Are You Americanah?

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From being a single lady to a grown woman, there is not much that Beyonce didn’t teach me in life. But if there is one thing I would have never expected Queen Bee to pass on to me, it’s Nigerian literature.

We all heard a mysterious woman talking about gender equality in the middle of the song “Flawless.” The beautiful, determined and resilient voice intrigued me right away and is no other’s than the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. After watching a few of her Youtube videos, I fell in love with the author’s sassiness and ended up buying her latest book, Americanah.

Who knew I would relate so much to the hero’s story, largely inspired by the Ngozi’s experience as an expatriate in America? Ifemelu is a Nigerian girl who moves to the USA to study and becomes aware of her skin color, culture, and passion in the process. Saying that I loved this book would be an understatement, so here are ten reasons why you will too, featuring a few sneak peeks:

#1 If You grew up with the American Dream, and most specifically the New York Dream

” ‘You look like a black American’ was the ultimate compliment, which he told her when she wore a nice dress, or when her hair was done in large braids. Manhattan was his zenith. He often said: ‘It’s not as if this is Manhattan’ “

#2 If you struggled to get a visa and were traumatized by the whole process

” Many of the internationals understand the trauma of trying to get an American visa and that is a good place to start a friendship.”

#3 If you’ve had to deal with roommates

” She was standing at the periphery of her own life, sharing a fridge and a toilet, a shallow intimacy, with people she didn’t know at all. People who lived in exclamation points. “Great!” they said often. “That’s great!” People who did not scrub in the shower (…) and this, the absence of a sponge, made them seem unreachably alien to her.”

#4 If contemplating the American food industry leaves you speechless

” All his life, he had eaten oranges without seeds, oranges grown to look perfectly orange and to have faultless skin and no seeds, so at eight years old he did not know that there was such a thing as an orange with seeds.”

#5 If you ever were the “Exchange Student”

” I. Need. You. To. Feel. Out. A. Couple. Of. Forms. Do. You. Understand. How. To. Fill. These. Out? and she realized that Cristina Tomas was speaking like that because of her, her foreign accent, and she felt for a moment like a small child, lazy-limbed and drooling. ‘I speak English’ she said. “

#6 If listening to American students thinking out loud in class was painful

” School in America was easy (…) but she was uncomfortable with what the professors called “participation,” and did not see why it should be a part of the final grade; it merely made students talk and talk, class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words. It had to be that Americans were taught, from elementary school to always say something in class, no matter what. “

#7 If you hustled hard to find a job in the US and felt extreme frustration

” Ifemelu wanted to fling the phone away. Keep her in mind. Why would Ginika even repeat such an empty expression, “keep her in mind” ? “

#8 If you know how it feels to be broke in America

” It was late autumn, the trees had grown antlers, dried leaves were sometimes trailed into the apartment, and the rent was due. Her roommates’ checks were on the kitchen table, one on top of the other, all of them pink and bordered by flowers. She thought it unnecessarily decorative, to have flowered checks in America; it almost took away from the seriousness of a check. “

#9 If you were fascinated by race issues in the US

” Why didn’t she just ask ‘Was it the black girl or the white girl?’ Ginika laughed. “Because it’s America. You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things.”

#10 If you created a blog about your experience in America

” Sometimes they say “culture” when they mean race. They say a film is mainstream when they mean “white folks like it or made it.” When they say “urban” it means black and poor and possibly dangerous and potentially exciting. “Racially charged” means we are uncomfortable saying ‘racist.’ “

In conclusion, if you feel like a foreigner in the US but like an American everywhere else, you are (and will love) Americanah.

Order the book here

 

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10 Dos And Don’ts For Foreigners In The USA

To avoid any awkwardness when you are a foreigner moving to the US or simply visiting, it’s better to be slightly prepared. While some of the things you would never consider doing in your home country are totally OK here, others that seem normal can be weird to Americans.

Here are my top 10 Dos and Don’ts that should help you fit in:

 

#1 Smoking In Public: DON’T

funny-gif-chandler-quit-smokingIn the rest of the world, non-smokers apologize for not having a lighter, in the US they make smokers apologize for existing.

#2 Correcting Americans’ pronunciation of foreign words: DO

tumblr_mh1k7zrCpu1rhczg2o1_500Americans will let you know when your English sounds off, plus they need to start taking foreign languages seriously!

#3 Kissing someone you just met on the cheek: DON’T

hug scandalThe ultimate greeting rules should always be: hand shake someone you just met, hug someone you know, and kiss someone you love.

#4 Talking about how food tastes better outside of the USA: DO

macaronBecause nobody should think that grapes or oranges naturally grow without seeds.

#5 Talking about religion with people you barely know: DON’T

mirandavirginmaryIn a country where everyone is easily offended, religion is not the best icebreaker.

#6 Wearing workout clothes when you don’t actually work out: DO

jloIt may not look as good as on J-Lo…but it’s totally accepted!

#7 Using slur words because you heard them in rap songs: DON’T

kanyeJust because you heard them on the radio doesn’t mean they are appropriate or don’t have a strong significance.

#8 Tipping even if the service was bad: DO
scarlettwaitress
In most countries, you tip because you enjoyed the service. Here, you tip because it’s all the money waiters make.
#9  Eating dessert at every meal: DON’T
donut
Dessert after lunch is not a thing in the US, skipping it should save you from +1 kilo a month rule.

10# Ask About People’s Day: DO

joey_how_you_doinStrangers asking how my day went used to feel like an invasion of my privacy, now I find them rude when they don’t.

 

Can you think of other Dos and Don’ts?

 

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Racism In America Seen By A European

Black or White

If there is one difference between the country I am from and the one I currently live in, it would have to be the way people feel about race.

In France, you will never hear someone use the word “race” to begin with, unless that person was openly racist. Because of our respective histories, French minorities identify with the culture of the home country they migrated from, while some American minorities are unable to trace their origins and are divided into much larger “buckets” with ethnicity as the main criteria, such as African-Americans.

Obviously, the old continent is racist in its own messed up way. For those who don’t follow international politics, France’s most white trash party just won the majority of seats at the European Parliament. Needless to say that racism is a universal plague, but racism in America is a different kind than the one – very direct and straight forward kind – I knew.

Although there never seems to be a good moment to talk about race in a social setting, it’s all over the American media. There is not a week that goes by without its racial scandal…just ask Justin Bieber!  So how do Americans really handle racial issues daily? Well, despite what it looks like on TV and blogs, they kind of don’t. 

I would say that the race conversation in America is defined and limited by a “false truth”: the less you talk about race, the more tolerant you are. For a lot of people, it’s much safer to say that they “don’t see color” than actually engage in productive discussions. As much as I wish that statement was true, numbers don’t lie; the wealth gap between Whites and minorities is getting wider as we speak. 

Should “Where are you REALLY from?” be the first thing you ask to someone you just met, like it often happens in France? No, even if most Europeans mean it in the best way because they are used to interacting with people who embrace their family country’s culture. But should race be so tabou that you never dare to talk and ask about it? Not in my opinion. It’s all about picking the right questions…

Africa

I don’t think “color blindness” fights racism the right way, if at all. Preaching that color doesn’t matter is closing your eyes on reality. In my world, being indifferent to difference is not a quality, it’s a lack of curiosity. I think curiosity is a healthy thing, it takes you out of your comfort zone and invites you to discover the unknown. Lack of curiosity leads to ignorance, and we all know that ignorance is what feeds racism.

So let’s see colors! Not to discriminate, but to learn, understand, and celebrate.

 

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