As the second largest continent in the world, Africa thrives with endless resources such as gold and oil. Despite this, the area has been the butt of many jokes on various TV shows. Even with a rise in awareness, many peoples’ visions of the area still remain outdated. These African natives wanted to share some of the worst misconceptions they have heard about their land.
35. King For A Day
Nigerian here. I talked to an American girl online, and then she decided to call me. She proceeded to ask if I live in a hut, if we have electricity, and if I’m royalty. She was genuinely surprised that I spoke better English than her.
34. DreamWorks Did It Wrong
I’m from Madagascar. Before meeting me, my fiancé, who is an American, never thought that someone could speak English in my country, as it’s a poor, French colony where numerous people are still not educated.
We don’t have penguins, not like the cartoon you saw.
What other Africans always say to us is, “You are not African because you look Asian.” Apart from the fact that our culture is a little bit different from other Africans, we are Africans. Madagascar is a very diverse country. We have 18 official tribes and, thus, 18 official dialects. Each one of our tribes has a different culture.
The reason why most people in the highland look Asian is because, if we refer to history, Asian (Malaysian) were among the first people who moved in Madagascar. So our dialect (in the highland) is pretty similar to Malay, and the language in the North is similar to Swahili.
33. Animals Running Wild
South African here. When I lived overseas I stayed with a Mexican and Colombian. We all used to trade stories about the absurd questions we were frequently asked by colleagues about our various countries and even decided to just play into them.
“Yes, I do have a pet leopard. Why? Don’t you?”
“Yes, my whole family drinks tequila all the time…”
The funny thing was, a girl from the USA would tell a story about how a friend of her’s picked up a coyote cub thinking it was a puppy. She made it seem like America had more wild animals running around than South Africa!
32. Hero Of War
In South Africa, there are constant attacks on people as some sort of revenge for apartheid. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many such people on platforms across the world that are selling a complete lie about farm attacks/robbery of farmers as being a part of some purge of South Africans etc. I cannot reiterate enough how this is just biased garbage misinformation that is being spread with no context by a largely racist political party and it’s followers that have an apartheid mindset and are seeking sympathy from foreign countries by blatantly embellishing facts. The simple truth is we have a huge crime problem in SA that affects everyone but racists only cry foul when it’s noticeable to their little demographic.
31. It’s OUR Dish
There is a general unawareness about Mozambique. People have heard of us, but they often don’t remember where (Johnny English and Bob Dylan are the usual conclusions). Piri-Piri chicken is ours! People constantly mistake you for Afro-Brazilian because they don’t know Portuguese is an official language spoken in a handful of African countries. Did I mention, PIRI-PIRI CHICKEN IS OURS?!
30. Peace In The Valley
Zambia here. Other than Trump including us in his Nambia amalgam of countries, no one knows much about us and we’re seen as backward and essentially forgotten. We’re one of the safest countries on earth according to the Peace Index, with six consecutive peaceful transitions in power. We have the Victoria Falls, one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World, and over 40% of the landmass is dedicated to National Parks. Until recently, we also had the largest man-made lake on Earth, Lake Kariba, which generates 85% of the country’s power.
29. The Black Pimpernel
First, South Africa is a country at the very bottom of Africa (the continent). South Africa is not the southern half of the continent – just the tip. Also, Mandela actually died in 2013 and hasn’t been president since 1999 after serving one term in office post-apartheid. It’s strange sometimes how people think they know more about South African politics than myself just because they know a small bit about apartheid and the history of Nelson Mandela.
28. On The Hunt
I’ve had people think I’ve got all kinds of weird accents that don’t even exist. I’ve had people think I’m living in a bush, wearing a loincloth, and hunting deer with spears, WHILE ON THE INTERNET (like, I have internet, how do you think that?). I’ve convinced people that most of us live with diseases but are immune to it, and that we tend to ride lions to work while rich people ride elephants.
27. Living Normal Lives
South African here. In my early 20s, I was working in London part-time in security whilst at Uni. Next to the build I worked at was a courthouse. Early one freezing winter morning, I had this Middle Eastern woman turn up at the door of the premises; she also had a little boy who looked about two. The courthouse didn’t open until 9 a.m., but since it was freezing cold outside, I told her that she could wait in the reception area of the building where it was warm. I found out that she was waiting on an asylum application to be granted.
She asked me some questions about where I was from, I said South Africa. She paused for a while and said, “…but you’re not black.” I laughed and said well we have white, black and mixed race people living there. She honestly thought I was joking and asked me again. When I gave her the same answer, she said it again. “But you’re not black!”
I wasn’t offended at all, just bemused and I know in some Middle Eastern countries education is very limited or non-existent. But I also had some Europeans and Americans ask me some “interesting” questions like: “Do you all live in mud huts? Is it dangerous to go outside due to lions?” I love it because I reply to them: “As a student, we have to return home before the sun sets because the wildlife will hunt us down when it gets dark outside. By the time we’re 10, we learn to build our own mud huts.” Meanwhile, the truth is that my family lived in a pretty big house with a pool and we had satellite TV. We watched all the popular US shows and global sports events. I didn’t want to shatter their image of Africa, but, as you recently seen, there was a documentary highlighting the truth of Africa in February that we kept secret for so long called “Wakanda”.
26. Wrong Country, Pal
When I tell people I’m from Algeria, they ask if I really mean Nigeria.
No, I didn’t accidentally mispronounce my own country thank-you-very-much. I don’t think they know enough about it to have broader misconceptions. People probably think it’s dangerous because it’s both African and Middle Eastern, but Algiers is a lively city that’s really not more dangerous than some of the places I’ve lived in America.
25. Back On The Map
I’m from South Africa, and I moved to Australia. A guy from my school heard me saying I have a South African passport and told me I’m kidding. He was adamant I was wrong. He said, “South Africa is a continent, not a country! You can’t have a passport from a continent!” I replied, “I think I’d know what passport I have.”
Not that I needed to, but later that day I showed him the Google search results of a map of South Africa.
I think my forehead is still red from the facepalms.
24. Hanging On The Telephone
Pretty much everyone speaks English and has a smartphone, in Kenya at least.
Also, Kenya is a great example, when it comes to how competition works and state monopoly doesn’t. All the things that don’t work well, police roads, for example, are public. All the things that people depend on and work well are private.
Whenever I’m back I always marvel at how cheaply people can live when the government gets out of their way and people stop assuming they know best how to spend other people’s money.
23. Shocking The Swiss
I lived the first 10 years of my life in Ethiopia. My Family and I moved to Switzerland when I was 11. Most of the people who asked me where I’m from didn’t specify a country. They just asked, “Are you from Africa?” It’s as if it was a country and not the huge continent it is. One other thing is that they are genuinely surprised when I tell them I don’t speak French because I am from Ethiopia.
22. Time For Desert
95% of Moroccans/Algerians/Tunisians do NOT live in the desert, we live and have always lived in the extreme North.
Plus, most people here have NEVER been to the desert before, it always baffles people when I tell them this.
21. Lost In Ethiopia
I’m from Ethiopia. A common assumption is that we speak “Ethiopian.” The official language is Amharic, and there are many dialects, none of which are called Ethiopian. I assume this is particularly offensive to families who speak other languages (i.e. Tigrinya, Oromo).
People are not all starving and unhappy. Even my family that lived in a mud house (dad’s family) was happy and decently fed. You don’t need much to be happy. Of course, now that my dad’s been in America for a couple of decades he complains about internet speeds like the rest of us.
People think that it’s in the desert. This one is actually partly true, however, the capital (Addis Ababa) is on the Ethiopian Highlands. It’s ~2300m (1.4 miles) above sea level and has a quite lovely climate: Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s and 40s. It never goes above 90 degrees, though I’ve heard it can reach freezing. The highlands cover about 70% of Ethiopia. There are three different climates in Ethiopia, one of which, depending on the year, has the hottest place on Earth.
Oh, and also we’re the birthplace of coffee!
20. This Is Nigeria
I’m from Nigeria. People assume it’s a crappy place, but it’s a very pretty nation… but don’t ever go there. There is a good chance you will get hurt.
I’m kidding, but I feel like I’m left defending the country to people who hate it, and telling people that they have no idea what they’re getting into if they want to go there.
If you have ever lived in Nigeria, you know it’s a great and beautiful country. Once you’re in the US, though, you know your goal is to bring the family here and not move back again.
Also, women suck snot out of babies noses. I didn’t realize Americans didn’t do that to clear sinuses.
19. A Night In Tunisia
No. We are not the “criminal country” of Africa and never were. In fact, the population is quite liberal and besides some parts in the middle and the west country, people live more like Europeans rather than Arabs. Heck, we’re in the top 10 biggest beverage drinkers on earth, passed out revolutionary women protection laws last year, and have a gay supporting radio broadcasting to all and slowly changing things around. Sadly, this resulted in the extremist parts of the population to leave to spread their messages elsewhere post revolution.
We also have a massive economic crisis. Politicians are trying to learn democracy on the fly and sadly not fast enough to be efficient enough, and we have a massive identity crisis. We can’t really define ourselves as Africans, Mediterraneans, or Arabs and, as a result, we feel like black sheep and almost all youth wants to emigrate.
18. Song For Zimbabwe
People seem to think black Zimbabweans willingly voted to suffer the way we did. There was a lot of intimidation and fear that kept ZANU-PF and Mugabe in power. Rigging is so common in our elections that it’s rumored that the last election that Mugabe won was in 1990. It wasn’t just Zimbabweans who suffered under the Mugabe regime, it was everyone who wasn’t part of or a beneficiary of the political elite.
17. Know Your History
The biggest misconception people have about African countries is that they’re historically African. None of Africa was called Africa until the Romans went there (even then only a tiny bit), and it was only applied as a blanket name when the European colonials went much later. There was no conception of African identity before this, and certainly no concept of ‘pan-Africanism’, which only happened relatively recently. The map was divided up during the ‘scramble for Africa’, and despite there having been many kingdoms and great empires within the continent, there were no African countries until white people stuck flags in it.
16. A Common Voice
From Niger here, and I stayed in China for five years. The misconception in China is that it’s so hot in Africa, and that’s the reason why we have our skin color. I had classmates baffled when they saw me barefooted, having thought that my feet would be white since they are covered by my shoes. Another one is that people seem to think that Niger (French colony) and Nigeria are the same country but they are not. We do share a dialect though (Hausa). Currently in Canada, I just last week received a form by mail with my information filled out as “Nigeria” even though I told her “Niger” over the phone.
15. King Of Trees
Cameroonian here (Country: Cameroon). If you do not know where it is, it is a funny-shaped country to the east of Nigeria also known as “Africa in Miniature”. I studied in the mid-2000s in the Netherlands. Old lady at the bus stop asked me which African tribe I come from and if some people still live in trees because she saw that one National Geographic documentary of the Korowai people (Indonesia) who do. I told her “Yes we do, and the Dutch ambassador to Cameroon has the tallest tree.” The look on her face at that moment still gives me a smile to this very day.
14. Tech-Savvy Environment
South African here. We had some American exchange students from Illinois visit us. They were genuinely surprised by our access to computers and the number of Indian people that we have here. It really sounded like they came here expecting to be staying with families in clay huts, wearing loincloths. I’m glad to have sent some people back with some knowledge
13. Raised On Grandma’s Tea and Dairy Farm
I’m from Kenya. Honestly, people think that I grew up in a grass hut. It took me some time to stop getting offended. I was raised on my grandma’s tea and dairy farm and with my mum in Nairobi. It’s a pretty good segue into talking about modern Kenya with people I guess.
12. Not So Crazy
People think that everyone is either black or an immigrant. Chances are if you’re reading this, I’m whiter than your great-great-Scandinavian grandmother. Both my parents are African and their parents too, but people flip out when they find out I’m from Africa: “But…but you’re white.”
11. Talk Like An Egyptian
People think Egypt is a huge desert where people are just riding camels around. I was also asked once if we have music back in Egypt; I had no idea how to respond to that one. Another person asked if we speak “Muslim” in Egypt. I politely explained that Islam was a religion and not a language.
10. All Mixed Up
I’ve heard people say Moroccans are white, black, Roman, Arab, Moores, Iberians, caucasians, originally Somali, originally Yemeni, etc. Realistically, we are a mixed country and the genetic makeup of everyone is pretty unique and mixed based upon ancestry. That’s what happens when a country is located at a major trading hub and had many different colonizers.
9. United As One
South African here. Generally, I get the feeling that foreigners see the country as divided even after the end of the apartheid. Our people are not separate, we are closer than ever. A few bad people really give our communities bad names.
8. Making Ends Meet
People think that all the wealthy people are corrupt.
Corruption is a huge issue, but many people work long hours and earn what would be considered a low salary outside Africa for their industry. They work their butts off, scrimp, save and start businesses.
People think that parents don’t care about their kids’ education or lack thereof – many parents scrimp, save, and some even steal in order to give their kids the best of local or foreign education that money can buy.
People think that we don’t care about the poverty in our midst. Many families foster poorer kids in informal ways. There are many grassroots networks that help feed, clothe, and employ the poor. Many people take on more household staff than their actual needs so that those people are not unemployed.
7. Just One Word
I am from Guinea. Whenever I tell people I am African, they think that there are zebras, elephants, or lions walking around me. Also, people always think Guinea is New Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, or Papua New Guinea. No, it’s just Guinea. Finally, don’t assume all Africans still live in villages, which is not true at all. A lot of a lot Africa is just as developed as any other country. Look at South Africa. If you’ve never seen it, it is very easy to mistake it as even San Francisco.
6. Heaven On Earth
I’m from Mauritius, so I haven’t encountered misconceptions that often since people have generally never heard of it. However, from time-to-time I get, “Ah, I know that place, Mauritania, right?” Wrong. Two completely different countries. Also, once they learn that Mauritius is part of Africa, many expect low human development, poor healthcare, poor governance, etc. We’re pretty damn OK in all of those areas, with free healthcare and education, along with a relatively peaceful political history and high HDI. Despite all, I love bringing up my country in conversations, just as I’d love to learn about someone else’s country, and never get tired of talking about Mauritius.
5. Send Me To The Congo
I’m from Congo-Kinshasa (AKA the unDemocratic Republic of Congo, DRC, whatever) and I don’t understand why most Americans have this weird tendency of calling my country “the Congo”. It makes NO sense. There are two countries called Congo. We’ve never been the same country. We were separately colonized, and no, I don’t know Jean-Pierre from Brazzaville. Depending on which one you’re from, you’ll simply call it ‘Congo’ until you need to clarify. Why “THE”? Like there’s only one? The only time ‘The Congo’ makes sense to me is when referring to the river that divides our two countries.
4. Get With The Times
For some reason when you tell someone you are African, they automatically assume you are Nigerian.
From my country, Sudan, it is assumed I am Muslim and that I am non-conformist for not wearing a hijab. I am not a Muslim.
Another assumption is that all Sudanese are living in poverty and have tribal markings all over their bodies. It amuses me that people have failed to realize it is 2018 all over the world and primitive ways of life only exist for a small number of people.
3. Tomato, Not Tomahto
Me: “I’m Gabonese.” American: “You mean Guayanese.” No, you idiot, I mean what I said. I know where I’m from. You would be surprised how many times this has happened.
2. Not Dancing In The Rain
South African here. Yes, we do have large developed cities. Yes, we do have internet. No, we do not hunt for our food, and no, we are not all poor Khoisan farmers who wear small pieces of cloth around our privates and do rain dances.
1. Weird Pronunciation, Eh?
I’m from Kenya. Oh, cool, did you say Canada? It’s so cool.
I usually point out helpfully that it’s in East Africa. The biggest misconception is about technology adaptation. Home and business phones were expensive and labor-intensive, hence mobile technology leap-frogged them and has been widely received. Mobile money payment started in Kenya a service called M-Pesa.