8 Words That Mean Something Different in South Africa


Here's a quick list of my favorite words that I've learned which can mean very differently in South Africa than in America:

In America: A piece of cloth or paper used to wipe the mouth or fingers at mealtimes
In South Africa: What babies or children who have not yet been potty trained wear. This one could get very awkward to get mixed up. Like so...

Just now:
In America: Something that will be happening immediately.
In South Africa: Something that will be happening soon but with no sense of urgency. It could mean 5 minutes from now or 2 hours from now.  If you take this phrase too seriously you might end up waiting a long time. It can also refer to something that has happened recently in the past.

In America: An automatic mechanical device often resembling a human or animal
In South Africa: Can also mean this but most often refers to a traffic light.

In America: A coffee shop
In South Africa: A convenience store, such as the stores at gas stations.

In America: Thin slices of potato that have been deep fried or baked until crunchy
In South Africa: Can also refer to this but can also mean French Fries

Cool Drink/Cold Drink:
In America: A drink which has been placed in the refrigerator or cooler and is now of cold temperature
In South Africa: A fizzy drink, but it is not necessarily cold.

In America: Fruit spread or preserves
In South Africa: A gelatin dessert

In America: An emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace
In South Africa: An exclamation denoting sympathy

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  1. calling traffic lights Robots really blew my mind at first!