Every year, a number of Africans are forced to move out of the continent to other parts of the world either in search of a better life, secure environment, improved health care, superior education, love or for work. Often times, these Africans end up settling and building a home in these foreign lands, only coming back to the African for visits or official purposes despite it being their home.
Being in the diaspora, for these Africans, certainly has its perks, however, with it comes with certain struggles as well. Usually, these struggles are unavoidable as they stem from the inevitable: you have to imbibe a new culture, adapt to new environment and interact with a different kind of people. We got a few Africans living abroad to share some of these struggles and we combined their comments in a list. Here are the 12 most common struggles they identified:
“You speak English so well.” “Do you speak African?”
A number of people who live abroad (in parts where they speak English) and have never been to Africa are of the impression that Africans are not fluent in English because they have an initial mother tongue. So, when they find an Africans who speak English clearly, they regard it as a form of achievement go on to compliment them with the comment” You speak English so well”. Granted, not every African abroad has a great command of the English language, but it feels insulting to be an African and at the receiving end of such a compliment, especially if they grew up speaking English. Worse is when the foreigners, in trying to make small talk, refer to Africa as though it is a city, or poses the question: Do you speak African?”
People hardly get your name right
Africans in diaspora essentially have two names : the correct pronunciation for their family and friends, and the foreign pronunciation for everyone else. An African could say: “Hi, my name is Okonkwo”, and the foreigner would say, “Oh nice. Okonko? The name suits you”. Some who can’t be bothered by being rude, would actually ask: “Do you by any chance have an easier name I could use?” There is nothing as painful as having your names murdered in its pronunciation.African in diaspora find this very frustrating, and some even eventually just stop correcting and just let them go with whatever name is thrown at them.
You are in a different time zone from your loved ones
Living abroad, Africans are automatically placed in a different time zone from the family they left behind. They have to stay up at certain times of the day to be able to speak to their family on the phone or via WhatsApp and Skype; they have to adjust their time to fit that of their family’s back at home so that they can stay involved in their lives, especially if they hope to do such things as pray together, e.t.c. There is also the part where they are constantly forced to download and test various free international calling apps to reduce the cost of communication, more for the family and friends in Africa.
You never find African food in regular stores
As an African in diaspora, you are literally almost always looking for someone traveling to Africa or coming back from Africa so that you can give them a shopping list. It is hard to find African food in regular grocery stores. You have to actually go to an African store, and most time, the store may just have Nigerian items or Ghanaian items and you are Cameroonian looking for Jasanga to spice up your fish stew. When you even find them, they are pricey and you find that highly annoying. Also, you most times cannot just other your African delicacy and have it delivered to you, you have to now learn how to make your own food.
Your biggest secret is the hardcore African playlists on your iPod and Spotify
Hip-hop, Rap, Rock, RnB, Soul…they are great to listen to and you even adore international stars like Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, e.t.c, but being in diaspora does not dull the spark African music like that of Nigeria’s Olamide or Ghana’s Sarkodie ignites within you. You also know that the people around may not get it, so you keep your African playlist a secret. The few times you let a foreigner listen, you become exhausted or even irritated with having to explain to them what the lyrics mean and why high-life music is actually invigorating.
Having foreigners offer to marry you so you can get a green card
Being an African abroad, there is the general and erroneous perception that your greatest desire is to become a citizen of that foreign country or to at least own a green card. You find people , who you probably would not even give the time of the day were you at home, accosting you with a deal that offers you marriage and eventually a green card in return. You start to wonder if there possibly is an invisible stamp on your forehead with the inscription “desperate for green card”. What happened to an African in a foreign country marrying for love?
The struggle of having to defend your country and culture while abroad
Because you identify as African, you have a lot of people approach you and say so many ignorant things that get your blood boiling so hard you lecture them on what it truly means to be African. You become a little defensive about the culture/nation you are representing. You find yourself explaining why you wear braids to protect your hair, why Masquerades are in African festivals are not the same as Mascots, e.t.c. Basically, you don’t hesitate to tell them to quit with the stereotypes as they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. And while it may give you a sense of pleasure to do this at first, after a while, it just becomes a struggle.
You visit home and suddenly are not African enough
Perhaps the highlight of your year as an African living abroad is when you go back to visit the continent. You have been homesick for so long and you have missed you friend and loved ones so much. When you do get home however and you feel like nothing has really changed, they change your mind by making fun of your new accent, or mimicking mannerisms they are convinced you picked up abroad. Worse if you come back to visit with a foreign friend who you might be dating or plan to marry, they tell you that you are no longer truly African. Somehow, your ‘africanness’ falls short and it is no longer enough.
Are you an African living abroad? Can you think of other struggles that come with being in diaspora? Share your stories with us in the comment box below!
*Image Source: standard.co.uk