What British People Say Vs What South Africans Understand


The British are a confusing bunch; they suppress emotion, deliver ‘jokes’ with deadpan faces, and apologise for no reason at all.

But perhaps the most confusing part of Britishness for us South Africans, is the hidden meanings behind their overly-polite comments.

Here is our adaptation of a table published by Today I learned something new which explains what British people say, what they mean, and what South Africans understand.

1. “I hear what you say”

British person means: “I disagree and do not want to discuss it further”
South African understands: “Shweet he agrees with me, maybe I should invite him over for a braai…”

2. “With the greatest respect”

British person means: “I think you’re an idiot”
South African understands: “Yoh this oke talks like a royal, is he going to bow? Should I bow?”

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3. “That’s not bad”

British person means: “That’s good”
South African understands: “Vok man, he hates it”

4. “That is a very brave proposal”

British person means: “You are insane”
South African understands: “He digs it!”

5. “Quite good”

British person means: “A bit disappointing”
South African understands: “Lekker, he’s chuffed with me”

6. “I would suggest”

British person means: “Do it or be prepared to justify yourself”
South African understands: “Ja man, I’m listening to your suggestions and I’ll maybe think about it”

7. “Oh, by the way”

British person means: “The primary purpose of our discussion is…”
South African understands: “Yes, he wants to go watch the rugga after work at the pub”

8. “I was a bit disappointed that…”

British person means: “I am annoyed that”
South African understands: “Eish I’m sorry for your disappointment”

9. “Very interesting”

British person means: “That is clearly nonsense”
South African understands: “Ja, I know right?”

10. “I’ll bear it in mind”

British person means: “I’ve forgotten it already”
South African understands: “He’s totally thinking about it, he loves it”

11. “I’m sure it’s my fault”

British person means: “It’s your fault”
South African understands: “Nee man, don’t worry”

12. “You must come for dinner”

British person means: “It’s not an invitation, I’m just being polite”
South African understands: “Lekker, shall I bring some braai vleis?”

13. “I almost agree”

British person means: “I don’t agree at all”
South African understands: “I need to butter him up just a little bit more”

14. “I only have a few minor comments”

British person means: “Please re-do it completely”
South African understands: “Ja, well, no, fine, I can edit it a tiny bit”

15. “Could we consider some other options?”

British person means: “I don’t like your ideas”
South African understands: “They just need ‘n bietjie tyd, they’ll come around”

source: The South African

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