3 months in Kenya: all the stereotypes about white people!

3 months in Kenya. And so, half of my time here is already gone! I am not sure where, but that crazy day of late March when all my plans for Kenya seemed to be broken once again now appears like a distant memory! Sooo.... 3 months of sun, birds chirping, heavy food, definitely too much cat-calling, hours of immersion in the communities, ethnographic fieldwork, trips, and much more: especially few precious Kenyan friendship ;-)

I think as an anthropologist I am keen to try identifying common features of the population I am studying...but to celebrate my 3 months in Kenya I want to turn the lenses and to share with you all the stereotypes that local people have about us, about white people, about mzungus!

Here a small but funny selection. Some are kind of obvious, some are more curious. Kenyan friends, please reach out if you feel anything else needs to be added!

1. We all have money: a classic. For local people, white people are all rich. So rich that they can bestow food, money, technology to local people. What a mistake - and what a burden for a poor PhD student!

2. We are all punctual. Another classic. African people tease each other about timing by suggesting to keep the "mzungu time". Teachers in schools invite the kids to be punctual like a mzungu. Unfortunately, very few of them are capable of complying and the only solution for those who, like me, respect mzungu time, is to be patient....very patient!

3. We are all from the same tribe. African populations are divided into tribes - and in Kenya, tribes are a very important socio-cultural mechanism. For local people is impossible to think that tribes do not exist in the West (anymore), so they prefer to think that we are all the same tribe!

4. We all speak English: this is a consequence of point 3. In Kenya, each tribe speaks a different dialect. If we, as mzungu, are all the same tribe, we must also speak the same language: English, of course! (Thanks colonialism!)

5. Our money is dollars. It doesn't matter if you are German or Italian or Swedish. If you are white, you have powerful money. "The" powerful money: dollars, of course!

6. We travel a lot. Ca va sans dire that our travel possibilities are higher than an average Kenyan person. Not only due to economic possibilities,  but also because of the power of certain passports/nationalities. It is frequent here to find Tshirts saying "run like a Kalenjiin, bargain like a Kikuyu, scream like a Kisii, love like a Luo, travel like a Mzungu!". In the maze of African tribes and their distinctive features, mzungu are embedded - and stereotyped!

7. We eat snails. It doesn't work to explain that that's for the French (and thanks colonialism again!)

8. Our men are so faithful! Unfortunately, this is a consequence of the bad reputation of men in Kenyan society, where single mothers, cheating, and polygamy are as much of a taboo as an everyday encounter!

9. We get old and sick much easily: Kenyan people proudly defend their strength - and they think to have the best health, lifestyle, and bodies. This is somehow reinforced by the fact that Covid hit Kenya in a much less impactful way. But which other factors intersect this vision that Africans are healthier? first of all, the population is much younger than ours, so of course they think we get older quickly!

10. To be continued...lets see what else I discover in the next 3 months!

My friend and I in a tea plantation in Nandi county


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