I was born and raised in South Africa in a typical white, middle-class household. When I tell people I'm from Africa, they respond in surprising ways. Although I've been an American citizen since 2006, I was born and raised in Africa and the culture is embedded in me. I often get asked about my accent, which is not a typical one for South Africa. I've listed some common misconceptions about South Africa that may or may not surprise you.
1. Lions and elephant do not roam the streets
Africa is the only continent where lions and other game can be observed in their natural environment. Contrary to belief, lions and other big game like rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and buffalo live outside of captivity and national reserves. African safaris are popular among foreign tourists and gives them the opportunity to see these glorious beasts in their natural element. Not as many people get eaten by lions as some might believe! They'll only attack if people encroach on their territory and that's why safari tour guides caution their charge to remain inside the vehicle and at a safe distance.
2. Not everyone from Africa is black
In case you didn't know, that kickass chick, Furiosa, from Mad Max: Fury Road is from South Africa. Charlize grew up in Benoni and her first language is Afrikaans. When you're a Hollywood star you have voice coaches, hence her convincing American accent.
3. District 9 does not represent South African culture
With 11 official languages and a population comprised of a multitude of ethnicities, South Africa earned the moniker "The Rainbow Nation." Some of the cultural influences include Dutch, British, Malay, Indian, French and also include various African tribes. No, there aren't any aliens!
4. Nothing beats a South African "braai"
The national past-time is the "braai" which differs from a typical American barbeque mainly by the length of the cooking process. Yes, it's slightly primitive - meat is grilled over a wood fire - and the goal is not to get the food on the table fast. It's a cultural gathering where South Africans celebrate their laid back culture.
5. South Africa is not all desert
South Africa is considered a subtropical region, moderated by ocean on two sides of the triangle-shaped country. While there are hot, dry regions, the majority of the country is considered to have a moderate climate. Tourists can enjoy a vast number of not-so-usual outdoor activities like ostrich racing, shark cage diving, watching and petting penguins in their natural environment.
I hope that this piece clarified some of the misconceptions that you might have had about South Africa, so next time consider a travel destination, keep South Africa in mind. You should go visit, they really love Americans over there!
Tot Siens (goodbye in Afrikaans)