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.