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VVisitors to foreign countries often feel out of place, since the space in which they find themselves is often different, strange or unexpected – in short, other – to what they know. This is all the more reason to be welcoming towards your foreign guests, helping them to feel 'at home'. This usually begins with a smile, followed closely by making use of a shared language.

Here are five South African words or phrases to teach your guests that would allow them to experience the quaintness and warmth of our country and people.

1. Howzit, my china?

The phrase means, 'How are you, my friend?' or 'Hello'. This can be used when greeting a male. However, please tell your guests that it is an informal greeting. One would not necessarily greet a policeman or the president this way.

There are several variations to this greeting:

'Hoesit, boet?'  \Who sit boot\

The 'boet' in this phrase is the Afrikaans word for 'brother', but can be used to refer to any male. 'Hoesit,' again, means 'hello'.

'Aweh, my bru.' \Aah-where may brew\ 

In typical South African multi-purpose style, 'aweh' can also mean 'goodbye' or 'yes'.

'Hola' \ola\ and 'Heita' \eight ta\

A good, genuine greeting can make strangers feel comfortable. And teaching them the pronunciation and usage might lead to much laughter and even help visitors to open up.

2. Gooi

As in 'gooi me with the WiFi code,' or 'gooi me a beer,' or 'let’s gooi!' This word is used when you want to convince friends to do something or go somewhere, to go partying, to do a particular task.

In Afrikaans, it literally means to throw or fling. But in popular parlance it has the meaning of 'can I have' or 'let’s do it'. The pronunciation is tricky, with a guttural 'g'.

3. Sharp

The word, which is often doubled up as 'sharp-sharp', can be used as a greeting, an affirmation or to express enthusiasm.

4. Eish

This word starts with the 'a' sound as in amen, and ends with 'sh' as in 'shut', and is used to express amazement, irritation or outrage.

The response to could sometimes be 'Ag, shame, man,' which denotes sympathy with a sense of cuteness. (Once again, the 'g' sound in 'ag' is guttural.)

Another common response to 'eish' could be 'let's make a plan,' i.e. let’s devise a way to overcome the difficulties.

5. Ubuntu

Ubuntu – from the Nguni phrase, 'Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu' – is a concept found throughout Africa. It literally means that 'a person is a person through other people'. It describes the philosophy of kinship across race and creed, and represents an openness that all people could have to one another.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu explained it in the following way: 'Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language … it is to say, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in what is yours." You are what you are because of other people.'

Would it not be wonderful if all South Africans could welcome guests to our country with the concept of ubuntu?

More slang phrases can be found here.

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