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Dear everyone else: here is what NOT to ask African travelers


This post is inspired by, among other things, something that happened a few weeks back.

I am standing outside my Airbnb (was most likely waiting for someone, or chilling… or whatever). A guy comes at me, does not say hello or anything.

Here’s how it went:

Him: Do you speak English?

Me: (Bewildered) Barely

Him: Where’s the kitchen?

Me: Uuuum I just arrived and I do not work….

Him: I WANT salt… you know that thing they put in food…


I do not speak much about some of these things, but they happen often than anyone would like to imagine.

This got me thinking of the “burden” I’ve had to bear, trying to “represent” my continent the best way I know how.

First of all, no one chose where to be born so I think I should retract what I just said. In as much as I love being African (yap, totally playing into this creepy trap), I feel like my individuality should not be lost in the process.

I want to experience the world on my terms, not trying to live up to standards that some people keep setting. I guess what I’m saying is that if one is feeling ignorant, do not use African travellers to make yourself look better.

Google this stuff. It’s 2019, there are questions I am no longer willing to answer. I no longer want to be part of this ignorance maze. In an age with so much information, how can one persistently say the wrong things?

I always have this discussion with guys from everywhere, and this is pretty much the general feeling.

I recently travelled with a friend from the developed world (I see we’re doing everything different this time, whoa) and I lost count of the times he was like: “no they did not just ask that” or “how do you handle these”. I like having a good time when I’m on the road – I cannot have a bad experience at the airport and still allow a few weird people to ruin it for me.

I think I speak for most African travelers when I say that non-African travelers/tourists should stop:

  • Assuming that every African on the road is either working or studying in the said country. Why can’t we also be traveling?
  • Thinking that we live in a Western country, that’s why we have the urge to travel. #AfricansTravelToo. That’s a tag we should have, if it isn’t already there.
  • Thinking we studied in a foreign country, allowing us to learn English. Honestly, just stop. It’s not cute; it’s very ignorant. On this, even kids in Kenya speak English – among many other languages.
  • Asking us how Africa is like. I know I would never ask you how Europe, or any other place is. Ethiopia, in East Africa, for example, is one of the places I hope to visit someday. Naturally, I would not know how that part of Africa is. It is 2019, please stop.
  • Saying Africa is hot. This is a stereotype that needs to come to an end. Is my town hot? Very. On the other hand, my grandma can count the number of days they have actual sun. We have very diverse climates; it is very ignorant of anyone to assume that the entire continent has a certain kind of weather. By god, some places even have snow!

You get the jist.

So, what should you talk about with African travelers? Everything else.

We are on the road by our own right, and that should not be taken away from us by fellow travellers. We have it harder than everyone else, and most of the time, traveling is our therapy – as it should rightfully be. Taking that away from us is a disservice to everyone.

Be considerate and empathetic. Ask me how it is traveling on a Kenyan passport. On that note, let’s stop pretending like passport privilege is not a thing. Now that is a question I can answer. I will tell you of the many tears I have shed at different borders, how I must provide dozens of documents to consulates and still have my visa denied… that is something I can talk about.

Ask me how travel is changing the continent. Inquire what the figures are…

Otherwise, ask me where to catch the sunrise and sunsets. I would know that. Because, like you, I’m in country X to explore. Let’s discuss camera settings. We could also discuss my pet lion, simba.

Cheers to empathy!

What’s the weirdest thing someone has asked you? Talk to me anywhere 🙂


  1. Reply

    Rose Gitau

    March 12, 2019

    Insightful read! I want to meet your pet someday?

    • Reply


      March 12, 2019

      Today he went out for a hunt and isn’t back yet… genuinely worried ? ?

  2. Reply


    March 12, 2019

    Oh there’s this one time. I was lounging, watching the waves drift along the Nile when out of the blue, my sun was overshadowed by a lady from elsewhere. She demanded I get her a towel in a way that implied that I shouldn’t be basking around like some reptile and serve her.
    It didn’t end very well for her.

    • Reply


      March 12, 2019

      Haha I get that you had to do what you had to do ? ?. But seriously, it’s such a bummer that we have to deal with these things in this day and age. Thanks for your input!

  3. Reply


    December 16, 2019

    ‘Him: Do you speak English?’

    I think this is a genuine question. Almost half of Africans don’t speak English. Remember Spanish, Portuguese, French and Arabic are official languages in about 20 African countries.

    Additionally, I ask if someone speaks English quite frequently when I travel. Its just a means to know if they can communicate with you in said language

    • Reply


      January 13, 2020

      I added that part very intentionally. Notice he later tried explaining to me what salt is…

      Tone speaks a lot, too.