Saturday, May 5, 2012

PASSPORT: Christina Kneitz

Sunshine and Sausages in South Africa

By Baia Dzagnidze

Full Name: Christina Kneitz
Country: South Africa
Year of birth: 1988
Major: Communication and Mass Media

UNYPRESS: How old were you when you moved to Europe?
Christina Kneitz: I was about three years old. My father, who was a diplomat, had a new posting in Europe, so we moved to Bonn, Germany, where I went to kindergarten. Later on, we moved to Brussels, Belgium, and I went to elementary school there. Four years later, we moved to London. and after four years there we moved to Berlin, where I finished high school.

UNYPRESS: You still have some relatives in South Africa, right? How often do you visit them?
CK: Yes, on my mother’s side – my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. Now, my younger brother moved there and is studying in Pretoria, which is very close to Johannesburg. I try to go there every year, but with studying and working, it’s not easy to find enough time.

UNYPRESS: As you lived in many countries, which one do you consider your home?
CK: Home to me is the place where I live – now it’s Prague. Even though I am really happy here, I do feel that something is missing sometimes. As I moved around so often, my home changed many times. However, when I go back to Johannesburg, and stay at my grandparents and spend time with my family, it feels the way it did before. So I have another feeling of “home.”

UNYPRESS: Was it hard for you to get used to another country?
CK: Since I mostly lived in Europe, it was not that hard getting used to other countries. I always went to international schools, so my friends were basically in the same situation. In London, we had good friends from South Africa, which felt like home in some ways.

UNYPRESS: What is the main difference between Europe and South Africa?
Christina with friends in theme park
Gold Reef City. Johannesburg
CK: The main difference is that here everything is so close. Traveling to different countries and by public transport in the cities is very easy, especially in Prague. Having a car is not at all necessary here, but in South Africa it’s a must. Also, similar to the United States, alcohol is sold in special liquor shops which close earlier than other shops. Moreover, in South Africa all the properties are surrounded by high walls. The only way to see houses and gardens is through the gates. Every household has a gardener and a maid. I like to say it’s like “life in a golden cage.”

UNYPRESS: How different are the cultures?
CK: Not really too different, though maybe South Africans are more laid-back and friendlier to foreigners than Czechs are. For example, when going to supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants, basically anywhere, one always asks: “Hi, how are you?” But it’s not fake like in the U.S., it’s simply being polite.

UNYPRESS: What common traditions do you have in South Africa?
CK: In summer, when it is winter here in Europe, people love to throw barbeque parties in their gardens, called Braai, where they invite family and friends over.

UNYPRESS: What is a typical meal or dish of South Africa?
CK: As South Africans barbeque a lot, one of the most typical things to eat is the “Boerewors” – a sausage made from minced meat and spices. In addition, curries are very typical, either with chicken, lamb or vegetables, cooked in a large “Potjie pot” placed over the fireplace.

UNYPRESS: What are the main stereotypes?
CK: Since South Africa is such a large country with so many different cultures, there is not one typical stereotype. The only thing I noticed was, whenever I mention that I am from South Africa, people look at me and say: “But you’re not black?!” Not everyone from South Africa is black, and sometimes I feel people forget that. Besides this, people also ask me if I am a racist, which is quite upsetting to me. Yes, South Africa has a history of racism, and apartheid did happen. But that doesn’t mean I agreed with it.

UNYPRESS: If a person wants to visit Johannesburg, what’s the process like?
CK: European citizens do not need a visa to enter South Africa. However, they need to know whether the zone they are visiting is a malaria area or not. Just in case, it’s probably better to go to a doctor and get the injection. Additionally, they should be careful with the sun, as it is much stronger than here, even when cloudy. You can get burned very quickly.

UNYPRESS: Why did you decide to study in the Czech Republic?
CK: There are many reasons. I lived in Berlin before, and I wanted to study in a country near Germany so I could see my friends easily. As my grandmother is from Prague, I thought it might be nice to go somewhere my family used to live. Also, my grandmother’s sister still lives here, so it’s nice to have some family around.

UNYPRESS: What do you like or dislike about the country?
CK: What I really like about Prague is that it is so small and getting around is not a problem. It has so much history and the architecture is amazing. The people are not always so kind, and sometimes it is really frustrating, as I can’t communicate. However, in the end, it somehow always works out. But what I love most is the beer here!

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