A friend of mine (Fifi) convinced me to do this post as this is definitely something that many MANY African students who have left motherland are experiencing. I get you, the struggle is REAL! No need to despair though-you are not alone in this.As the “culture shock curve shows”, it will take you some time-but you will adapt eventually
Here’s 10 things that I struggled with as a young Congolese woman
- Music: You will definitely find it different FOSHO (the South African slang of “for SURE!”) A lot of people (especially those with a lower concentration of melanin :D) tended to prefer pop’n rock music and this is was played at parties most of the time. As a Congolese, it took some getting used ….as nothing got me grooving like Afrobeats and R&B. Give me Koffi Olomide’s Ndombolo, PSquare’s Chop da Money, D’Banj, Tiwa Savage, Fally Ipupa anytime, any day!
- Sense of Humor: For some reason, I simply could not get the jokes…maybe it was a language thing, or simply cultural. The whole class would laugh, then my generous friend would explain to me slowly what the lecturer said-and I would still not get it..lol! Sense of humour is strongly linked to a country and culture…it takes some getting used to & gets better with time.
- Social activities: Let me just say that I got introduced to (and now like it) walks, hikes, go-karting, sight seeing, museums, theater and plays, theme parties, etc.
- Hot drinks (coffee and tea): This for all my central African readers as we did not really grow up offering each other tea and coffee during the day (no body got time for that quite frankly when its like 30 something degrees and it’s humid…lol!). Fast forward a few years later, and a bit of an open mind-I am now a proud and self proclaimed coffee addict and perpetual tea drinker.
- Time & planning: African Time (AF) means different things across the continent e.g.in Congo-basically everything is delayed by 2 hrs…I am told in Zim, it is ~ 1hr, in South Africa ~ 15-30 min. Truth is African time outside of Africa does not really exist…people plan and schedule everything …even social meet-ups (don’t assume you can just rock up at your friend’s place…ask them for a suitable time).
- Money Matters: This is probably true for Southern Africans too since I find that money tends to be a taboo subject among my Southern African friends (even when fairly close). Rule #1 you do not discuss money, rule #2: do not borrow money BUT if you do, make sure you pay it ahead of time. While very acceptable for friends to continuously borrow from each other in Central Africa, it is not the case else where.
- Eating out: Every central African has been victim of this at least once in their life i.e. That moment when you were invited to a restaurant and thought that meant free lunch and did not bring your wallet-BIG mistake :D! Bring and share is the norm-always bring your own money and if you are not in a position to pay for yourself-rather decline the invitation.
- Conversation tone: I, as a Congolese, am guilty of this. When around my homies-I tend to be at least 2-3 times louder than I usually am (it’s not my fault…we just get passionate about things :D…it always end up sounding like we are having a HUGE argument, even if we are discussing Fally Ipupa (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fally_Ipupa)’s new album. Be mindful of people around you, and if planning a get together just notify your neighbors in advance-they at the very least will not call the police on you and/or will appreciate it 😀
- Food: Eish! A few traumatic ones that come to mind: broccoli, seared/medium-rare anything! (don’t get this medium rare business really… but I do love sushi though :D), cream soda, etc.
- Personal space: I don’t think I know what is personal space or when it applies and not.But yes…it is a thang :D! I have just learnt to gage how people around react around me and use that as an indicator, that’s my advice to you… you wanting to help may be seen as forcing yourself into someone else’s business, or spending too much time with that person (makes you annoying),etc etc.Respect their space & if in doubt-ask rather ask 😀
Would love to hear if you think there is anything missing from the list as an African student already studying abroad, and/or if you are planning to go study in the future. Stay well until my next post 😉