I was fortunate enough to spend my interim in the beautiful country of South Africa. Amidst the heavy air that smelled of ocean salt, adventure and fried food, I couldn’t help but notice how busy my surroundings were.

Markets crowded the bustling sidewalks. Taxis full of people zipped back and forth. Birds marked their territory here and there—one day, “there” just happened to be on my shoulder.

Aside from the hustle and bustle of normal life, what screamed the loudest on the busy streets of South Africa was the style. Just like the pride they have for their country, their clothes had loud and proud written all over them too.

In the United States we seem to be drawn toward more neutral colors, occasionally mixed with a bright color or a crazy pattern if we are feeling confident. I am guilty as charged when it comes to the neutral nonsense. My motto is that if there was a color darker than black I would be all over it.

South Africans, on the other hand, like to dress to a different tune. Patterns on patterns, colors on colors, patterns on colors: You name it, and they’ll wear it loudly and proudly.

I tried to decipher if there was any rhyme or reason to their thought process when it came to their wardrobe, but the best I could get was this quote from a student at the Christel House School in Cape Town:

“If we like it, we wear it. We like to be loud and the only way to match that is with loud colors.”

At the time, I chuckled when I heard this and looked down at my charcoal grey maxi covered with a sheer black button up and white converse. Just moments before an eighth-grade girl approached me and asked if I was Goth or part of the Illuminati, just because I was wearing dark clothing.

Just as I had judged them and wondered why they had so much variety going on in one outfit, they had judged me for being so bland in my clothing choice.

I admire the ability of the South Africans’ carefree outlook on fashion.

It all makes sense, though. Labeled as a “rainbow nation” due to the diversity of its people, South Africans want to reiterate that through their style.

Since my trip, I have tried to find more freedom in my closet. It is hard to completely let go of my boring colors and be totally out there, but then again I think back to the students of Christel House: “If we like it, we wear it.”

Isn’t that what fashion is all about? It doesn’t matter whether you are from the United States, Europe or Africa; it’s not just about the clothes you put together, it’s about the person wearing them.

Among the many things I learned from the senior girls at Christel House School, there was one line they said I will always remember.