SA Expressions Other Countries Don’t Understand

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South Africa has always been a place of intrigue for people from other countries. Our country is admired for all the whimsical and sometimes baffling things we do differently to others. 

For example, the way we tend to name everyday items something completely different to the norm, even when it has a name already! This is a fun read for all, South Africans and foreigners. For South Africans that want to experience the culture in other countries compare affordable flights with The Panda, he can help you out!compare flights with moneypanda

1. SHOT – A word South Africans use to say “Thank You”

The word shot in every other country means either

south african expressions


2. CHERRY - A word used to call someone’s “girlfriend – “this is my Cherry”

To the rest of the world, cherries are toppings for desserts.

south african expression of cherry

3. JA – NEE: two words known as “Yes – Ya” and “no – nee” two words that have completely opposite meanings.

Yet in South Africa, they are put together and form a word that is used in agreement when someone says something. E.g.: “are you going to braai today?” “Ya-nee, ons gaan later braai.” Meaning, “Yes, they are braaing later.”

ja nee moneypanda


4. NOW-NOW - in South Africa this means something between a few minutes from that time to very much later. You never really know!


South african time moneypanda

5. STREET VULTURE – term used to describe tow trucks in South Africa, or SEAGULLS

SA expressions moneypanda


South Africans have been known to be very expressive and creative with their language and phrases. There are so many different words that have become “comfort food” to locals. Stringing a sentence together can often just not get the point across when not using these colourful words.

6. DUMMY – a word used to often describe a person with less perceived knowledge than others or life sized human replicas used to test car safety, yet in south Africa it is a word used to describe what others would call a “pacifier”


Sa expressions moneypanda

7. FRIKKEDAL- a South African word for “meatball”. Often served with mashed potatoes and tomato stew.

8. WITBLITZ / MAMPOER- a very potent form of alcohol made with peaches and other fruits. This form of alcohol is very similar to what Americans call “moonshine”.

mampoer south africa

9. LAATLAMMETJIE– A word South Africans coined describing a child born, often by accident, to parents often older than usual, giving a large age gap between the siblings.

SA expressions moneypanda

10. NAARTJIE – ever heard of a tangerine? Yeah, well, it’s the same thing! Potatoe – potato. South Africans call it naartjie. Pronounced [Nah – Chee].

SA Expressions tangerine MoneyPanda

11. PAVEMENT – this one can get very confusing for foreigners! Pavements are sidewalks in South Africa not roads.

South african expressions Moneypanda

12. SCALE / SCALY: In South Africa the word “scale” means to steal something. On the other hand, “scaly” in other countries is used to describe the bodily exterior of a reptile or fish. In South Africa it means an untrustworthy or “dodgy” person.

South african expressions scaly

South Africa is a wonderful and expressive place with a unique culture. To all foreigners from all South Africans, this is a place you have to see for yourself because the "gees" we have here is unlike any other country. Don't miss out on all the flight specials on MoneyPanda, compare flights with The Panda TODAY!Compare flights moneypanda

Want to know how dangerous South African roads are compared to the rest of the world? Read our article: SA Roads Vs The Rest Of The World:Read more button MoneyPanda

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    • Bilkees Osman Bray


      Or Frikkies, i think the spelling of a made up word is probably subjective.

      • June Edwards


        “Frikkadel” is actually in an Oxford dictionary. Not made up, originally from French “fricadelle”

  1. Jim Stockley


    UK calls a sidewalk ‘pavement’ and calls a road “a road” (surprising I know)

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