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South African Immigrant Culture

South African immigrant culture is as diverse as the Rainbow Nation itself. The immigrants of South Africa have left an indelible mark, from the road building of the Italians to the wine-making skills of the French. Then there are the immigrants from the rest of the continent who enliven our African soul.

South African immigrant culture and beliefs have added much to the Rainbow Nation.

Deserving first mention amongst the immigrants of South Africa – as it was they who first circumnavigated Africa – are the Portuguese. This heralded a steady flow of Portuguese into South Africa from then on.

This quickened after the Portuguese abandoned their colonies of Mozambique and Angola. These people brought with them the wonderful variations of their national cuisine, spiced by the fiery peri-peri chili.

After the Dutch settled the Cape came French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in the 1680s. They settled mainly round Franschhoek in the Western Cape and their influence on our wine industry has been immense.

Adding to the country’s immigrant culture are Germans, many of whom stick to their traditions in the Wartburg area of KwaZulu-Natal. Other significant immigrant groups from Europe are the Irish and the Greeks, the later bringing their Mediterranean cuisine to the table.
Amongst the most influential immigrants, though, are the Italians and Jews. Many of the Italians were sent here as prisoners of war and remained, giving us their magnificent building skills and cuisine.

Most of the Jewish immigrants arrived with the discovery of mineral wealth and during the turmoil in Europe in the early 20th century. They have been a potent force in making South Africa an economic powerhouse to be reckoned with.

Chinese were first brought to South Africa as indentured labourers on the gold mines. Since then they have established a small but influential presence in all aspects of our life, creating wonderfully vibrant little enclaves all over the country – most major cities boast a Chinatown or two.
Immigrant culture would not be complete without mentioning the influx of people from the rest of the continent, especially after 1994. Our major cities have been enlivened by some of the most colourful cultures on earth, most recently those from West Africa.

Excerpted from South African Tourism