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The Harig Hodgepodge

March 19, 2015


When Mrs. Harig started to think about what was missing, it became clear to her that it was simply the everyday lives of people in South Africa.  Some of the stuff she covers in this presentation are some of the fun little things about traveling.  The only time I’ve gotten to visit a school in a foreign country was in China, and it was an unforgettable experience.  Strange road signs aren’t something most travelers think about before arriving in a new place, but the “Humped Pelican Crossing” sign I saw on my first day in England and the “Road Unsafe When Underwater” sign I passed in Arkansas will both forever baffle me.  Beyond that, it’s always a good idea to know how to greet someone, what the local customs are, and how to make sure you haven’t grossed anyone out by using your chopsticks left handed.

She’s put together a slide show for you to look through to wrap your brain around how South Africans go about their every day lives, then she’s asking you to think about both the similarities and differences between your lives and theirs.  The slide show can be found here – South Africa Hodgepodge

While scrolling through the slides, take some notes down about what stands out to you as unusual or different, then try to think of what reminds you of home.  About halfway through the presentation, Mrs. Harig asks you to watch a video, which is also embedded below.  Then she asks that you read through this page to give you even more differences and similarities between your lives and those of South African teenagers.

When you’ve read through everything, come back here and use the comments to give your two cents about Mrs. Harig’s discussion points.  Pick two of the topics discussed and identify ways their society is similar to AND different than our society in the U.S. 

We ask that all South Africa travelers have this assignment complete before our April 11th meeting.


17 Comments leave one →
  1. Austin Stein permalink
    March 19, 2015 6:58 pm

    What a small world we live in. South African life sounds incredibly like life here on American soil, with some notable differences. South Africa being the “Rainbow Nation” really stuck with me because you could consider America the exact same way, only in that we are a melting pot of all cultures and languages, while for them it’s mostly how Africa has worked for thousands of year plus English influences. The gift-giving etiquette seems around the same as us, minus the tradition to always bring wine or chocolates. And from what I read and watched, South African schools work in the same way they do here, but I found it interesting how ingrained Christianity was for the schools of Orania. But that does highlight some of the differences each culture has. With how personal boundaries work in South Africa, most Americans could find that uncomfortable with how close people get. The “No Tolerance” on cellular devices came to me initially as a a shock, but then it came to me that with American teens and children in general having and using cell phones in school is not that discouraged. But when you think about it, electricity and electronic devices are not everywhere, so it’s understandable. It’s also interesting how a hand motion that we use everyday here is seen as obscene in another place (or at least, from the way the presentation described it, it sounds like a gesture we use). I guess I’ll have to be careful if I’m to point at one of my fellow travelers while on the trip. Overall, I am quite glad I understand these minor cultural aspects now; I feel a bit more connected to the people now from what we have in common.

    As one last note, that penguin warning sign made me laugh incredibly hard.

  2. erin seymour permalink
    March 21, 2015 4:39 pm

    South African society is very different from ours. I like how they drive on the right side of the road, like in England. One thing I was surprised to learn is that putting your thumb between your fingers and pointing it at someone is about the most disrespectful thing you can do. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I actually do that sometimes in class, but not on purpose. In America it’s not a big deal. Also I learned that a normal classroom size in south Africa had a ratio of 1:50 teachers and students until 1994 when it dramatically dropped from 50 kids per class to about 30.. South African society is also very similar to ours. The relationship between people there is similar here. In south Africa it is polite to bring flowers or a gift hen invited to someone’s home. When my family is invited to dinner at my neighbor’s house we bring both and we bring a dish and help clean up, which South Africans also do. There is a bad sense of humanity there too. Their crime rate is almost as high as ours. You don’t want to leave your bag unattended. Also in their schools they teach their children discipline. Same in the United States. Our schools have detentions and bully reports and FLINAO’s.
    Woman’s rights are different there also. Woman there are allowed to work outside the house but a lot of them feel that their place is in the home. Also, foreign women are respected more than local or native women. I also feel that South Africans are a lot friendlier than SOME Americans. In their country they really respect each other. The even hold hands with the same gender, family or not, and they communicate with each other more. To be fair, strangers don’t talk to strangers in America, for criminal reasons, but being violent to each other is not what they live for there. Like in the gods must be crazy where the tribe loved each other and then a piece of Modern society, a bottle, much like we use here in America, breed violence in their family. I can definitely see the metaphoric message in that.

  3. Stephanie Melendez permalink
    March 22, 2015 5:52 pm

    Just like Austin said, we really do live in a small world. From what I read, I’d say that South Africa and America are very similar to each other, with the exception of a few things. There were quite a few topics that stood out to me in this presentation. To start off, it stood out to me how typically they handshake foreigners. Now, coming from an Americans point of view we typically don’t handshake any foreigners and still to this day I don’t understand why. Maybe it’s because there are so many people with so many different cultures we don’t even realize that someone is a foreigner. But I really do like how the people in South Africa go up to foreigners and acknowledge them, that is a very generous thing to do. Another topic that stood out to me was the “Rainbow Nation.” Both America and South Africa have people that speak a variety of different languages and different cultural traditions. I’m very interested to see what the types of cultures and languages we’ll run into in South Africa. Things such as gift giving in South Africa are fairly similar to what we do in America, except it’s not mandatory to bring flowers or a good bottle of wine to some ones house, but most people do it anyways because it’s a nice thing to do after someone is inviting you into their home. But when we receive gift we typically wait to open them after mingling for quite a few hours. In South Africa they open their presents right when they get them. Another thing that stood out to me was the Afrikaner schools. Afrikaner schools are very similar to ours except for the whole Christianity factor. There is also a “No Tolerance” for cell phones at Afrikaner schools. Now in America were not suppose to have our phones when school is in session but kids still do it anyways. I learned a lot about the similarities and differences between Americans and South Africans. I can’t wait to see these similarities and differences in person when we travel to South Africa. I’ll also be sure to keep a close eye out for all those weird signs!

  4. Jordan Springer permalink
    March 22, 2015 6:05 pm

    I thought that this was a very interesting activity, it gave me more insight into the life of a South African. The etiquette section will certainly help me know how to behave in South Africa. Compared to South Africa, the U.S is just as diverse, but doesn’t have as much history as the other country, America uses handshakes as greetings as well, but really only in business, and, similar to South Africa, hospitality gifts are usually food and aren’t usually wrapped. I have to say, I would feel very uncomfortable if personal space here was the same as there, as they seem to be more comfortable with each other than I am with anyone I know. Women’s rights appear to be less advanced than they are in the U.S, as women are equal with men here, whereas men are favored more in S.A. Although the gesture is different between the two countries, I get the feeling that the two offensive hand signals mean the same thing. I’m curious if the crime rate would depend on the region as it does in the U.S. and if theft is as much of a problem in America as it is in South Africa. I wish American education was as serious as it is in S.A, as I feel that we need our government to focus more on this, I thought that the Oranian school was interesting, as all pupils spoke Afrikaans instead of English and is harsher on its students. For the most part, I found South African life to be very similar to that of an American citizen. I found it interesting that eye contact was not always acceptable as, at least where I live, eye contact is imperative in all social interactions, especially with elders. Parental involvement seemed to be similar to what we experience here, except that adults are better able to control and monitor internet access.

    • Brian Cottingim permalink
      April 10, 2015 7:55 pm

      Jordan, I read you little paragraph thing, I agree. Women are seen as trophies, it seems that men are more superior to women in SA. I believe that as our country has adapted, South Africa will see that men and women should be treated as equals. I do not know if you caught the sentence in the paper but it said something about the women being the superior decision-maker in domestic decisions.

  5. Cameron Smith permalink
    March 25, 2015 11:51 am

    I thought it was really intresting how similar our regular life and behavior is similar to the life and behavior in South Africa. For example about 5,000 schools in South Africa don’t have access to elictricity. I thought this was especially intresting because most schools in America are dependent on elictricity. And I also thought it was treating how one teacher had to teach a class of up to 50 students but has now decreased to be about the same as schools in America. One teacher to teach a class of twenty nine students. I also thought it was nice how the government insured that every one in South Africa gets an education. I also thought about how people in South Africa gives gifts extremely similar to the way we do in America. A nicely wrapped gift shows extra effort just like in America but in South Africa they open gifts as soon as they are given. In South Africa they give gifts at the same time as in America during someone’s birthday and during Christmas. I also thought it was intresting how important birthdays are the twenty first year old birthdays and the forty year old birthdays and Going to research why that is.

  6. Haley Watson permalink
    March 26, 2015 4:50 pm

    America and SA are pretty similar in the fact that they call SA the rainbow nation because all of the languages they speak, and America is “the melting pot” because the many ethnicities and cultures we have. The fact that South Africans value foreign women more is quite different since Americans generally act and think as if they are better than every other country/culture. It seems as if the women over in south Africa have some rights but not in the same way as American women do. Kruger National Park will probably have some whacky signs because theres bound to be one crazy sign about animal crossing or something.

  7. Maddy Trouvais permalink
    March 26, 2015 8:51 pm

    Wow, there’s some pretty interesting points in both the slideshow and the paper. There were a couple things that really stuck out to me though that were different from life here. One of those things was the restriction on their pets. Here, our pets live inside the house with us and are treated like they are one of the family, while there they are left outside most or all of the tie and aren’t considered being part of the family. To me, that’s strange. When i read that, the first thought that came to my head was why have a pet then if you aren’t gonna treat it like its part of the family, as a pet really should be. I just think its a little odd to have a pet if you aren’t going to make it feel like it is a pet and one of the others. Another thing I read was that in South Africa, you drive on the left side of the road. Now, I know some other places around the world do this too, while America drives on the right. It is, to me, kinda weird that they do this though. I’ve seen videos in social studies and things like that of England and how they drive on the left side of the roads. It looks really confusing too, probably because i’m not used to seeing it that way. Its just interesting, yet odd at the same time to see that. There were some things also that I noticed were the same as here, or i connected to being here as well. One thing being bringing a gift over to someones house if you’ve been invited over. We do that here sometimes, even if it may not be as fancy as they do there. We bring little things, while they sometimes bring more finer things, like good wines and good chocolates and stuff like that. Its cool to see the differences of South Africa and America and the similarities. Its interesting to find out that other places around the world may do the same things that you do on an everyday basis, while they may do things that are also different.

  8. Gianna Kriechbaum permalink
    March 28, 2015 12:00 am

    Alright well, one of the topics I’d like to talk about is the road signs. The road signs in America are mainly just general ones from what I’ve seen. We have signs for where/what exit you are at, speed limits, and general road things like if the one road you are on splits into two. Well in south Africa, they are so different. They honestly make me laugh really hard. Most of them have something to do with animals, which really sets them apart from America. But they are really actually funny. Like “take your dentures out” and the one with the person in the wheelchair about to be eaten by an alligator or crocodile. I just think its so funny and weird because you’d never see that here. Road signs are a definite difference when it comes down to everything. I’d also like to talk about crime rate. Now we all know 100% that Chicago has a really bad crime problem, as well as most other places in the u.s. Its even worse when these crimes are either stupid mistakes, or over things like race and ethnicity. These things should not matter this much, but yet they are still a problem here. I think in south Africa it might be for some of the same reasons, but I think they also have more car hijacks and things like that. Also, people in airports seem to always take something valuable or nice if found. No one will take it to the desk because they want to sell it for money, or keep it for themselves. This makes crime (which is very bad) a horrible similarity between the two countries.

  9. Kate Gall permalink
    March 28, 2015 4:33 pm

    South African life is very similar to our daily lives here in America. Except for a few things, we almost do the same things everyday as people in South Africa do. One thing I thought was cool is that, they are known as the “Rainbow Nation” because of all of the different languages that are spoken there, and are also known as “The Cradle of Humankind” because of all of they’re fascinating artifacts and geography. One thing that we do differently is how we greet people when invited over to their homes. In South Africa, you are supposed to bring chocolate, flowers, and a bottle of good wine. Here in America, you are able to bring a dish to serve, but usually we do not bring flowers and chocolate unless its a special occasion or holiday. Another thing that happens here in America and also in South Africa, is a high rate of crime. People steal things from stores and airports everyday in both countries, and sometimes the things that are stolen are people which is also very common. One thing I am looking foreword to in South Africa is, being able to see all of the cool signs that I looked through in the slideshow. We don’t normally see any kind of signs that look like the ones in Africa. My favorite one is the wheelchair rolling down hill and there is an alligator at the bottom with its mouth open.

  10. Ronnie Stovall permalink
    March 31, 2015 2:01 pm

    South Africa and America are not so different being that South Africa is the Rainbow Nation And America is just a big melting pot of different people. Just like America English is mostly spoken. In South Africa they have traditions like the major birthdays 21 and 40. In America we have large birthdays like 16,18, and 21. I didn’t know how much they are the same. And the Big parties. Nobody likes a person that late to a party and everyone likes someone to bring a gift like wine or food, but i wouldn’t bring chocolate like it says in the presentation. The other thing is how it is rude to cross your thumb and in between your two fingers and pointing it at someone is helpful but no reason to do it. The differences are driving on the left side of the road like i say in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. the other difference is the pets being left out outside and not being considered family at all. In America pets are loved mostly by everyone. Not including the the cruelest of people. I thought it was crazy that there was sign for pretty much every single animal in Africa. Like watch out for penguins under your car and watch for lions that attack I thought that was funny.

  11. Kelsie Stanley permalink
    April 5, 2015 9:48 am

    In South Africa, interactions between people seem much more respectful. For example, how a gift is to be brought when attending a party. Here, that is a nice thing to do, but you aren’t frowned upon if you don’t.Something else different that I noticed was how pets are thought of; in America your pet is considered a family member, but in South Africa, they must live outside. Something similar is how you typically only live with your immediate family unless a different circumstance comes along. I thought it was interesting how heavily the school focused on religion because here, it’s usually best to not even say anything about that topic at school. Another major difference was how widely available internet and some technology is. In South Africa, it seems to be mainly used at school or work, while here, people usually carry some kind of electronic on them at all times. Lastly, I think all the weird road signs will bring us some good laughs on the trip.

  12. Emily Blenck permalink
    April 5, 2015 4:48 pm

    First off, I’d like to say I really enjoyed learning about the South African way of life and how our culture and their culture clashes and blends. One thing that has stood out to me is the tiny mentions of the ways women are treated in South Africa. Unlike in America, women seem to be respected and held in much higher esteems. In the beginning of the presentation it says that a women does not have to accept a handshake if she doesn’t want to, and can give a slight nod instead. It also mentions somewhere that women still have the rights of working and providing for their families, which is similar to the policies we have here in the U.S. Overall, it seems like South Africans hold a higher bar for respect in general. Discipline and order are huge contributors to South African education. Although in America we have rules regarding respect towards others, South Africa seems to be much stricter in what they consider as proper. So it either means South Africa has too much respect or that America doesn’t have enough of it (I’d go with the second) Another thing that stood out to me were the signs. I thought some of them were hilarious, especially the wheelchair one.

  13. Brian Cottingim permalink
    April 10, 2015 7:44 pm

    I think South Africa has their crap together, their ethics and morals are almost spot on. They seem strict but very loving, kind, respectful people. The only problem I have with their social norms is the pet expectations. Never let into the house!? But other than that, they seem pretty cool. When I read about the expectations of women, I was puzzled at first. I wondered to myself…Why is it taking America so respect women like in South Africa? But then I read on about it and realized that women are supposed to act like a (stay with me here..) royal-obedient- living trophies. Like how they only have to nod heads with someone, they can’t drink alcohol, and they are supposed to be homebodies.
    Going along with South Africa having their crap together, I learned SA has the highest public school investment rate in the world! That is pretty impressive. It seems they care greatly about the people of the future. I feel that this is quite wise compared to us.

  14. Yazmine Thomas permalink
    April 10, 2015 9:32 pm

    Although America and South Africa is about 9000 miles apart, we share similar cultures. Both countries are diverse which is why South Africa is called the “rainbow nation” and America is referred to as the “melting pot. “Americans also share the same customs as South Africa. In both countries, it is important to arrive on time and thank the host . South Africa is know for having a high crime rate and America has an abundance of crime as well. Like Americans, South Africans are entitled to an education. American schools usually have a lower teacher to student ration, whereas, South Africa’s ratio is quite large. I also noticed one other major difference; South Africans drive on the left side of the road, while Americans drive on the right.

  15. Dylan Blough permalink
    April 11, 2015 7:07 am

    When I looked at the slide show and Pdf, what I noticed was that for the most part was that we, as countries, are pretty similar. A lot of things that were seen as respectful, like bringing a gift to dinner or offering to help clean up, is more or less just writing down what respect is. Living in the states, I was still raised to do that when you attend dinner or a party at someones house. I agree with Emily’s statement: “So it either means South Africa has too much respect or that America doesn’t have enough of it (I’d go with the second).” On the note of other things, I noticed that things like putting your thumb between your first finger and your middle is disrespectful. Thats something I do when i’m bored without thinking about it. A few of the traffic signs seemed like something you could get in a gift shop at the zoo. But these signs are necessary for South African drivers, just as duck, deer, and moose crossing signs are necessary for American drivers.

  16. Hannah Breier permalink
    May 10, 2015 6:20 pm

    As I scrolled through the presentation, video, and documents, I quickly realized that South Africa is very different from the United States. However, many of the facts listed were also very similar. I agree with Dylan how many things are seen as respectful, like looking elders in the eyes or women not drinking in rural areas. One that I found extremely interesting was how teens have to ask permission to borrow things like clothes. Here in America countless items are taken like it is no big deal. I am even guilty of this! Secondly, I really liked the statistics of population Mrs. Harig put on the document. I thought it was so unique how the diversity of religion varied so drastically in a country that the average american would consider ALL African american. In america one third of the population is Christianity where in south Africa no religion is near this percentage. Overall, I really enjoyed comparing the different every-day lives of American and South African people!

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