Pascal Reich went to Port Elizabeth, South Africa with YFU in 2013/2014. This is his testimony.
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'South Africa is a very diverse country and you cannot speak of just one culture when preparing students and I experienced that myself as I stayed with white Afrikaans speaking people at first and then as I changed my family with an English family which was different to the first one obviously.
I think the most stereotypical thing about South Africans is how they are very helping and warm but the country still has lots of problems to overcome.
Another thing is that people believe South Africa is very dangerous which I did see but as long as you take some precautions and listen to what your family says you won't have any problems.
Racism is a big part yes, but it's up to the students to see that and overcome it themselves because it's not rocket science to be open minded and don't see colour. One has to know that there are racial terms such as "Black", "Coloured" and "White" which are normal words to use and no one is afraid of using them because that's how they make life easier and is not meant in a badly racial way which can be hard for exchange students to understand.
As there are so many cultures I can only speak for the two families I stayed with which are representing the coastal English and Afrikaaners. In general religion is ranked very high within families and it is not unusual for families to go to church every week, some even go a few times a week.
Afrikaaners tend to be very traditional and conservative and from European mindset not as open but one has to get used to it and then its fine, its just up to the volunteers to examine whether they think the students are suitable for a country like South Africa.
My family and my friends loved the outdoors and spend a lot of time outside, by the beach or socialising because friends are a very big part of daily life but so is school and sports.
My school was very traditional and one could also see that in families values of the ones which boys (yes it was an all boys school) attended the school.
very old and english (kinda like Harry Potter) but that's rather an exception.
The best thing about South Africa is the friendliness and openness of the people. It's such an easiness and lightness they go through life with and they are so easy going but yet hard working.
There is always time and the mind to improve their home, family or country which I admire.
The weather is fantastic and the sunny days are absolutely stunning and I never enjoyed my life as much as I did when I lived in South Africa.
Ever since I came back from exchange I came back every year at least once because I need the sunshine from the people and the proper sun in my life.
Students should be willing to stay open minded, non judging and very patient. Realising respect is very important to families and teachers they shouldn't talk back and be able to step back and listen before complaining and shouldn't have a problem to follow rules without asking why at first and just observe.
Do have fun and enjoy your stay but it is of utmost importance to follow the families, schools and YFUs rules.
Don't be vegetarian if you want to have a good life, don't be a smoker and go well with dogs since almost all families own pets, especially dogs.
South Africa is a beautiful country with stunning nature and people but students should not expect to see everything and go on a lot of trips sind South Africans can be poor and won't be able to travel as much as some students hope for.
I call South Africa my home even after all these years because I enjoyed my life so much but it came with difficulties and challenges but it sure was life enriching and character building and I would do all of it again if I had the chance to.'