Culture Clash: The Battle Of Being Yourself Around Others part 2

The 2013 Discipleship Training School Peeps
The 2013 Discipleship Training School Peeps

The Rise Of The Coconut
Earlier during my first clash I mentioned how the Caucasians influenced who I am today mostly because I hung around them more than anyone from other ethnicities. This did not stop in high school. I was first a day-scholar before heading to boarding school. My best friend was Black (Sub-Saharan Africa, not African-American), but I still spent more time with the Caucasians. I also had best friends within that particular group. You could say that all that was missing were Asians and Indians since I did not meet or know any members of the other continents. I then went to boarding school and still kept to the Caucasians despite the majority of my time being with the Blacks. Obviously by this point in my life it was nothing more than a natural tendency to do so rather than a racial preference. In fact it was counterintuitive and counter-productive for me because they often dissed me for fun, and that was because I never dissed back. Every now and then I would do so and be very impactful, to the point that it gained me respect with everyone. As a result there were a number of nicknames they gave me, one of which was “Coconut.” That did not stay for long but I embraced it and proudly displayed it. Those who asked why, learned that it was because I am Black outside and White inside. Interesting enough though one of my best Caucasian friends loved Black people, to the extent that he became Black inside, although I do not know what one would call that.

Why Do You Talk Like That?
Two weeks are all I had with my cousin from Texas. He stayed for longer during his two month break, but most of it was spent traversing the country. I am convinced he has seen more of it than I have! All of a sudden, as if from nowhere, people in primary school started saying I spoke differently. I felt and sounded the same but the jealousy of my family confirmed it. Those at youth said the same thing and when I went to boarding school, everyone I met echoed the same words. I finally gave in. I could not take it anymore. What was it they were referring to? My newly acquired American accent. There is another story I use which is the fact that I was an exchange student in Orlando Florida for a year pursuing media, mainly film. I do this because my previous one is apparently very literally unbelievable. Now I am a Southern African who is White inside with an American accent. I prided myself in being the only person who used British terms with an American accent. It gets even bigger than that. Somehow I had some people who thought I had a Hugh Grant British accent! They were more than 100% convinced of that. Do not ask why. I cannot fake a British accent to save my life.

When Will You Stop Fooling Around?
To be honest, never. You have no idea how much fun it is meeting native-born Americans and talking to them as though I were one of them! My accent was so strong (to my surprise) no American to this day has ever noticed that I am not from the States without me disclosing that info. I obtained my accent in 2000 and went to the States end of 2003 to beginning of 2004. Of course my accent got even stronger when I was there. It was just a matter of learning American terms. Which is actually a very interesting experience I had 3 years later when I went to Denmark to do Bible school. This is where part of a European side of me was born. The comforting part was realizing that the Danes I was around, only knew American English which meant that they had no problem with an African that had an American accent. Yes! Then what was the problem? They were. I literally changed so many English terms to American ones because that was all they knew. I found out it was because of Indiana Jones and other programs that affected their English. This made sense because even they admitted that Danish-English is appalling. At this point I am an American-speaking African. I still made fun of the Americans I met by simply being me, giving them the impression I was from the States. Since I was in Denmark I learned Danish. I could speak 50% then but sadly it is reduced to 30% now.

What About Losing Touch With Your African Side?
Did I not mention I was African? I can see why you would be concerned with that given everything I have experienced thus far. While I admit that American music still fills the majority of my library, I spend a lot time enjoying beautiful African tunes. I can definitely dance like a South African but still need to perfect some of the Zim dances, namely, The Borrowdale. My favourite ones of them all are the Gumboot Dances. When the women shake what their mama gave them, and believe me no one can do it like African women, we men hit it either with The Borrowdale or Gumboot Dance. For the women it is cultural. It is their tradition. They are born skilled. It will take years for Miley Cyrus and Shakira to come close them, or weeks depending on practice time and skill level. That is the side of me that remains African besides my passport. Unfortunately because of my accent it is not a good idea for me to learn Shona since the sensitivity of proper pronunciation gets in the way. The right words, spoken the wrong way to the wrong person at the wrong time spells D.A.N.G.E.R.

What’s This About Being A Culture Chameleon?
In a sense when you think about it, that is exactly what being multicultural entails. During my time in Denmark we had mission trips to Faroe Islands and Slovakia but we passed through Norway too. I spent time with my Estonian and Greenlandic friends. I picked up a thing or two from these places and people. Together with my aunt on holiday, we went to Italy and Germany. I visited my mother in England in the same year that I gained my accent. Having told my leaders, a few years ago when I was with YWAM in South Africa all of that, they themselves acknowledged that I was multicultural. What part of all these places have you embraced? How do you tie in all this with Christian culture? More on that later.


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