You left Africa three months ago and you’ve finally made some friends in the United States. You decide to invite them over to an African party hosted by one of your parents’ friends. As you and your new friends arrive at the party, there’s obviously going to be a lot of African food and perhaps pizza. Here you’re faced with a cultural decision of either diving into some fufu or some attieke, or maybe you think your new friends will judge you, so you settle for pizza. Which African are you in this scenario?
I was a month away from my thirteenth birthday when I left Cameroon for the States. It was a huge change for me. One of the advantages I had at the time was that I was young and it kept me away from a lot of things. I spent my first few months mainly observing how kids at school operated. When I felt like I was ready to mingle, I made friends with a girl from Mexico and another from Ghana. Boom, diversity. I realized we had a lot in common as we were all outsiders trying to survive in a new environment.
As I got older, I was able to learn more about Cameroon, because I had internet access; something which I did not have back home. It was almost as if I had to leave Cameroon to fall in love with it. With this knowledge, I am able to share it with the many people I’ve met over the years. Yes, I know Cameroon isn’t perfect, but let me not catch anyone badmouthing my home. I’ve even been told a few times that “you’re too African.”
Now that I’ve drifted a bit, let me get back on track. As people move into new places, part of adjusting is integrating within the new culture of the place. If you want to survive, you really have to integrate. Now, integrating DOES NOT mean substitute your own culture for the new one. You have to juggle both of them. I have seen many people leave Africa for the States and within a matter of weeks forget all there is to know about home. Some even forget the same language they’ve been speaking since birth.
Part of the blame has to be on the parents. Your child might have been born in America but his/her parents certainly weren’t. Bring up your kids to be open minded and be able to appreciate both sides of the Atlantic. The reason I say part is because some kids are just so stubborn to the point where they completely refuse to open themselves to other cultures and norms. I might only be focusing on Africans, but this pattern occurs in many societies. If you think your “friends” are going to make fun of you because of what you eat or because of how you dress, then I don’t think you should be wasting your time with these people. It is not everywhere you go that you seek love and admiration.
Comparing and contrasting societies across different cultures is valuable. It helps you see patterns in your own society that you might otherwise take for granted, and it enriches your appreciation of the diverse patterns of culture that makes all of us great. I think we ought to do better… Please talk to your friends.