I don’t know about you, but being from South Africa can have its moments sometimes. When people learn that I’m bilingual, specifically when they hear the words “South Africa”, it invites certain-lets just say not that intelligent-questions.
If you’re from a country that has a certain image to outsiders, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The bilingual struggle is real here people. If not, let me share this ridiculous struggle with you and how I’ve learned to deal with it when I constantly feel like banging my head against a wall.
The question that constantly has me baffled is the “Why aren’t you black?” question. Because being from Africa (the country apparently) means you HAVE to be black. This might sound ridiculous to you, but trust me, I have been asked this question a countless amount of times.
I have to say the movie Mean Girls (2004) got a bit too real at that moment. I think the answer given in the movie is all I really have to say to this:
I relate to your struggle Cady, I truly relate.
The thing is, with me at least, they then take it that the reason I’m not black is because I’m also Greek. That can be the only explanation. Yeah, sure. Whatever helps you sleep at night.
Another very common phenomenon when some people hear I’m from South Africa is asking me whether lions roam the street at night and generally, whether we all lived in the wild.
I got tired of explaining that Cape Town is a city just like the one they know and no, lions do not roam the streets and create traffic.
This is what you have to realize with people like this: They will believe anything. So why not stop rolling your eyes for a minute and have some fun with it?
I remember getting into an extensive story with lions roaming the streets after 6 pm. It was after that time that it became unsafe to be outside. The 40-year old man I was telling the story to opened his mouth in shock.
“What happens if you go out after 6”?
“Well, a young boy once went out at 6.30 and was never heard of again”.
This is a very true story and yes, he did believe me. I once even got away with the story of showering with an elephants trunk. I just wish I could have this sign on me at all times:
Maybe I should make a shirt of it.
Now this struggle is not only true for South Africa though. One of my best friends who is also bilingual (half-American and half-Greek) says she once got the question of whether all Greeks wear sandals and whether we live in Parthenons. This was a serious question.”You’re Greek. You must live in marble buildings with columns”.
So my tip to you fellow bilinguals is just go with it. The questions will never stop so why not have some fun? 😉
Do you relate to any of this or is it just me that gets these questions? What kind of questions have you gotten that had your eyes rolling?