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South Africa Travel Trips - Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans Culture Facts


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When in Rome, do as the Romans do, so the saying goes, but when in South Africa, it can become quite difficult to follow this with the vast amounts of languages and culture that exists here. A truly diverse nation in every sense of the word, South Africa boasts 11 official languages and a multitude of cultures that have over time blended and mixed to create a plethora of interesting features and people. The most widely spoken language in South Africa is of course English and this is the main platform for businesses and industry in the country. The other languages that are official and that are present in the relevant schools according the region they are located in are Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa, Venda, Tswana, Pedi, Tsonga, Swazi, Sotho, and Ndebele.

Afrikaans is the languages derived from and still closely related to Dutch or Flemish. Most of the Afrikaans speaking people are of Dutch decent, with some of the Cape Colored community also adopting this as their native tongue. In the farmland regions, Afrikaans is widely spoken and many African people speak this as their second language as opposed to English. The culture of the Afrikaans / Dutch descendants stems mainly from the arrival in South Africa. Jan Van Riebeeck was the first Dutchman to land on South African soil and from here more and more people began to descent upon the peaceful, beautiful and fertile land. Most of the Afrikaans people are farmers and wine makers with Simon Van der Stel being the first person to insist that the Cape Wines could be bottled and sold to create a booming wine industry.

The most famous symbol that Afrikaaners are associated with is the Voortrekker (pioneer). These were the first of the Dutch immigrants that set off to explore the land of South Africa and acquire new frontiers. Women wore smaller versions of the winged Dutch caps while the men wore floppy felt or cowhide hats, and the rode in ox wagons. Music is very important in the Afrikaans community as is theater and most of the Afrikaans singers and musicians are better supported than the English singers.

The most popular of the African tribal languages is Zulu and Xhosa. The Xhosa tribes come mainly from the Eastern Cape regions and this language is spoken more frequently in the Cape. The Zulus are found further North in the Gauteng and in the KwaZulu-Natal Province which is named after them. The Xhosa language is famous for its clicks which are used in speech. The clicks you hear are used for the letters c, x and q. In Zulu you will not have any clicks, although many of the words are similar. The heritage of the Xhosa people lies very closely with the political nature of South Africa as the famous Nelson Mandela is from Xhosa descent as is most of the ANC (African National Congress) party he formed part of. The current president, Thabo Mbeki is also Xhosa speaking. The traditional dress of the Xhosa people is colorful with lots of beading, embellishments and patterns. They often wear ankle bracelets which are used for making sound effects during dance rituals and celebrations.

The Zulu tribe was very powerful in the time of King Shaka and used to be the main tribe in the land. After the fall of Shaka and Dingaan, there have been less conspicuous Kings / Chiefs with the current Chief being Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The Zulu tribes formed the IFP or Inkatha Freedom Party during the Apartheid years and have a strong following. The Zulus are renowned for their dress. They carry long spears and body length shields usually covered in some kind of animal hide. They wear feathered head dresses and are characterized for their unique dancing style. This style was adapted by the Zulu mine workers to include some Western moves and Gumboot dancing is now a popular dance form.

Beside the official languages that are spoken there are lots of other cultures and religions that form part of South Africa. Muslims form a large part of the community, especially in the Western Cape. There is also a very large population of Indian people living in Durban and its surrounding towns with many Hindus and Islamic religions being recognized. You will also find a strong Jewish sector in most of the main cities in South Africa while other prominent nationalities include Italian, German, Portuguese, Lebanese, and smaller Chinese communities. Each nationality and religion is celebrated and not discriminated against in any way according to the new laws and cultural tolerance.

Cultural tourism is offered throughout the country now, as international visitors are eager to learn more about the different cultures and traditional African tribes that they were separate from during the Apartheid regime.

There are a number of cultural villages in each province that offer tours, education and ritual presentations to showcase the unique heritages that the country offers. Get discount travel deals and country guides for free on FrugalMonkey. Contributor Lisa Jenkins explains how to get the most out of your South Africa travel adventure, and also provides vacation guides for several other countries including Greece, Australia, and New Zealand.


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