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All this friendliness is getting unnerving

Sunday, July 11, 2010
Jul 11
9:59
AM ET

Posted by Jemele Hill

JOHANNESBURG -- The friendliness of the South African people has been noted by just about all of us here covering the World Cup, but even after several weeks in this country, it's still unnerving.

The hardest thing to get used to is the graciousness with which South Africans give directions. I know people in the United States will give you directions, but in major cities -- where I've mostly lived -- a lot of times if you ask someone how to get somewhere, they'll look at you like you just asked them for a kidney.

Here, it's considered common courtesy not only to give people directions, but also to drive them there personally! I've had that experience at least 10 times while out on assignment, and I'm amazed each time it happens.

The lack of paranoia in South Africa strangely heightens my own. In America, if I asked someone for directions and they told me to follow them, I'd automatically assume they were a tristate murderer.

The culture of fear doesn't exist in South Africa as it does in America, even though crime is an issue. It's certainly refreshing. But it says a lot about the world I'm used to living in that I can't adjust to good intentions.

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