Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Curious Culture

The News & Opinion section of the Sunday Times recently featured a front page article about how well South Africans relate to each other’s cultures. The conclusion, unsurprisingly, is that most people would like to understand more, but remain somewhat perplexed by customs and beliefs which differ from their own. There is a sort of East or West, home is best mentality which is entirely natural. No matter how hard we try, we are never going to become them, nor they us (whichever cultures we are comparing.) The lucky few go so far as to marry into another culture and make a success of it but for the most part we stick to our own. Take a case in point: one of my husband’s customer’s is a black man who gave up high-school teaching to go into business. Today he is a very wealthy fleet owner of a number of luxury buses. They were talking about wives: my husband asked why he finds it necessary to have two. He replied that it is a question of economics: if you want to get ahead you have to have two wives so that a spirit of competition prevails. He explained: each wife has a kraal house (back home) together with a supply of goats and perhaps a few sheep. One wife would be lazy and not increase the herd - with a rival she has to keep on her toes (also in the bedroom). Strangely enough, I could not relate at all to this custom, although I can see the advantages for the husband’s point of view. I cannot think of any white woman I know personally who would allow another woman in her husband’s bed, other than over her dead body - Swingers and Mormons excepted.

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