I get so excited everytime I meet someone who is enthusiastic about Africa and this cool friend of mine from Germany travelled to Kenya for the holidays and I had the chance to engage with her on her experience travelling to some countries in Africa. Enjoy the conversation and of course lemme know your wonderful and honest thoughts.
When did you first come to Africa? Which country did you go to first? Why?
The first African country I ever visited was Tanzania in 2014. After I visited India the year before, I learned that there is so much more to learn about a country when you actually explore it yourself, rather than just watching documentaries on TV. Because I have heard a lot about the African continent before, I wanted to see for myself how it really is.
Did you experience culture shock at the first encounter? How was it?
To be honest, I did not experience culture shock in Tanzania or Kenya, but I had culture shock when I came back to Europe. It started at the airport in Vienna, when I saw all those ridiculously high-priced items sold at the airport, which do not even add any value to your life when you purchase them. The second culture shock was actually about some people back at home. Everyone asked “How was it?” but not many were really interested in the answer because no one could identify themselves with my stories. The follow up questions were more about poverty, HIV status, but not many wanted to hear about a perspective that they have not heard about before, I.e. the amazing local people, mentality and community life. That made me also rethink the picture about my own society.
What stereotypes did you have about Africa before you travelled?
Stereotypes that are spread in Europe are about “Africa” as the entire continent. I learned quickly that this is ridiculous because every African country is different and even within the countries there are differences. One ridiculous stereotype is that there is not so much food and the quality is poor. Whenever people tell me that I will loose weight when I’m travelling back to “Africa” I am just laughing into their face and tell them that there is so much yummy food here and I actually have to be careful to gain weight because I just love the local dishes and streetfood here!
How frequent do you come to Africa?
I have been coming once a year since 2014 and I hope I can continue like that.
Would you live in Africa? Whichever answer, why?
Yes, I can definitely imagine living in Kenya, Uganda or Tanzania, because I am a very open, people’s person. I love meeting new people, talking to random people in the streets and interacting with my neighbors. I especially value how communities here stick together and how one can just ask anyone to help out if you have a question. The people here will always help find a solution, and even if they don’t know the solution themselves, they direct you to someone else who might know. I often miss this kind of openness and willingness to help in Germany, people often mind their own business and talking to strangers is not a very common thing.
Noticed you have a lot of Kenyan friends, how has your experience been interacting with Kenyan locals?
My Kenyan friends are the most important to me because I learn so much from them which helps in growing and developing myself. Kenyans are hustlers, they are strong and never give up. (Btw the lion in my tattoo stands for the strong characters of Africans). If there is a problem or an unexpected circumstance, you just adapt and find a way around, but you don’t give up and at the end of the day it will always work out if you remained determined, even if not on the same route as planned. I also admire the Kenyan curiosity, passion for business and politics. Because of that I always have great conversations with my friends and it never becomes boring!
What is your biggest take away about coming to Africa?
My biggest takeaway is that I was able to learn and adapt the Kenyan mentality by living with a Kenyan family and having so many inspiring Kenyan friends. My character also became strong, spontaneous and adaptable. Therefore, nothing can take me down easily. culture by living with a Kenyan family and having so many inspiring, Kenyan friends. My character also became strong, spontaneous and adaptable. Therefore, nothing can take me down easily.
If you were to advice other foreigners interested in coming to Africa, who for some reason are scared because of the idea they have about Africa ( common stereotypes I. E war zone ) what would you tell them given your travels to Africa so far?
The first thing I always tell people is that they should stop seeing Africa as a country, because it is a huge huge continent with 55 countries that are all different from each other. I.e. The Ebola outbreak was not in “Africa”, it was in some countries in the West, therefore you can still travel to other African countries without any fear. I would also advise not to be scared just because the media reported about an incident some time back. For example, I will be travelling to Zimbabwe in January, because I always wanted to see the Victoria falls and I heard that the Zimbabwean culture is very open and kind. People in Europe tell me I am crazy because of the Coup that recently happened, because that is the last picture that they have in mind. I just tell them, that since the media is not reporting anything about Zimbabwe anymore, it means that everything is OK and peaceful, which is also verified by some Zimbabweans. The media only reports about drama and unfortunately stops reporting when the drama is solved. Therefore I advice everyone to travel and get the picture of a country for yourself, you will be surprised and you will never regret stepping out of your comfort zone!
Photo Credits go to Gideon Mwangi