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Gavin Woolard
 
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Embrace the differences

19 November 2010, 06:21  - Gavin Woolard
I read your South African reader’s article (My life in Germany) on living in Germany with great interest. I was not only appalled by his views but also felt compelled to write a response.

I am a South African and have been living in The Netherlands now for about a year and a half.

Language is always going to be the greatest adjustment when moving to a non-English speaking country.

Having said this though, expecting a German, French or for that matter Dutch person to speak English is as absurd as expecting a South African to speak German, French or Dutch when encountering such nationals in South Africa.

The average German’s English is far better than the average white South African’s grasp of Xhosa - the name of which most of them cannot even pronounce properly.

I have, however, found the level of English (as well as all other European languages) across Europe to be quite good. Admittedly it is amongst a younger generation of Europeans. I do not see the youth of South Africa embracing South Africa’s language diversity with as much fervour, let alone those languages of neighbouring countries.

Moving to a new country involves differences. The best way to settle is to celebrate the differences and not complain about them. It is the diversity which makes it so much fun. Can you imagine how boring an overseas holiday would be if the countries visited were all the same?

Living in The Netherlands is filled with differences. Afrikaans might help you understand some of the conversations, until you realise that words have different meanings, always landing yourself in hot water or getting laughter as a response to something you have said.

For example, something as simple as “ek hou van jou” means that you are in love with the person - no wonder they find us South Africans such a loving nation.

Europe is a land of beer drinkers. While one may complain about the drinking, I have found many a friend can be made over a few beers and a portion of bitterballen.

So to all the unhappy South Africans in Europe I say drink up or pack up. The choice is yours.

- Are you a South African living abroad interested in sharing your views? What is it like for a South African living in a foreign country or how do you view South Africa from a distance? Send us your columns to feedback@news24.com and you might get published in our new Beyond Borders section.

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