Hou Jou Bek

If you've ever met a South African or are friends with one, chances are they'll most likely have taught you a few Afrikaans phrases. Some good, some well, naughty.

Let's start at the beginning. I'm coloured South African, born in Cape Town. I moved to New Zealand with my family when I was 11 years old. I'm basically Kiwi, but I still hold onto some traditions. One "tradition" I haven't held onto is being a meat eater. I've been vegetarian for 3 and 1/2 years now and I never thought going vegetarian by choice would or should affect anyone. My parents were a bit iffy when I first told them and they thought, "oh here we go, another one of her hippy phases."


I made the decision to go vegetarian whilst living in London. I had a few bad experiences with meat, lived with a vego and watched some documentaries that changed my view. I became more intrigued on the lifestyle and how my diet had started to improve my health and body. I'll admit it wasn't the easiest transition. I would find myself for the first few weeks sneaking in my chicken fix, or worst waking up after a big night at the pub and finding the remnants of fried chicken or a meaty burger. I'd feel utter guilt, but I was more determined to learn the ways of being more experimental with my food and teaching myself how to cook with different flavours regardless of the setbacks.

Fast forward 3 and a 1/2 years later, no chicken fixes, feeling a lot healthier and a hell of a cook if I may say so myself.
I moved back to NZ and work with a fair share of South Africans, which is really where the story begins. I had been offered biltong a few times and politely said no thank you. I got asked if I was feeling ok because biltong was a South African food staple. I mean it's the tits when you're hungover, but there's no tofu variety therefore my answer was no thank you. I got strange looks every time I was offered and I would decline. Eventually I came clean and said 'I'm vegetarian'. The shock horror that I wasn't like them became the topic of discussion on the daily. Every day I would get teased, told "what kinda South African are you that doesn't eat meat?!". The teasing continued but it sparked something in me, am I any less of a South African or Kiwi because I don't eat meat? And what right do you have telling me what I should in fact be eating. Vegans are always getting sh*t because people say they force their beliefs onto others, I have yet to meet one who does. I guess what I am experiencing is the same treatment meat eaters claim vegans do to them. constantly being badgered to go back to the ways of my people.

I guess I am lucky in the sense I can laugh this off and flip it back on them. It bugs me sometimes but I just turn around and say - Hou jou bek. You're probably wondering what the heck that means. Hou jou bek (said hoe-yo-bek) directly translates to shut your mouth. It's a lot harsher sounding and throws more weight South African to South African, but the next time a Saffa does piss you off just say- Hey, Hou jou bek!