Ok, I was going to answer this yesterday, but decided to get several different views from classmates. Since I have friends in Johannesburg and Cape Town, I know major cities like Bloemfontein, Pretoria,Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, etc. I think about how fascinating life must be and how different cultures must be to have 11 different official languages, many dialects of each and several unofficial languages. I think about Apartheid, I often wonder how it would feel to be the minority rather than the majority in a country, I wonder how the political system works and whether the product of our politics are any different or if it's really just different packaging between our two countries. I wonder how much American history South Africa gets in comparison to how much South African history that the USA gets... We covered Apartheid for a week and spent an hour on the Boer Wars... that was it. Sad really. There was a lot of rich history we skipped over in the name of propaganda to teach us about the ethics of why we weren't allowed to be taught the theory of evolution (it's against the law where I was from to teach evolution). I wonder the origin of "The Rainbow Nation" statement. The USA is called the Melting Pot, why called the "Rainbow Nation"?
My friends in Kansas, however, asked quesions like: Do they have lions there? They don't have white people, do they? Are they all, like, tribal and stuff? Isn't Mugabe from there or something? (a little faith in my country and humanity died when that question was asked...) Aren't they all a bunch of jungle farmers? Where is that? Is that like a region? What countries are in South Africa?
The area I live in now is a popular destination point for South Africans vacationing, so we get the occasional Afrikaans speaker and we absolutely love you guys here. 9/10 when someone from Phoenix hears "South Africa" they will at least know that it's a country, where it is, they'll ask you what city you're from, and they'll probably know a phrase or two in Afrikaans or Zulu. Chances are that "gooie dag" is all we know though, so don't press it. UCLA is the closest University that teaches Afrikaans and it's 8 hours away and a $20,000 a semester (187,400 Rand) tuition price that 99% of us don't have. :-)
As far as the accent goes, you guys absolutely HATE it, but we DO tend to mistake you for Aussies or Kiwis. Usually, we get very self-conscious about it if we get it wrong because we are terribly worried we've offended you by getting it wrong. Sometimes you'll find the occasional person that will be able to figure out that you don't sound Australian or New Zealandish because the accents of South Africa tend to, in my honest opinion, sound a little bit "flat" on the vowel sounds and they sound like they speak more with the back of their throat than the front (nasal sounds) like Australians and New Zealanders.
As far as the people- Americans tend to judge people based on their opinions of America. If your political leaders are really ripping our country at the moment, we'll probably take it fairly slow in getting to know you, but we'll be pretty neutral about the person as a whole. As far as my personal opinion of South Africans: I have not met a single South African I have not gotten along fantastically with. The friends I've made from there are very honest, loyal, witty, and kind-hearted people. Loyalty in the USA, admittedly, is a bit hard to come by. People are flaky here, while South Africans may not be as direct, but they won't lead you on like an American will.
Sorry about being so verbose. I tried to shorten it and not ramble too much, just wanted to give you a good answer.