Traveling while Rwandan?

The world quickly becoming a risky place, I thought I’d share a few hints on how to cheat xenophobes and racists.

This isn’t another ‘Traveling while black’ thing where people complain of past experiences, this is a plan on how to move and make moves.

I haven’t necessarily traveled more than most but both here in Rwanda and while I traveled, I have tried out things with different nationalities of people and observed different reactions.

For instance, in my own country Rwanda, I receive better service when I speak English, good when I speak Kinyarwanda the local language, not so good when I speak French.

The bias is – because that’s what it is: plain bias – based on nothing rational, just people’s own fears and hung-ups, and, maybe an anecdote or two, heard or experienced along the way, which taken with everything else, shouldn’t normally guide anyone’s world view.

I am saddened to inform all of you that the trick is: DON’T TRY TO INTEGRATE! That’s right: Don’t be humble to bad people. I know what you are thinking: Love in the answer, do unto others what you’d have them do to you, bla bla, nope! Sorry, Karma does works, except with idiots!

Also, don’t try the representing. They keep saying we are ambassadors of Rwanda, but are we really? Rocking a Mishanana in downtown Berlin is pointless. For one you will freeze to death and two, people will take pictures of you…

When in Ethiopia though, they will certainly call you Diaspora because you look like them but you can’t speak Amharic. Make it a point to clarify that you are in fact a Rwandan, at which point they will buy you a beer. Because unlike here, Diaspora actually means ‘Duchebag’ in Addis.

See, xenophobe and racists have the mentality of villagers. You can move to a village, help them beat their rival village in a game of Petanque (Occitan), marry the local sweetheart, give her three kids named huey, duey and luey, teach in the local school, win the trivia on the pointless village’s history, etc. but one day when anything goes wrong and it is time to blame somebody, they will always blame the ‘foreigner’ and that’s you. So don’t waste your time trying to be one of them.

Instead, BE A CONQUEROR. Since racists and xenophobes are cowards, you have to bully them. You have to show them that you come from a civilization superior to theirs. After that they usually retreat, with their tail between their legs, its quiet amusing to observe too.

Luckily, the whole thing makes no sense. For instance, a black person with a European accent is more respected in the US than a dude from down town Kingston, Jamaica. But this accent needs not be of Spanish, Portuguese because that notion of superior civilization just isn’t there. Mexicans have screwed it up. The same applies to Italian, which no longer sounds exotic given the significant Italian community in the US. If you speak German they’ll just hate you. So it’s got to be French or British; the two countries who once colonized them.

On the other hand, if you ‘speak American’ you are likely to be more respected in the UK than if you were trying to camouflage your Kampala’s accent’ with a fake British one.

Germans are lovely people! Wait, what? Yeah, everyone in Europe is saying that now. It is true they are great, but for Europeans to be saying it now, it must really scratch them in the throat.

Up until before the financial crisis, to which only Germany seems immune, they hated their guts. Now, Europeans are migrating massively to Germany for labor and Germans are embracing them with open arms.

Western media is showing us only Syrians, but there are hundreds of thousands of Italians, Spanish, Greeks and Portuguese who’ve migrated to Germany every year for the last six years at the very least

So yeah, Germans are great. Before that, Dutch people would walk into a Boutique in Paris and the vendor would ignore them until they go;
– Heu, je suis Hollandais, d’accord?
– Oh mais oui! Bienvenue! qu’est-ce qui peut vous faire plaisir! Merci beaucoup!

Today they don’t have the luxury for that anymore, so to speak…

The situation of black people in Germany hasn’t really changed much, the same experience, except, when they speak English.

Germans still have the WW2 hang ups, although, with Brexit and all, I reckon British accent won’t be popular for long either So ‘American’ is your safe bet. And by American I mean from Ivy League, to Ghetto new orleans pigin’, it just has to sound ‘American’.

You know how in Africa, when your white friend throws a terribly pronounced Kinyarwanda word your aunt finds is endlessly cute? Well, that’s not gonna work for you anywhere outside Africa. They bully you if you screw up their language.

Also, you see how we are baffled when Brits complain about Polish and how they sound? They look pretty much the same to us, as a matter of fact, I am sure I have twice the chance of speaking fluent polish, than getting a full sentence from a bloke with a Manchester accent..

Polish people should speak English with a Russian accent, Brits will shit their pants, everyone is scared of Russians, I am scared of Russians and I live in Kigali…

So the bias in Rwanda is that English is somewhat: ‘the language of power’: The government operates in English. Kinyarwanda, the local language being the standard for everyone, so nothing glamorous, while French is a bit of a ‘has been’, ‘dephasee’ as they’d say it themselves.

This, in fact doesn’t happen to Rwandans only, it turns out, most people in the world respect English, not British: American, except… in America. Complicated enough? Ok, here we go:

So here is a subjective list, based entirely on my personal bias:

But this, as you will discover later isn’t true for Rwanda only. You will also discover, if you haven’t already that it isn’t cutting age science:

Until recently we were the darlings of the Great lakes region, everyone liked us. Even when our Prez had a beef with Kikwete, Tanzanians still liked us. Same thing with DRC, they still like us. Now, thanks to Nkurunziza Burundians don’t dig Rwandans anymore. So we might have to go some place else for a while.

So to recap:
– When in Europe: Speak American;
– When in Anglophone Country speak french,
– When in Francophone country speak English
– When in the US speak Franglais or British Accent.

Franglais also works with Nairobi girls, it is Mutahi Ngunyi who taught me that so it must be true!

Alright, have a safe trip. But always remember, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in a country, if you look different to the majority, you will always be the stranger. You might as well be the stranger from a superior civilization…


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