Moving to Africa? Leave These 6 Hang-ups Behind
Thinking about a move to the Motherland? Don't let these six hang-ups ruin your African experience.
A dependence on high-speed internet.
Are you someone that has to constantly be plugged into the web? If so, you're in for a rude awakening in many parts of the continent. A sizeable portion of Africa has slow and sometimes non-existent internet access. The good news is that in some parts of the continent you can actually have a pretty decent connection, especially in many capital cities. This article ranks African nations by their internet speeds.
Here in Namibia, I pay about $43 per month for unlimited home wifi. It generally takes me around a day to upload a 15 to 20 minute video to youtube. And all those viral Facebook videos up and down my news feed? Most of the time they take eons to load. Patience is a virtue. One thing I have learned is that being somewhere that my access is very limited can be surprisingly (or not surprisingly) refreshing.
You think all African men are cheaters or polygamists.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me all African men are cheaters with multiple side chicks or wives. Yes, promiscuity is an issue this side of the world. But you can meet these types of men anywhere on the planet. You cannot paint an entire continent of Black men with one brush, write them all off and have a well-founded culturally infused experience. Here in Namibia, I’ve been privy to the sight of the most beautiful black relationships with a lot less of the emphasis on weight and complexion we often place on ourselves in the West. Feeding into those stereotypes could also keep you from meeting a potential life partner. I found mine here in Namibia (smile).
The thought of being separated from family makes you very uncomfortable.
Airfare is expensive. It’s difficult to get people from back home to visit - if they ever do. And being around Africans who have tons of their own relatives and bosom buddies around can induce some major homesickness and loneliness. Sometimes it's not that easy to maneuver your way into new social circles. If you’re the type of person who finds it difficult to function in the absence of loved ones and continual social support, think long and hard before moving to the continent for the long haul.
You don’t like to share.
Depending on where you live on the continent, you may come across the phrase, “in Africa we share." Sharing is a respected norm in many African cultures. Whether it’s sharing your lunch or the lunch or a bowl of water for washing your hands, leave the individualistic mindset at home.
I've watched Namibians share almost all of their lunch with fellow colleagues at the school I taught at. So, I jumped in line and did the same. Or, I chowed down my snacks in the privacy of my nearby flat.
Some cultures share and eat porridge with their fingers so being a germaphobe may embed you into some silent mental battles. I was definitely uncomfortable with such intimacies at first, but it really isn’t that bad. I’m alive. It's actually not that much different than sharing an order of french fries.
You think your Western education makes you smarter than locals.
I have seen 20-something-year-old Americans land in Africa armed with their degrees and communicate with seasoned Namibian professionals with smug condescension. Sometimes they mock Namibian methods in private conversations. Of course, as Americans, they have the best solution to every African problem.
Newsflash. Your Western education does not automatically gift you with better wisdom than an African national. Take a step back, be a sponge and approach problem-solving from a place of sensitivity. Your nationality or degree does not trump an African’s insight. Lose the stereotypes of White and Western superiority and approach discussions with tact, sensitivity, and respect.
You have an obsession with scheduling and lack of flexibility.
Now, I don’t really like the term “African time”. Why? Well, because I've actually attended several meetings and events here in Namibia that actually have started on time. Still, the concept of time can be a bit relaxed in parts of the continent. Ironically, I actually find this to be refreshing in comparison to the icy rigidity of corporate America.
Aside from timeliness, unpredictability is something to prepare yourself for. Sometimes there will be power and water outages. Or maybe all the debit card and ATM machines in your town are down due to a technical glitch. And it can take a lot of follow-ups before something is addressed. Things happen and if you have a short fuse, leave it home and submit yourself to the unexpected. A stiff-necked attitude will bring you nothing but more frustration. Africa will teach you that although life does not always go according to plan, it still goes on.
I’ll be the first to say that I did move to the continent with a few of these hangups. But six years later, I've relaxed into Namibian life, with all of its unpredictabilities. While she will sometimes throw you for a loop, this continent will stretch you in ways you never knew possible. Simply put, you will come out stronger in the end.
This list is only the very beginning. What are some no-go traits you can add to this list? Share your suggestions in the comments below!