Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday humour... or not!

A Facebook friend posted a list of questions which had been submitted to a South African tourist website. They exemplify the sort of misconceptions about the country which causes untold frustration and/or much hilarity to its natives. On the other hand, some of these questions seem to me to be perfectly reasonable - and finding them laughable demonstrates a lack of insight into the perspective of the person posing the question. The answers, posted by the website owner, would probably cause most of my readers offence, so I will leave them out. If you desperately want them, email me and I'll send them to you. But, as a matter of curiosity, do you get why at least some of these questions are daft?

  • Does it ever get windy in South Africa ? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
  • Will I be able to see elephants in the street? (USA)
  • I want to walk from Durban to Cape Town - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
  • Is it safe to run around in the bushes in South Africa ? (Sweden)
  • Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in South Africa ? Can you send me a list of them in JHB, Cape Town , Knysna and Jeffrey's Bay? (UK)
  • Can you give me some information about Koala Bear racing in South Africa? (USA)
  • Which direction is north in South Africa ? (USA)
  • Can I bring cutlery into South Africa ? (UK)
  • Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
  • Do you have perfume in South Africa ? (France)
  • I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in South Africa ? (USA)
  • Can you tell me the regions in South Africa where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
  • Do you celebrate Christmas in South Africa ? (France)
  • Are there killer bees in South Africa ? (Germany)
  • Are there supermarkets in Cape Town and is milk available all year round?
  • Please send a list of all doctors in South Africa who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
  • I was in South Africa in 1969, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Hillbrow. Can you help? (USA)
  • Will I be able to speek (sic) English most places I go? (USA)
Let's look at that list again, with a little editorial input from yours truly:
  • Does it ever get windy in South Africa ? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
The first question here, I consider quite reasonable. The second could surely be answered by googling the rainfall figures for the country. Most publicity shots show sunny climes - even for sites here in the UK, known to its detractors as Mud Island.
  • Will I be able to see elephants in the street? (USA)
This question reveals an all too common level of ignorance. However, the flip side is that many South Africans tend to think of Americans as being an entire nation of such people, little realising the irony of that assumption.
  • I want to walk from Durban to Cape Town - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
This is a distance of some 1600km (100miles) by road - and probably significantly further by rail. I'm trying to decide whether the Swede has realised this. Maybe s/he has and is looking to do this as a sponsored event, and this is an early enquiry.
  • Is it safe to run around in the bushes in South Africa ? (Sweden)
I'm trying to decide whether this Swede (perhaps the same one as before) is under the impression that South Africa is one endless, untamed wilderness (perhaps crosscut by a railroad track)
  • Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in South Africa? Can you send me a list of them in JHB, Cape Town, Knysna and Jeffrey's Bay? (UK)
Once again, the first question, while demonstrating a surprising level of ignorance for someone who is presumably about to travel to South Africa (btw - both Knysna and Jeffrey's Bay are absolutely gorgeous places to visit in the summer), the second is just daft. A list of ATM machines? C'mon!
  • Can you give me some information about Koala Bear racing in South Africa? (USA)
Okay. Just no. Surely a little research should have been done, here? Koalas are not bears. They do not live in South Africa... or anywhere else in Africa, for that matter, and - as far as I know - they don't race.
  • Which direction is north in South Africa ? (USA)
Erm...
  • Can I bring cutlery into South Africa ? (UK)
The website owner took huge offence to this one, believing that it implied that the person didn't expect to find cutlery in the country. But what if they were attending a family wedding and wanted to bring cutlery as a gift? Maybe they just wanted to be sure that they weren't going to break any rules by doing this.
  • Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
Erm... Vienna is in Austria. Mind you, perhaps they were due to tour South Africa. Who knows?
  • Do you have perfume in South Africa ? (France)
You're kidding, right?
  • I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in South Africa ? (USA)
I'm not aware of any tourist websites that will do your market research for you.
  • Can you tell me the regions in South Africa where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
The mind boggles!
  • Do you celebrate Christmas in South Africa ? (France)
This is a fair question, but I would have thought that the answer could be found very quickly via google.
  • Are there killer bees in South Africa ? (Germany)
I don't know why this question offended the site owner. Because the answer is yes, although encounters with swarms of them are pretty rare.
  • Are there supermarkets in Cape Town and is milk available all year round?
I find this one puzzling. Where in the world is milk a seasonal commodity?
  • Please send a list of all doctors in South Africa who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
There are probably tens of thousands of doctors in South Africa. But why any of them would dispense rattlesnake serum is beyond me... unless the American in question is planning to bring some with him/her? I would suggest that this might be superfluous. There are snakes in South Africa that make the rattlesnake look pretty mild. If you should ever encounter an angry black mamba, for example, say your prayers. Unlike most snakes, it is aggressive, can move faster than a man can run, and can and does launch itself through the air. It's a doozy!
  • I was in South Africa in 1969, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Hillbrow. Can you help? (USA)
To quote John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!"
  • Will I be able to speek English most places I go? (USA)
Okay apart from the unfortunately ironic spelling error, this is an entirely fair question. South Africa has eleven official languages and English is not the most widely spoken mother-tongue by a long shot. The language that holds top spot is Zulu, the mother tongue of the new President, Jacob Zuma, at around 24% of the population. Next comes Xhosa at 17.6%. Afrikaans holds third spot at 13.3%, then Sepedi at 9.4%, and English and Setswana are joint fifth with 8.2%. However, many South Africans speak English as an additional language.

I'm sure the every country has its fair share of 'stupid' tourist questions to field. One of the commenters on the Facebook post mentioned that she is often asked about the six months of daylight and six months of darkness where she lives. She didn't mention where that was, though. Can't have been Canada, because everybody knows that's how it is for you guys. ;o)

4 comments:

Jacobus Vermaak said...

Okay so you didn't post the "original" responses to the questions which were hysterically funny — so good, in fact, that it made one doubt whether this actually originated in South Africa. What you did was to plagiarize someone who plagiarized the questions in the first place. The original questions and very funny answers can be found in a 2006 e-mail discussing the 2010 Winter Olympics. Here’s the link: http://www.snopes.com/travel/foreign/olympics.asp

Karyn Romeis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karyn Romeis said...

@Jacobus Apologies for the unintentional 'plagiarism'. These things very quickly become viral and lose their connections with the original source. No source was cited in the FB post. Thanks for the link.

Karyn Romeis said...

@Jacobus Interesting update. On the version you have linked to as being the 'original' it dates the Canadian version as c2006. Then it says: "This list of howlers exists in at least two other forms, however: Australian and South African. It is an omnibus humour piece." The Australian and South African versions also appear on that page, dated circa 2000 and 2003 respectively. Both of them predate the Canadian version. None of them cite an original source.