Africa is all the same (apparently)

November 24, 2014


A few days ago a colleague started a conversation with me which somehow led to the subject of Africa. Just to give you a bit of context, he grew up in partly in Japan, the States and mostly Australia. He part Japanese, part Scottish and moved to London around the same time I did last year.
The bottom line of his side of conversation was within Asia – Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and Chinese are very distinct in terms of food and culture. He thinks the same of Europeans countries, but as for Africa there isn’t that much of a distinction and he thinks the same for South America. Like other ignorant people in this world he failed to acknowledge the differences within our continent.
I said to him that just because he doesn’t know doesn’t mean there isn’t a difference, because it is quite insulting to say that. Ghanaian food is not the same as Nigerian food nor Ethiopian or Zimbabwean food. If I said that to him about Japanese and Thai food etc he would be insulted. He tried to justify his argument with saying that there are Chinese restaurants, Vietnamese restaurants and so forth so we can all see the difference. He hasn’t seen African restaurants. Then I said that he clearly haven’t been to Peckham or Old Kent Road. He hasn’t moved from his common area and taken a step to discover something new. But instead he had boxed himself and made an assumption. I applauded (over Skype) his miseducation. He was quite offended by my response and then went on to tell me that he wass educated and he knew stuff. I replied that this had nothing to do with education, the high school he went or university degree he had, because what he learnt at school didn’t cover common world knowledge, nor nor did the media which feeds him do that either. Just because he didn’t see an Ethiopian, Ghanaian or Nigerian restaurant (just to name a few) on every corner doesn’t mean they don’t exist
What frustrated me so much is not the ignorance, but the fact that we were on skype having this conversation. If he didn’t know, he could simple Google and investigate, but instead he tried to shut everything down. I had enough. There is no point continuing this line of conversation if one party is trying to corner you when really they are just going around in circles and circles. So I and killed the conversation by writing something along the lines of ‘Since Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai and Chinese all eat rice and noodles guess you are all the same!’.