After witnessing many tragically offensive trips to Africa (voluntourism, white saviorism- you get the hint), it occurred to me that it might be very useful to make a guide on how to properly visit the motherland. See, the goal here is to NOT reinforce already existing negative stereotypes and perceptions of Africa. Please, potential visitors of an African country, take a pointer or two…or three…or just follow the whole guide.
1. Refrain from taking pictures with random black children
I know, this might be very, very difficult for some people.
But…how will people know that I went to Africa if I don’t post a picture hugging a black child at an orphanage?
There are other ways to tell the world about your trip to Africa without soliciting a photo from a child whose name you most likely don’t know. Please, leave the kids out of this- unless you’re intentionally trying to replicate a 1980 Save The Children informercial.
2. Name the country you’re going to
When people visit Europe, they tend to be very, very specific about the country and city they’re going to.
Ah yes, we had a magnificent visit to the red light district in the city of Amsterdam in the country of the Netherlands in the Northwestern region of Europe.
But for some reason, others do not seem to think that these same rules should apply to Africa.
…I’m going to Africa!
Please, for the love of God, name the country you are going to instead of lumping 54 countries under the vague umbrella of “Africa”.
3. Make an effort to learn a regional language
Please do not automatically assume that people will speak English or French. Make an effort to learn common phrases you will most likely use during your stay in the language of your host country.
4. Remember that going on a Safari is not the only activity you can do
I’m not sure why people automatically assume that going to an African country = safari trip? Well, there ARE other activities you can enjoy that do not involve the cliched safari trip. Do your research on the top sights, architectural masterpieces, and landmarks to see in the country you’re visiting.
5. Embrace, not appropriate
This one is definitely a tricky subject. If you are staying with a host family and they really, really, really, REALLY want you to wear local attire or participate in cultural festivities, then by all means do so. That isn’t to say that you should come back to the states parading around in an Agbada…know your place and the context behind the clothing you’re wearing.
6. Expand your horizons beyond expat/tourist areas
One of my biggest pet peeves when tourists visit African countries is seeing them congregate in the most Western, touristy places. What is even the point of traveling that far just to do the same exact activities that you would do back home? Instead of flocking to the Capetown Mcdonalds, try visiting the local market, or the local coffee shop- ANY business that does not cater mostly to Western expats.