South African English

Visting home always reminds me how I've added certain words to my everyday vocabulary based on my time in Cape Town.  Whether you're staying in South Africa for two weeks or two years, here is a list of the most common words you'll come across, translated into my American English:


Biscuit = cookie

Chips = French fries

Sammie = sandwich

Braai = outdoor BBQ, which I explained inthis post

Rusks = hard, rectangular biscuits (best when dunked in morning coffee)

Sweet Chili Sauce = self explanatory (a fairly standard condiment when dining out)

Boerewors = one long sausage link

Biltong = like beef jerky (but way better)

Potjiekos (poi-kees) = a rich stew, cooked in a 3 legged cast iron pot over a fire

Rooibos = red bush tea (caffeine free), tastes great with a little bit of honey and milk

Sundowners = drinking cocktails at sunset

Everyday Conversation

Eish! or Yoh! = to express surprise, wonder, frustration, outrage

Pleasure = you’re welcome

Howzit? = a casual way to say: hi, how are you?

Just now = near future, not immediately

Now now = shortly, whether past or future

Lekker = cool, awesome

Bleak = lame, sucks

Bru (brew) = brother

Everyday Stuff

Jumper = hoodie, sweatshirt

Tekkies = running shoes

Mozzie = mosquito (update: not mossie- that's a sparrow!)

Robots = traffic lights 

Garage = gas station

Boot = trunk of the car

Mzansi (m-zan-zee) = South Africa

Fynbos = vegetation, about 6000 plant species, unique to the Cape Floral Region

Township = informal residential settlement

Shebeen = bar in a township

Taxi = minibus used to transport a large number of people

Cab = metered car with single occupancy

**With 11 national languages, I've only just scratched the surface with this post.  For more fun slang words, check out Wikipedia.

Marie Frei

One Carry-On is a blog managed by Marie Frei, a travel expert and photographer with a passion for exploring off the beaten path locations. The blog covers honest and personal stories about living and traveling as an American abroad, shares her global appreciation for culture and design, and promotes traveling to far-flung destinations with a carry-on as fun, affordable, and easy.