5.4.09

When Africa and Europe meets

After spending the weekend with house quests - and thoroughly enjoying it - I was preparing to spend Sunday evening on the back stoep (no proper English word for it - closest is porch) with my Blogger friends. I made myself a nice cup of coffee, got my laptop and made my way to the back stoep only to find that my dear cross-culture neighbours had made a wood fire and my back stoep was "unbreathable". Oh well, Africa is not for cissies!

Now don't get me wrong... I love an open wood fire that burns brightly. I love being next to one on a cold winters evening, staring into the flames, enjoying the vibrancy of colours and shapes they create and sharing special time with family or close friends. I have many fond memories of such fires... If a nice lamb chop and some fresh boerewors are sizzling on it, even better.

What I fail to understand though, is the smoky wood fires that my African neighbours seem to enjoy. For some reason lost in the smoke of history, a fire must be made and it must produce smoke. . The temperature is 28 degrees Celsius, dinner is cooking on the electrical stove in the kitchen, water is being heated in the electrical geyser in the roof and the television set is blaring in the lounge, but a fire must be made and it must smoulder and smoke!

In Limpopo, the most northern province of South Africa, where I live, the differences between the two cultures are still very strong. I cannot speak for the city dwellers or other parts of my country, I can only speak for Limpopo for this is where my everyday life is lived and where my experiences is formed. This is where I live these differences every day.

The smoking fire thing is only one of many such differences. A very annoying one to Europeans is the way Africans love to huddle together. For instance, when standing in a queue of any kind, they will always stand close enough to one another for their bodies to touch. Europeans in contrast, value personal space very much. Lets face it, we cannot stand being jostled and breathed upon by others, not even our own family and friends. Well maybe in the privacy of our own homes, but definitely not in public. Believe me, you would only once be jostled in a queue by someone who has not bathed for a week because of some or other tribal ritual, and you would value your personal space even more.

Our mothers spent many hours teaching us, (well, trying to) to speak in gentle tones, especially when in public. Other people are not interested in our conversations (okay, not supposed to) and if we speak loudly, it would be disturbing to others. (Or was it just my mother's way of trying to save her own hearing?). Well, not so with Africans. Whenever you encounter more than one African, you will hear them calling out to one another and then continuing the conversation at the very top of their voices. Whether it is from one side of the street to the other, or from one side of the banking hall to the other. Libraries are no longer places of quiet and serenity - it is a cacophony of youthful voices having conversations while researching and studying!. An African friend clarified this habit with a very simple and valid explanation: If you speak softly to someon
e, other people might think you are gossiping... makes sense to me, but try having a meeting in the Conference Room with a couple of them carrying on a conversation in the passage just outside the door...

Our eating habits...


Well, except for Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds, there are very few similarities.

Africans delicasy: Mopani worms (eaten with fingers).
European delicasy: Snails (eaten with cute little forks)...

and never the twine shall meet!


PS: In South Africa we have many cultures and much to learn from each other's cultures. However, whether politically correct or not, the two main cultures are African (meaning influenced by the Black tribal traditions and cultures) and European (meaning influenced by the English and European traditions and cultures) such as is also found in the USA, Canada, Australia, etc. So for the sake of simplicity in this post, I have referred refer to the black Africans as African, and to the white Africans, as European - even though I was born on African soil, raised under the African sun, speak an indigenous African language and am exceptionally proud to call myself an African.

7 comments:

Arley said...

How very interesting. What is the reasoning behind the "smoke" and not so much the "fire"? I guess I could say I wouldn't blame you for not liking the smoke. I hate to see what their lungs look like.

A human kind of human said...

Hi Arley, I do not know. It probably is just the way they make a fire. This post was done somewhat tongue in cheek as this particular family does not live in a rural area where open wood fires are common, they live in a western style home, in town, with all the amenities available. Unless they have a barbeque every night, there does not seem to be any logical reason for a fire at all.

Argent said...

What an interesting post! In my hometown in the midlands of England, we are getting lots of asylum seekers from various eastern european and african countries so our bus journeys and city-centre shopping experiences are getting more culturally mixed by the day! I've always wondered why african folks talk loudly (you should hear them on their mobiles!) - I love the "we're not gossiping" explanation. Thanks for sharing this.

Argent said...

Thanks for sharing this, your post was lovely and vivid for me. My hometown in the midlands of England is home to a growing population of eastern european and african asylum seekers, so we're getting some interesting times here now. I love the "we're not gossiping" explanation for the talking so loudly (this seems to apply to mobile phones too :-)). I tried to post a comment earlier but I think the internet ate it. If not, then you'll get 2 for the prince of 1.

A human kind of human said...

I love a bargain - thanks for both.

jozeygirl said...

momzy and i had a conversation not to different from this post on friday. another thing that i don't understand is when they're on the phone. speaking in there native languege. they never seem to say goodbye. they just hang up. whats with that?

JD said...

Fascinating!!!!!!!