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South Africa

Big cities, beautiful beaches, wild safaris- South Africa offers it all. The most modern, technologically advanced country within Africa, South Africa’s temperate climate, unbeatable vistas and culture attract hundreds each year.

South Africa is located at the southern tip of continental Africa, spans 1.2 million square kilometers, and is comprised of nine provinces. Cape Town is the legislative capital of the country. South Africa is large, and therefore its climate varies according to location, from a Mediterranean to a semi desert climate, to a subtropical climate. Snow is relegated to the highest points of the country, and is pretty rare.

South Africa is a country rich in diversity, with over 11 official languages. English is the official language of the cities, and you will find that road signs and official documents are offered in English. Language is never an impediment at popular tourist spots or at hotels.

The population of South Africa is around 50.0 million, and Christianity is the major religion. South Africa boasts the continent’s largest economy, and generates 2/3rd of the continent’s electricity. The largest South African Industry is mining; over half of the world’s platinum and at least 10% of the world’s gold is excavated here. Mining has suffered a decline in recent years, and the country is searching for a new industry that will push them ahead into the new century.

Urban culture varies greatly from rural culture. Rural communities tend to cling to their pasts, and remain ingrained within the traditions of their heritage. Urban dwellers are much more likely to be influenced by popular culture, are driven by industry, and regard themselves are more sophisticated than their rural neighbors. Because South Africa is so diverse, etiquette and culture vary according to ethnic group. The population is comprised of eight Bantu-speaking groups, including: white Afrikaners descended the Netherlands and France, and Germany, descendants of British colonists who speak English, a mixed-race demographic that speaks English of Afrikaans, and an Indian demographic that speaks Tamil or Urdu. Small indigenous populations live in the far northwest. Identifying a common language does not necessarily identify an ethnic grouping. For instance, the largest language group is Zulu, but it is compromised of black Africans, whites, Coloureds (or mixed-race), and Indians.

South Africa is still a male-dominated culture, though this is slowly changing. Women are now accepted in business, but are still mostly found within the home, raising children. Women are often treated as second-class citizens in smaller, rural communities, though foreign women are treated with a great deal more respect.

In South Africa, a greater emphasis is put on the tribe, or extended family, than the traditional nuclear family unit. Divorce rate is high- 50%- in South Africa, and the most common living arrangement is cohabitation by unmarried couples.

South Africans are by nature hospitable and tend to avoid unpleasant social conflicts. They are well-mannered, helpful, and will greet foreigners with a handshake while maintaining polite eye contact. Like anywhere, city dwellers that live a fast-paced life can come across as curt; however, rudeness is looked down upon even in South Africa’s urban culture.

Urban and rural dwellers fall into various social categories according to their age, gender, and bloodline. Those who are older, are first-born, male, and have high political positions are ranked as more important in rural communities. In the city, social class is clearly marked by a person’s living arrangements, clothes, and company. South African children are expected to always defer to their elders.

South African apartheid, or legal racial segregation, was in effect between 1948 and 1994 in South Africa. The country was run by a minority-ruled non-white inhabitants. Residential areas, medical services, education, and other public services were all segregated, with non-white receiving inferior service. Apartheid came to an official end when Nelson Mandela was elected in 1994; however, South Africa is still recovering from its segregated past.

South Africa celebrates a number of secular holidays, more than even religious holidays. Reconciliation Day, a remembrance of the Afrikaan victory in the Battle of Blood River, is celebrated on December 16. Human Rights Day, Youth Day, and Women’s Day are other major celebrations.

South African food generally centers around meat; South Africans love to barbecue. Barbecued sausages, bobotie (similar to shepherd’s pie), and biltong (dry, salted meat) are also South African staples. Brave travelers might try crocodile, sheep heads, fried caterpillars, or warthog. Of course, there are restaurants that serve Thai, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, French, and more.

Sports are a large part of South African culture. The three big sports are football (soccer), rugby, and cricket. Football is the most popular, and South Africa’s national team is closely followed. Local teams abound, and fans come dressed in full regalia, including face paint, whistling and cheering in support of their favorite team. Golf is also extremely popular, and sports like basketball and rugby are gaining fans.

South Africans, regardless of background, have one thing in common: they are infinitely proud of the beauty of their country. After the end of apartheid, the South African tourism industry has boomed. Visitors from all over the world come to experience South Africa’s varied wildlife (including the “big five”: rhinoes, buffalo, lions, leopards, and elephants), visit famed archaeological sites, embark on adventures such as surfing, mountain climbing, mountain biking, hunting, and rifter rafting, or just lounging one of many breathaking beaches. Tourists should expect to receive first-class service, and be shown a wonderful time down in the very bottom of beautiful Africa.

South Africa - Highlights