south africa

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Making a general statement about African culture would be like saying the Italian and French culture is the same because they are both on the European continent. There may be some similarities, but surely a French person would think their culture is different than an Italian person and vice versa. There are 48 different countries, plus 6 islands which make up the continent of Africa. Each country has different people groups and each people group may have sub groups. To talk about African culture would do a disservice to the different people groups and their specific ways.

The country of South Africa, for example, located on the southernmost tip of Africa, has eleven official language groups. Each person has its own distinct worldview, heritage, history, and daily norms. To make a general statement that South Africans believe or act a certain way would not be respectful to those South Africans who may believe something very differently. You will find, for example, that some South African people groups or tribes have female monarchy passed down to daughters while others have kingships passed on to male heirs. Other groups do not have kings or queens at all. The history, traditions, beliefs, customs and daily cultural practices of these groups can be radically different from each other.

You will not be able to solve the problems people face in a few days. What can you do for them? You can pray for them, understand them, suffer with them and enjoy time together. Your presence gives them hope for a future. One of the most significant issues affecting Africa is poverty. Poverty is hunger, lack of shelter, being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not being able to go to school, not knowing how to read, not having a job, fear of the future and living one day at a time. Poverty and AIDS produce fear and hopelessness in the hearts of entire village populations. It is these villages you will be serving to restore hope.

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South Africa is about twice the size of Texas, but has a population around 54 million. About 80% of the population is black African. About 19% of adults in South Africa have HIV. About 19% of all worldwide cases of HIV are in South Africa, though less than 1% of the world population is in South Africa.

Per Capita GDP (Goods and Services Per Person):
South Africa $13,200
United States $55,800
World Average $15,800

Percentage With Access To Improved Water Sources:
South Africa 93%
United States 99%
World Average 91%

Percentage With Access To Improved Sanitation:
South Africa 66%
United States 100%
World Average 86%

Percentage With Internet Access:
South Africa 47%
United States 87%
World Average 39%

Income less than $100 per month:
Rural South Africain particular, and some urban areas, have exceptional poverty levels. Wikipedia shows that about 35% of the population lives on less than $3.10 per day.

Our Partners:
Grace Bible Church
Learn more about Grace Bible Church
Build the Future
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Our Partners

Grace Bible Church
Learn more about Grace Bible Church

Build the Future
Learn more about Build the Future

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South Africa has varied weather patterns depending on where you are in the country. The summer months run from October until April when most days are warm and sunny. Also, summer can be a rainy season depending on where you are going. The average maximum temperature is 80 degrees with some days exceeding 90 degrees. For summer months, lightweight clothing, short sleeves are best and a sweater for cooler evenings. Winter months are May-September and are much colder. The average maximum temperature is 55-75 degrees, but can drop below freezing at night. Dress in layers for mornings and evenings and the middle of the day can be quite warm.

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Here are some popular dishes of South Africa:

  • Chakalaka - a relish of tomatoes, carrots, baked beans and chilies with hot curry powder that is served with almost every meal.
  • Potjiekos - a meat and vegetable meal
  • Vetkoek - deep fried pastry filled with either ground beef or spread with syrup, honey, or jam. Goes well with jam and cheese. Crispy outside and warm and fluffy inside.
  • Mealie - corn based staple food of South African
  • Bredie - spiced meat and vegetable stew.
  • Frikkadel - baked or deep fried meatballs prepared with onion, bread, eggs, vinegar, and spices.
  • Sosaties - marinated meat cooked on skewers.
  • Bobotie - dry fruit mixed with spiced meat and mixed with curry sauce.
  • Biltong - similar to beef jerky

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About 80% of South Africans are Christian.

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Do's & Don'ts


  • Be a partner.
  • Realize your group's flurry of activity alters the daily flow of life in the community you are serving.
  • Be adaptable. Any plans can change once you are on the ground in South Africa.
  • Find a way to combine the resources available in-country with your own. Your way may not be the only way so be sensitive to workflow and habits in the community.
  • Build relationships. Take time for them. Do not forget that promoting any kind of change takes time in a relationship.
  • Challenge yourself to pray for at least one person, even if you cannot understand each other.


  • Please don't give personal contact info out without checking with your trip leader.
  • For your own safety, do not go off alone.
  • Stay in groups at all times.
  • Don't go and investigate other homes even if you have been invited.
  • Don't bring any valuables or expensive jewelry.
  • Please don't ask whether someone has AIDS. Although there have been great inroads with regard to stigmatization of those that are HIV+, stigmatization is still a very real issue.

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Time Difference

South African time (CAT) doesn't change like our daylight savings time. So, during the winter (after we fall back) they are seven hours ahead of Cincinnati. During our summer (after we spring forward) they are six hours ahead of Cincinnati.

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Words & Phrases

English is taught to children starting in the 3rd grade. Many of the older children will be able to speak and understand basic English, but may have trouble with your accent. Many of the adults in the communities may have a limited understanding of English. They may understand what you are saying, but not able to reply in English.

Quick reference to some common words and phrases:

  • Check - Bill
  • Napkin - Serviette
  • Shopping Cart - Shopping Trolley
  • Gas - Petrol
  • Barbeque - Braai (pronounced brye)
  • Traffic Light - Robot
  • To stand in line - To stand in a queue


  • Hello - Dumela
  • Hello (to a group) - Dumelang
  • What is your name - La ina kimang?
  • My name is _____ . - La ina _____.
  • How are you? - Lekai?
  • I am fine. - Reteng.
  • How are you? - Reteng, lekai?
  • Thank you - Kealeboga
  • Goodbye - Sale


  • Hello - Molo
  • How are you? - Unjanji?
  • Fine, thank you. - Ngiyaphila, enkosi.
  • And how are you? - Wena unjani?
  • What is your name? - Ngubani igama lakho?
  • My name is ____. - Igama lam ngu _____.
  • Nice to meet you. - Ndiyavuya ukukwazi.
  • Thank you. - Enkosi.
  • You're welcome - Wamkelekile
  • Yes - Ewe
  • No - Hayi
  • Goodbye - Uhambe
  • I don't understand - Andiqondii