I appreciate curiosity. The only way to live life fully, is to ask questions often. However, while we often say ‘there’s no stupid question’, there are questions that gives the inquirer a bad look.
Being an international student with a Nigerian accent, I expect questions all the time. This is the same with most people who move to a different country after their formative years. While most people will be willing to answer questions without insult or sarcasm, some questions shouldn’t be asked at all.
The ignorance and stereotype that surrounds other continents, especially Africa, is alarming; but that is a post for another day.
I spoke to some friends and these are some of the ignorant questions that people have asked us, as international students.
#1 – How long did it take you to learn English?
This question assumes that the person doesn’t speak English in their country or had to learn English when they moved. There are several countries whose official language is not English; however, there are so many people who speak English in those countries. There are also several countries like Nigeria with English as an official language. A good number of international students spoke their first word as a child in English. Instead, try asking: what’s your country’s official language? or is English your first or second language?
#2 – When are you returning home?
This question is very inappropriate. You don’t know the life-story of who you’re talking to or the circumstances that brought them to where they are. Why then should you ask when they are returning home? Are you an immigration officer? This question sounds like ‘you don’t belong here; so when are you leaving us?’
#3 – Do you have houses in your country?
This question is insulting. I understand Africa is grossly misrepresented on television; they represent Africa with children with big stomachs in the bush and your best idea about Africa is from the cartoon ‘Tarzan’. However, in this day and time, Google is your best friend. Google the country!!!!!!! I’m yet to meet anyone that lives or lived on a tree. No matter how primitive the house may look, people live in a house in most parts of the world.
#4 – Do you miss home?
I often wonder if this is a rhetorical question or what the reply will be, if someone says ‘no’. Or is there an assumption that moving to a more developed country will make you forget or hate your home country, it beats my imagination. Can someone live in place for a long time and not miss anything about it? Try asking: what do you miss the most about your home country?
#5 – What’s the meaning of ‘xxxxxx’?
‘xxxxxx’ can be replaced with any word or name assumed to be African. There’s so much to say on this question. Someone once asked me where I was from, I replied Nigeria. She continued by asking me the meaning of her son’s name. The annoying part wasn’t the fact that she made up a word, named her child, and expected it to have a meaning. What was upsetting, was that she expected me to know the meaning of what she made up because I am African. Please, names in Africa are not given because they are long, filled with consonants, and sound like drums falling on each other. They actually have meanings. Before asking the meaning of a word, the least you can do is to be sure that it is a legitimate word. Additionally, take the time to ask the person’s place of origin and native language, before asking for the meaning of something.
#6 – I know someone from Ghana who lives in Missouri. Do you know her?
Each time I hear a question like this, I want to SCREAM!!! Africa is not a small village or town with different houses having different names; that’s how this question makes it look. Africa is a CONTINENT! Ghana is a whole Country! So is Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, etc. The chances of me knowing another Nigerian are very slim; knowing someone from another country (in America!) is very close to a miracle.
#7 – How far is Africa from here?
Once again, Africa is a continent, not a country. There is no answer to that question. Instead, try asking about a specific country.
#8 – How did you get here?
Ummmmm…. An Airplane; remember those big objects that fly?
#9 – So, how is the transition, now that you wear clothes?
Haaaaa….Haba! Why now?!!!! This question is equally, funny and annoying. How do you expect that someone who has received an education up to high school level, did not wear clothes before coming to America? I’m speechless on this question….That little girl above says it all.
#10 – Do you guys have schools in your country?
Ummmmmm. Yes! There might not be enough schools or the best facilities, but there are schools in every country.
Dear readers, I hope you had a good laugh; I also hope this struck a nerve in you. These ignorant questions that promote stereotypes suggesting that anyone from another country is less than a human being, should stop. This post is not to discourage questions but raise awareness and encourage sensitivity in interactions with persons from other countries.
Special thanks to my contributors: Dee-Dee, Kingsley, Favour, Ransomed, and Ebun (xoxo).
Have a Winning-Day
Disclaimer: All animated images are not original. They are from
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