South Africa

The brightly adorned wrists of members of the Ndebele tribe

YES Students

Some students from South Africa are Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the YES Program.

Country Information

South Africa, the “Rainbow Nation,” has many strong ethnic groups, each proud of its language, traditions, and religious beliefs. South Africa has natural beauty from the vast Karoo Desert to the picturesque coastal towns of the Garden Route to the subtropical mountain ranges in KwaZulu-Natal. Sports like rugby, soccer and netball (basketball) are popular.

Throughout its history, South Africa has been a geographic designation rather than a reflection of national unity. The country has a complex and diversified mix of populations represented by a mosaic of minorities, each proud of its language, traditions and religious beliefs.

Lifestyle and Family

There is no “typical” student from South Africa and a common definition of its inhabitants is non-existent. Those of British descent and the Afrikaners (descended from early Dutch settlers, who feel highly committed to South Africa) are white but dislike being confused with one another. The Zulu, with the strongest surviving indigenous black culture, and the Xhosa, known as the “red people” from the red-dyed clothing worn by most adults, feel the same way. A related group is the Ndebele known for their strikingly painted houses. There is also a small but influential Jewish population and a significant Indian minority that first immigrated in the 1860s.

The population diversity is also reflected in the diversity of AFS students, which can differ one from the other in language, race, culture and religion. It is therefore hard to identify a single lifestyle, although families are generally warm and curious about visitors.

Teen Life and Sports

Teens in South Africa find school to be their primary social outlet and spend a lot of time with family. Sports such as rugby, soccer and netball are the most popular activities for teens.

As the political climate in South Africa has changed over the past couple of decades, the government has realized the education is the best tool for the future of the country and has demonstrated this conviction by integrating schools investing a large amount of money in the education budget. Schools in South Africa are strict and challenging. Students wear uniforms, and teachers command respect (students stand when teachers enter the room, and address them as “Madam” or “Sir”).


People love to have barbecues, called braais. Using a brick oven, a cook slowly grills steaks and spicy sausages called boerewors over hot wood coals. Some South Africans also like eating a dried meat snack called biltong. Black South Africans eat mealie meal, a corn porridge, with meat or vegetables.

Language and Religion

As diverse as the makeup of the people are in South Africa, so are the number of languages and practiced religions. There are 11 official languages all equally used (including English) with many people speak all 11 fluently. Most denominations are represented, and official policy is one of non-interference in religious practices. Churches, mosques, temples and synagogues are located in most major cities.

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