The genuine interest, positive vibe and non-exhaustive optimism is what made our journey in South Africa the spark that lit the flame of Happiness around the Globe.
However, in a country with over 2000 different tribes, an abundance of natural resources and a dreadful history, it’s not all about happiness. Most citizens have experienced the greatest sadness of loss, the presence of fear and the lack of a bright future. Most have lived in situations that are impossible to survive without a strong presence of hope. During the Apartheid (1948-1994) nonwhite South Africans (most of the population) would be forced to live in separate areas from whites and use separate public facilities, and contact between the two groups would be limited.
Whereas this awful tragedy has officially died, some still live in
situations we can hardly imagine being in. The collaborative media silence that attends the ongoing disintegration of post-apartheid South Africa, together with the highest rate of rapes in the world and a murder rate that might be expected in a warzone, a large part of the country is still confronted with the dark side of life.
Yet we are overwhelmed and deeply impressed by the mental strength and mindset of the people of South Africa. Everyone is willing to help us out. Maybe it because we are tourist, no doubt this will play a role to some extent, but the time people take to have a small talk, help you out or just say hello when passing by in the street made us feel humble.
The question is what makes people in this country have this mind-blowing mindset?
The South African Happiness equation: Minus times Minus equals a big plus.
Know the dark side of life
Even though the Apartheid has officially ended by the end of the 20th century, many citizens are still continuously struggling to survive. However, the ones who are facing this dark side are also giving us the biggest smile they have. It is the group of people with limited opportunities, resources and education that impressed us most. The perseverance, optimism and forgiveness makes you feel humble.
Siya is an eighteen-year old student with the most sparkling eyes and brightest teeth we’ve ever seen. He grew up in the township Langa just outside of Cape Town where many are seduced to cut corners. He has witnessed so many horrible tragedies that he is determined to not end up in jail, be involved in life-long battles or die at a young age.
Create a purpose and ambition
Because of all tragedies Siya has faced, he is very decisive and has a clear purpose in life. He’s convinced that he’ll become a movie producer one day. He has multiple jobs to save money to study in Cape Town, is already writing stories and movie script to prepare for his dream to come true. It is his optimism and ambition that makes talking to Siya is like talking to the next Steven Spielberg.
While being in Cape Town all by herself at age eighteen, Khaya has never been surer of the love she has for her job. Through her job she quickly learns that making a lot of money doesn’t equal lasting happiness: “especially if you don’t have a lot of money and watch the life of richer people, you will find out that they also have deficiencies”.
For Khaya, a beautiful and unique person who’s an extremely passionate spa masseuse, happiness is all about doing something for someone else. Her job lets her to be of help to others. Because of the negative experiences she faced, she understands the true essence of happiness, not just the look-a-like symptoms like money you might see at the surface. It let her to see that “Everything that glitters is not gold”.
And doing something for someone all starts with the basic ingredient: love.
Loving yourself and others is possible when you’re able to forgive yourself and others. Yet forgiveness is a term that often feels so vague, general and definitely easier-said-than-done.
But when talking to these inspiring people in South Africa, it seems like the most natural state of human being. As if forgiving someone or something is like greeting a stranger on the street. You just choose to do it …
For Etienne, a recently graduated student from Stellenbosch who by far is the best and funniest sommelier and wine-addict we’ve ever met, being able to love yourself and to openly acknowledge emotions, both happy and sad ones, made him capable of actually enjoying life.
Growing up as a boy who had overweigh, his high-school nickname quickly became big-boy. Being bullied a-lot, he knows what it’s like to have negative thoughts and feelings every-single-day. Yet these negativities made him decide that it’s up to him to accept who he is. That it’s up to him to love the big man he’s becoming.
Ever since he’s loving himself, he is able to laugh. A lot! For him, happiness is nothing more than the experience he creates himself: “by having a big laugh as often as possible and always trying to live in the moment I create the best experiences for myself”.
And once you’re loving yourself, you’re able to love others. What all beautiful and unique South Africans we met have in common, is the desire to look at things from multipleperspective. According to Etienne it helps to be less judgmental and more empathic, because “you never know what the person went through”.
How do they express their love?
Quite simply, the South Africans have what’s called Ubuntu.