The Snob Called an African: Much Ado About 'Hi'

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A certain writer once complained that the hardest thing to tell someone, especially in an African setting, is 'I love you'. She said that even her own father, an old man, does not have enough courage to say, 'I love you, my daughter'. Instead he'll say, 'We love you.'

Do I Know You

So, do we hide our emotions too much, or are we just snobs? Were our ancestors misanthropists? A quick trick: meet someone today, a stranger, in Africa(especially developing areas) and greet them. The response you'll get is a sneer and do-I-know-you eyes. Before that 'hi' comes out, you'll have been screened and scanned; and even when you walk on, you will still feel the eyes scratching your back(literally).

Strangers aside. Jeff*, a student at the University of Nairobi says, “I used to live with a cousin in the same compound and there were no 'good mornings' or 'good evenings'. Mornings and evenings were so common that when I woke up and saw her, I had to search for something creative to say, to begin or end the day. And it wasn't easy.”

Salome's* case isn't different, “My spouse and I rarely say ‘goodnight’... I mean, goodnight? Really?! Do we have to say that yet we sleep in the same bed? And when we wake up, each of us goes about their business without a ‘good morning’. What can you say? We're average Kenyans.”

Generous With Greetings

“I greeted a neighbour twice during the day and he sneered at me,” laments Ruth*, an M-Pesa agent.

The neighbour must have wondered why Ruth was being so generous with greetings like an American. Was she high on something? So that tunazoeana bwana look wasn't supposed to be strange. That's how we've been brought up. But should we propagate this? I guess we should try to get rid of the notion that if I greet you twice or more times in a day, I must be queer or there must be something I am hiding from you... Or most likely, I have a bad intention towards your wallet.

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