Heritage Day South Africa – 24th September 2015

by isvolunteers on Wednesday, 23 September 2015


The 24th September is Heritage Day, where South Africans celebrate the diversity of their country, beliefs and traditions. (c) ISV

Do you know what ‘boerewors’, ‘bunny chow’ and ‘koeksisters’ are? Have you ever heard of ‘umqombothi’ or know what a ‘smiley’ is? Have you ever heard someone say ‘yoh boet, today is a lekker day for a braai’ or ‘AWEH’? This is a taste of South Africa, its local food, language and culture, and today, the 24th September, is Heritage Day – and ISV’s South Africa Project Manager, Jaclyn Stephenson, shares her home country’s diverse beliefs and traditions to celebrate! 

With its 11 official languages, different and colorful cultures and varied landscapes, South Africa has much to celebrate. Every year we take time out of our busy schedules to remind ourselves of why we love South Africa, remember our differences and similarities, and how we are brought together by our beautiful food, language, beverages and of course the UBUNTU that we share.

In the spirit of Heritage Day and ‘Ubuntu’, we want to teach you how to be proudly South African by learning a few words and phrases, so that when you come and visit our country, you know what to say, what to eat and how to fit in with ease!!


“Heritage Day is a time to remember our differences and similarities, and how we are brought together by our beautiful food, language and beverages.” (c) ISV

Speak like a South African:

To translate the above:

‘Boerewors’ – Directly translated from Afrikaans, meaning; farmers sausage. It is usually beef, but you can also buy Ostrich boerewors and other meats. Prepared with special spices and herbs. It is usually Braai’ed (open flame BBQ) and can be made into a ‘boerie roll’.

‘Bunny Chow’ – Often referred to as a bunny, is a South African fast food dish consisting of a hollowed out loaf of bread filled with curry. It originated in the Durban Indian community. Bunny chow is also called a kota (“quarter”) in many parts of South Africa.

‘Koeksisters’- Come in two forms and are a sweet delicacy. Afrikaans koeksisters are twisted pastries, deep-fried and heavily sweetened syrup. Koeksisters found on the Cape Flats are sweet and spicy, shaped like large eggs, and deep-fried.

‘Umqombothi’ – A type of local beer made from fermented maize and sorghum. It is very rich in Vitamin B. The beer has a rather low alcohol content (usually less than 3%) and is known to have a heavy and distinctly sour aroma.

‘Smiley’ – Sheep’s head – name comes from how the lips curl when being cooked. A popular dish in the IsiXhosa culture sold on street corners and taxi ranks.

‘Ubuntu’ “We are who we are, because of other people” – Nguni Bantu term.


ISV volunteers trying ‘Rainbow Cuisine’ – a term that defines the eclectic food styles of South Africa. (c) ISV

The essence of being human – Ubuntu – gumboot dance speaks predominantly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality, UBUNTU, you are known for your generosity

Try out some South African jargon phrases: 

Yoh boet, today is a lekker day for a braai’ = Wow dude, today is a GREAT/NICE day for a BBQ

 ‘Turn right at the robot and then you will be at the jol’ =Turn right at the traffic light and then you will be at the party.

‘Come to my house for a poitjie. Can you bring a few mielies and some chutney please?’ = Come to my house for a stew cooked in a cauldron pot over an open fire. Can you bring a few corncobs and a sweet sauce made from fruit for the meat

‘I can’t do anything right now I am so babelaas, I will do it just now’ = I cant do anything right now I am so hungover, I will do it in 15 minutes, or later or never (a loose term for time). 

Now you are PROUDLY SOUTH AFRICAN! Happy Heritage Day!!

To learn more about ISV, our responsible travel principles and volunteer projects please visit our website at www.isvolunteers.org.


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