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Are South African expats really that predictable? Is biltong and the Springboks all they talk about? At least one Englishman believes so ... Image: Wikimedia Commons

Home » ‘I’ve never met a nice South African’: Catchy tune or spot on?

‘I’ve never met a nice South African’: Catchy tune or spot on?

Are South African expats really that predictable? Is biltong and the Springboks all they talk about? At least one Englishman believes so …

06-03-24 11:25
south african expats in the uk
Are South African expats really that predictable? Is biltong and the Springboks all they talk about? At least one Englishman believes so ... Image: Wikimedia Commons

A tongue-in-cheek look at how you can spot a South African expat a mile away and why biltong and the Rugby World Cup will almost certainly come up in conversation …

For those old enough, you might recognise that headline, and I’m not sure if the TV show ever reached South Africa back in the 80’s, but let’s face it: you all live in Britain anyway, right … ?

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Few songs have sparked as much controversy and laughter as the satirical ditty “I’ve Never Met a Nice South African”.

This song, brought to life by the British television puppet show Spitting Image in the late 1980s, took comedic aim at the most serious of subjects: the apartheid era in South Africa.

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With its tongue firmly in cheek, the song parodied the international criticism of South Africa’s policies by exaggerating stereotypes of its white citizens.

The song’s lyrics are a rollicking list of outrageous claims, each more absurd than the last, poking fun at the perceived ignorance and insensitivity of some South Africans during apartheid.

It’s a masterclass in satire, using humour to highlight the absurdity and cruelty of racial segregation and discrimination.

The refrain, “I’ve never met a nice South African,” serves not only as a catchy hook but also as a pointed critique of the social and moral blindness that apartheid engendered.

For South African expats, this song can evoke a complex mix of emotions.

On one hand, it’s a reminder of a dark chapter in their nation’s history, a period many are keen to move beyond.

On the other, it’s an example of how humour and satire can be used to challenge injustice and promote change.

The song’s enduring popularity is a testament to its cleverness and the universality of its message: that prejudice and bigotry, wherever they occur, are deserving of ridicule and opposition.

In discussions about South African culture, especially among those with a keen sense of history or a penchant for the eclectic, “I’ve Never Met a Nice South African” might crop up as a curious footnote.

It’s a song that, despite its specific context, speaks to the broader power of satire in social commentary.

For the South African expat community, it’s a piece of pop culture that reflects not only where they’ve come from but also the strides they’ve made in creating a more inclusive and understanding world.

While the song’s lyrics are undoubtedly provocative, they serve as a reminder of the role that art and humour play in confronting and dissecting societal issues.

For South Africans, it’s a nod to their ability to embrace the transformative power of laughter and to acknowledge their past while looking forward to a brighter, more inclusive future.

So, while “I’ve Never Met a Nice South African” may start as a jibe, it ultimately underscores the resilience and warmth of the South African spirit, even in the face of critique.

It seems every South African expat attended the same charm school – one that majors in sports trivia and minors in meat snacks.

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek exploration of why you can spot a South African expat from a mile away and why their favourite topics might just be a bit too familiar.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain isn’t just a mountain; according to South African expats, it’s their Everest, a natural wonder that eclipses all others with its breath-taking beauty and majestic presence. And, oh, how they love to remind us of its splendour, often with a dreamy look in their eyes and a heartfelt “ya ya” for emphasis.

Perched above Cape Town, Table Mountain is more than just a scenic backdrop; it’s a symbol of home, a source of pride, and a natural monument that captures the essence of the South African landscape. The comparison to Everest isn’t about height or the challenge of scaling it (after all, there’s a cable car for that), but rather about its iconic status and the awe it inspires in both locals and visitors alike.

For South Africans living abroad, Table Mountain becomes a metaphor for the beauty of their homeland – a beauty they’re eager to share with anyone who’ll listen (and even those who won’t).

“Have you ever seen the sunset from the top? It’s life-changing, ya ya,” they’ll tell you.

The Incessant Sports Banter

Let’s talk about the Rugby World Cup, shall we? No, really, because if you’ve met a South African expat, you’re going to talk about it.

The Springboks clinched the Webb Ellis Cup for the fourth time in 2023, an achievement that, while impressive, has become the bread and butter of every South African expat’s conversation starter kit.

If you had a rand for every time a South African expat mentioned their rugby prowess, you’d be as rich as Elon Musk!

And let’s not forget the ever-present shadow of Francois Pienaar, revered almost as a demigod. Yes, we’ve all seen the iconic image of Pienaar with Nelson Mandela. It’s a historic moment, no doubt, but the constant references make you wonder if every South African expat was personally present at that game, perhaps hidden just out of frame in the famous photograph.

The British and Irish Lions Saga

Of course, there’s a selective memory at play here. You seldom hear about the times the Springboks didn’t come out on top, like the 1997 British and Irish Lions tour. Mention this, and watch the nostalgia fade into a sudden interest in the weather or an urgent need to refill their drink.

Cricket, Cricket, and More Cricket

Rugby isn’t the only sport on the menu. Cricket, that other cornerstone of South African pride, is also a common topic. Whether it’s reminiscing about epic matches or lamenting the current state of affairs, a conversation with a South African expat inevitably circles back to the cricket pitch. This, of course, is interspersed with a healthy dose of competitive banter about how their cricket team is faring compared to others – especially Australia and England.

The Biltong Obsession

Moving away from sports (finally), there’s the culinary pride: biltong. This dried, cured meat is a staple in the South African diet, and expats seem to think it’s a universal taste. They’re always somewhat surprised – and a tad offended – when someone wrinkles their nose at it. The conversation often goes like this: “You haven’t tried biltong? But it’s like jerky, only better!” followed by an impassioned sales pitch about its merits.

The “Ya Ya Ya” Syndrome

Lastly, there’s the linguistic quirk – the repetitive “ya, ya, ya,” which is the auditory equivalent of a bobblehead nod. It’s an affirmation, a sign of agreement, an exclamation, and sometimes, just a filler sound. It’s versatile, infectious, and quintessentially South African.

In Conclusion

So, there you have it – a light-hearted jab at the quirks of South African expats. Of course, it’s all in good fun. After all, every culture has its idiosyncrasies, and these are just some of the charming (or maddening, depending on your perspective) traits that make South Africans unique. Whether it’s sports, food, or language, there’s always something distinctly South African to talk about. Just remember, if you ever find yourself in a conversation with a South African expat, brace yourself for a trip down rugby lane, a biltong taste test, and a chorus of “ya, ya, yas”!


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