The Cast of Culture in South Africa
by: Gregory Hudson
Drive along one of South Africa's scenic strips and you will notice a landscape composed of a backdrop of wide open spaces, blue mountains and blood-red sunsets. These scenes abound, but given the nature of the culture in South Africa, your attention could swiftly switch to a small boy gallantly escorting herds of cattle, end to end, over a rainbow-like walkway crossing one of the largest and busiest highways in South Africa. Culture makes Africa special and aside from beautiful landscapes, this kind of exuberant and contrasting culture in South Africa is what you really should experience.
Imagine this scenario for a moment: You are hopelessly stranded deep inside the African interior, without a spare tyre and waiting for help. You prepare to flag down the first car that passes by. “When will that be?” you think to yourself. Time wears on. You picture yourself dragging your dehydrated self over the many kilometres of parched semi-arid terrain towards the nearest town, while hordes of hungry vultures looming overhead contemplate you for lunch.
Thankfully, a small, dust-battered truck pulls up and this nightmarish vision quickly dissolves. Tough looking men gaze out of the back of the truck, peering at you with hardened looks acquired through labouring this tough, untamed land. The uncertainty and tension is broken by their sympathetic smiles and they drive you, happily and with good cheer, to the nearest service station and back to your car where you are kindly helped to fit your newly repaired tyre.
Now that you're safely back on the road you begin to realize the meaning of genuine hospitality, known within the culture in South Africa as 'geselligheid'. Thankful that you have just had the actual experience (a certain something you felt) you now have a connection, whole-heartedly, with the people and culture in South Africa.
This is not a heat-induced delusion or an isolated event. It is the actual story of one of our clients, who broke down while driving across the arid West Coast diamond fields of Namibia. Travellers have confirmed many of these kind-hearted acts that have occurred during their experimental African odysseys.
Perhaps it has to do with the land itself or its unrestricted nature. The reason why people help each other, whether a stranger or a friend. This doesn’t mean South Africa is a nation of altruistic saints. Leave your camera in your car on a downtown side-street and the chances of it being there after lunch are less than great.
What then is being said of this country? These vast unspoilt spaces and unbridled wildernesses. This wild place where the civilised nature and unique culture of its people are measured by the kind-hearted attitude experienced so frequently by many travellers.
What is the simple reason so many of our visitors from the Northern Hemisphere return here again and again? It can only be found in the actual experience of South Africa's culture and the friendship of its people.
The many answers to this question can be shown over and over in the friendly smiles you receive walking through a township market; in the respect and tolerance shown, visiting the sacred sites and cultural icons of the people; and in the greetings and genuine concern felt while within the hospitable arms of local establishments.
Perceptions about “Africa” have been changing slowly, but they are nonetheless changing. Foreign visitors used to believe that herds of elephants roamed the dusty streets of local areas and that to go hiking alone in the pristine African hills meant meeting lions, giant spiders and possibly being attacked by masked warriors with six foot spears.
The herds of elephants do exist, relegated to the African game farms existing in remote areas throughout the continent. The pristine hills stretch from one end of the Cape Peninsula to the other, like a giant smile peering down over the valleys below, but the wild beasts have long since been tamed and the hills are safely open to all who would venture into them.
If you are looking for the archetypal African adventure, laden with richly diverse wildernesses and infinite possibilities, come and experience the warmth and hospitality characteristic of this country. Trust South Africa to set the stage and the cast to be our culture.
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