LOL at Ladyfi ;-)

The Brits are just plain weird, my dear. Come back to the sensible land where we call traffic lights robots, marijuana zol and sneakers are tekkies!

Being Brazen said...

Ya, we are all posh in England...heehee. I love it.

The british are funny with words...but the americans are funnier with words, i assure you

Dont you also dislike the ay brits will say "are you alright" but they really meaning to say " can I help you" - too funny

Being Brazen said...

My accents all twisted though - so i shouldnt laugh at anyone...I use american slang, south african words and I also say "bollocks"

I need to stop moving around. LOL

MidniteGem said...

ohhh i love useing the work Bollocks (cept the bf cant beleive that I can get a "w" sound in there somewhere) And the work wanker ! love them!

Arkwife said...

Jogging bottoms??? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!! *cough* I just choked on a cucumber sandwich!

Rox said...

So what do they think about 'eish' and 'sjoe' and 'bru' then?

I say ja all the time, probably so much that it loses it's meaning, lol.

po said...

hello mense I am back. Um ladyfi, dont worry, much of our Saffa speak is similar to English speak except for the pants thing. "fanny" means the same in SA as it does in UK.

Tamara:the "robots" thing is hilarious. G just can never remember to say "traffic light" and has sent off many a confused Brit with less idea of where to go than when they started!

Also no one understands me when I say forty. They hear thirty.

Rox: I am guessing if I used the word "bru" here they would think you were asking for a cup of tea!

Kitty cat: sheesh I would never say I had a maid. But actually we stopped having a maid after I was 12 so I don't need to fake it too badly.

Dash: Um? I am not sure? And good question, I don't have a clue which is home.

midnite gem: my saffa uncle once told an Irish girl her pants were on fire and she was so offended that he was talking about her underwear in public that she didnt notice that her trousers really were on fire!

being brazen: I know! and another confusing thing: they only say cheers for " thank you" but in SA I used it for "thank you" and "goodbye" and I just cant stop myself saying it when I am going, and I get such strange looks, like why am I thanking people as I leave? I will never grow out of that one!

arkwife: when I was first told that I laughed out loud.

(cyber) sass said...

oh po, thanks for one of the few smiles in my day. at another time i could give you an earful of american vs saffa english, but suffice to say americans have no idea what you're talking about when you ask for water - i'd always have to amend it to "wah-duh". and yeah, the fanny/fanny thing!

redsaid said...

Ja, we are posh and we know it, innit? :-P

On Sunday I had to explain to a whole bunch of my sister's South African friends what exactly chavs are!

po said...

cybersass: thanks! My saffa friend works at an american army base in germany and she said they couldnt understand her at all, not even when she said "last" I guess cos we say it like "larst".

Redsaid: honestly chavs are the most distinctive thing in the UK. It sounds mean and cliched but they are so easy to spot. I can't help it. They are a subspecies of their own. But they aren't bovvered, right?