Survivor’s guide to partying with English speakers
Chris McEvoy teaches you what to expect when partying with English South Africans.
First, a quick background check: I survived the dreaded high school years in Rondebosch, a soulless suburb on the wet side of Table Mountain, before finally escaping to Rhodes University for four years of fun (and some studying).
So you can assume I was socially conditioned to be your typical white English speaking South African, and have more than enough experience to give you pointers on getting through the evening if you’re invited to one of their parties this festive season.
Rule 1: Ignore the dress code
My tribe love to attach a theme to their parties, and often include a dress code in their meticulously worded invites. You might be asked to dress ‘20s style, wear pink, wear a hat, or something on the theme of “clouds at twilight”, or some such abstract bullshit.
I’ve been to parties where not even the hosts bothered to dress up. Most of my tribe are too apathetic, too cool and too self-conscious to make an effort beyond wrapping some tinsel around their head or turning their shirt inside out. They honestly believe everyone should be thankful that they bothered to show up at all.
So if you show up in an expensive gorilla suit or look like you spent more than 10 minutes on your fancy costume, you’ll just look stupid and everyone will laugh at you. And not in a good way.
Rule 2: Bring good wine
Save your papsak and box wine nonsense for another time. Cane, brandy and old brown sherry are similarly infra dig (you should totally look up) “infra dig”.
A decent whiskey or beer is okay, but ideally, you want to show up at the door with at least one bottle of wine (preferably red) that makes your host say, “Oh, I know this wine. It’s good stuff”. Anything in the R50 price range should be enough to ensure your host doesn’t look down on you for the rest of the evening.
Your contribution will end up on a table in the kitchen, which, if you’ve arrived as fashionably late as you should have, will be already full of bottles of wine of varying quality. You’ll see some cheap plonk.
Feel free to snort derisively and mutter to yourself, “Who brought THIS shit?” because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Rule 3: Steal responsibly
My tribe don’t have much community spirit (they barely even see themselves as a culture) and this is reflected in the weird shift in drinking etiquette as the night progresses. It goes something like this:
You’ll start the evening thinking that everyone is supposed to only drink the booze they brought with them (apart from the host’s weak and thoroughly nasty complimentary punch), so you’ll pour yourself a glass of your red wine and wander into the mingling area so everyone can stare at you and judge you.
But you’ll be lucky if you get to drink even half your bottle, because when you return for your third glass, your bottle would have already been emptied by some toffee-nosed alcoholic (if it was me, I’m so sorry – please let me explain).
It’s inescapable. My tribe is far less sophisticated than they think they are and, as a result, have a terrible judgement of their own drinking habits. They always under-supply themselves, and when they run out, they’ll feel perfectly entitled to colonise your resources.
That’s just the way we English speakers roll, and have rolled for centuries.
This is exacerbated by the fact that at every party (no exceptions) there are always a few people who brought white wine, and two drinks later decided that they actually prefer red. I have no idea why. It’s as annoying, mysterious and as inevitable as taxes.
Your only option is to apply the “when in Rome” rule. It’s actually kind of fun stealing other people’s booze. And relatively safe too, because firstly, nobody really cares at this point in the evening, and secondly, most English speaking white South Africans couldn’t fight their way out of a damp paper bag.
Rule 4: Don’t dance
Yes, there’ll be a dance floor, and yes, there’ll be pumping ‘90s music, and perhaps even some swirling colourful lights – but for most of the evening the dance area will be tragically empty. This is because my tribe don’t like to be noticed. We like to fit in with each other, and reap the benefits of going with the flow, rather than trying to change its direction.
This is how we benefited from apartheid all those years: by voting for the PFP, then thanking God the Afrikaners voted the Nats in again. We don’t like taking responsibility.
And then there’s the fact that we CAN’T dance. We only take the plunge onto the dance floor when very, very drunk, and it’s a pitiful sight. We jump up and down on one spot, our arms flailing like skinny, fleshy windsocks and hurting anyone stupid enough to get too close.
Now that our government is trying to address the redistribution of wealth issue, perhaps it’s high time white English speaking South Africans stood up and demanded a redistribution of rhythm.
Eat before you go. There will either be no food, or the food will suck. A single, lonely bowl of chips (no dip) and a coffee cup filled with peanuts is par for the course.
Most of the fun happens in the kitchen. Go there. You won’t be disappointed.
Don’t talk politics. Not because you’ll get into a fight, but because it’ll be unimaginably boring. Everyone votes for the DA. EVERYONE. You can’t possibly have an interesting political conversation with a house full of people who all vote exactly the same as their parents.
My tribe never admit that they’re drunk and will lie if you ask them.They’re very skilled in acting sober when shitfaced.You’ll only notice you’ve been discussing interest rates with an inebriated wine sack when they suddenly vomit on your shoes.
Have a fun, safe and happy festive season.
Click here for advice on partying with Coloureds, Afrikaners and Indians.