7 comments on “Fuck you Ethiopia!

  1. Oh well fuck you, too.. 🙂

    And again, you have a point. And I am sorry that you had such an experience. I think, partially it might be because the way you travelled around. It doesn’t matter if you are a “ferenji” or not, if you follow around some unemployed youth, who claim to be “students”, it’s inevitable that they would want to take advantage of you. Not only in Ethiopia, but anywhere in the world. Actually, I can think of so many place in the world, where you would have been physically harmed by such group of “students”. Yes. It could be annoying that they siphoned a little more than your budget. But, c’man, give’em a break. Pretty please.. 😦

    The xenophobic type of encounter that you may have with some people may have some societal, cultural and historical reasons. But, trust me it is skin deep. I guarantee you we approach white people with way way way way way much less resentment than any other Africans. Our relationship with Europeans is not based on colonial history like many of our peers in Africa. Therefore, we may see you as a bit odd thing, especially in rural areas. But, not with contempt, hate or resentment. I agree with you, however that we need to teach village kids not throw stones and being hanger ons with tourists.

    If you like some things and especially the good, you are bound to come back. (Please, do come back) The country is vast. Try to explore some areas that you have not seen before. You probably will have a different experience. One thing I like pd from what you have written is that you are not a condescending prick with a tinge of bigotry as many backpacking “tourists” with blogs. You are just pissed and a bit naive… I hope and pray that you will be back and see some places that you have not seen before and enjoy it this time. Have a good one…


    • Hi Jos, it’s great to hear from an Ethiopian and of course you make some reasonable points. I realise that trying to make my points with some kind of humour means that I was always going to invite some criticism but I hope that’s a useful tool in starting a discussion. As you said and I hope I made clear myself, such things can happen in a lot of places but it seemed to me to be a far more widespread in Ethiopia and if plenty of other people with a lot of experience of Africa had not made the same point I wouldn’t have dreamed of writing the piece. I am not sure that the colonial issue is really appropriate as if anything I have only been received with kindliness in places that have good reason to resent my country’s history, being British. Sudan and Bangladesh are good cases in point where it was me pointing out British crimes to people talking about our shared histories. Is it not possible that Ethiopia’s rejection of colonialism, something of which you should be rightly proud, may have even had the opposite effect with some people? I say that knowing full well my own country’s colonial history still generates far more objectional characteristics in some people than anything I experienced in Ethiopia. I certainly wouldn’t describe anyone I met as racist, something Britain is not short of at the moment. Nevertheless I have simply not encountered the resentment you talk about to any great extent elsewhere in Africa. Sure I get overcharged in other places but it is more a matter of degree than the fact it occurs. I don’t have a fit if I am asked for $2 for a $1 bus fair but $5, I am not going to apologise for getting angry about it. I could have given more examples but I didn’t think it necessary to make my point. As for being naive, I think my extensive experience of Africa as well as dozens of other countries speaks for itself. However I could have made more effort to make it clear that such behaviour can in no way be blamed on anything but a minority of Ethiopians, particularly with the great range of cultures that exist.
      I suppose my anger might be best directed at those in government who have the power to influence public opinion and make it clear about the importance of the tourist industry. I sincerely hope that the current troubles can be resolved without violence for the benefit of all the people, certainly not just the tourist industry.
      I look forward to your response or any thoughts others you know may have


      • Graham,

        Thank you so much for your reply. I just wanted to give you a different perspective than you have on some apparent resentment you may have encountered. Until very recently, especially in Northern and middle Ethiopian highlands foreigners, especially white Europeans are seen in great suspicion no matter what they were doing there. Former US Ambassador (1996-1999) to Ethiopia David Shinn once said that every time he goes with group of Ethiopians to the northern highlands and tries to communicate to regular folks, the people would tell the Ethiopian translators, who were with him “..We don’t care who they are, we don’t care what they do, just get’em outta here..” It’s a culture of suspicion that has been inherited and passed on from generation to generation for so long. It’s not actual resentment. Trust me. You would have understood what I am talking about, if there was no language barrier. If the people spoke English and if you were able to communicate with them easily, I really do believe that you wouldn’t identify what you have encountered as “resentment” but rather some annoying factor that you would brush off. For example, you would not have been over charged, if you can haggle in Amharic or if vendors and service providers are fluent in English. You had more pleasant experience in other African countries, because I believe that you were able to communicate much easier with the people. And many were able to mask what they really feel about you, because they are much more equipped with the ability to speak to you in a language that you are more comfortable with. Allow me to show you something. This young man is your fellow British, who is very very fluent in Amharic. Look at the Ethiopian’s reaction to him, when he speaks to them in English and then in Amharic. This is not in Ethiopia. This is in the middle of London. Most people were pretty much indifferent to his friendly greetings, until he starts talking to them in Amharic. The minute that they realize that he understands their language, his skin color or British heritage went out of the window. That is why I said what looks resentment is really skin deep. It’s about understanding. http://youtu.be/eefmOxYcrXU

        In his other short videos, (you can watch them, when you have time) the same gentleman helps people like you to navigate the country and the culture. I hope my “rant” helps you to understand the point I am trying to make. We Ethiopians explain ourselves to foreigners by saying that “look we are like onions. We have so many layers. When you peel few of our layers we make you cry, but at the end you’ll find out how essential we are, just like an onion is to a good meal” (My English translation is too long for that adage. Sorry about that.) Please don’t hesitate to ask me anything, you wish about Ethiopia. I have worked with the travel industry for so long, I might help with some of your questions.


      • Hi Jos Thanks for the background info and thoughts. I am happy to accept that in using words like resentment and comtempt I may have misrepresented the motivations behind some people’s actions, which is why your input here is so valuable. I will add a note to the post asking people to read your comments to get your perspective. Whilst you are absolutely right to say that being able to speak the language anywhere will open doors and give people a positive impression that does not mean that the opposite is true. I have been to many places with almost no undertsanding of the language and been treated with respect by people who will gladly engage with me in whatever way we can. Secondly every where I go I always learn basic greetings, please, thankyou and a few expressios at least and Ethiopia was no exception. However, I only rarely felt that anyone ever appreciated my efforts (those that did seemed to be more tourist industry professionals in the broader sense), whereas in many countries I have seen faces light up with joy on hearing my attempts – thats not to say everywhere is like that so I wouldnt suggest Ethiopia is a unique exception. Moreover the problems I had were with people who spoke English very well, I would never have offered such opinions based on encounters where I had limited ability to communicate with people as I am only too aware of the almost certainty of misunderstanding people. If anything, even when I feel aggreived after some encounter where communication ability was extremely limited I refuse to come to any firm conclusions at all and accept that it was probably a misunderstanding.
        The bottom line is that no matter what the limitations are on my understanding of Ethiopian cultures, I and many other people have had similar experiences. Although its important to put them in perspective, which I attempted to do in my piece and you certainly are helping me to do so here, the Ethiopian tourist industry is always going to be facing an uphill battle in gaining return visitors – a vital element to building the industry and bringing in money and employment along the way. I didnt write the piece with the intention of putting people off visiting, as the country has so much to offer but to address this issue of generating return visits. If I have failed in this I apologise and I accept that my sense of humour doesnt work for everyone by any means.
        Maybe people on guided tours get shielded from some of the worse behaviour and have someone like yourself to ensure constructive relations with those they meet but even if I could afford that kind of travel I wouldnt because I am more interetsed in direct contact with people. Thats not to say I dont recognise and appreciate the importance of guides, they have often been a vital part of my means of gaining an understanding of cultures, its just that I dont want to spend two weeks on a fixed itinerary. With the quality of many of the roads now in the country much of the tourism may be of the organised form so visitors dont experience much of what I did but I struggle to see how independent travelers can avoid it.


  2. Pingback: Racism and the making of an English traveller | Insideotherplaces

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