Ethiopia: Cultures collide in Ethiopian blogosphere

What happens when cultures collide? One of the best places to find out is the Ethiopian blogosphere, with its writers spread across the Ethiopian Diaspora, from China, through Europe to the United States of America.

Bloggers spent the past few weeks writing posts inspired by the differences between Ethiopia and the far-flung nations which many Ethiopians now call home.

Zewge A. Assefa, the writer behind Negere Ethiopia, was unnerved when he first moved to Norway as a student. At first, he wrote in First impression is not always the lasting one, everyone seemed so quiet and reserved. When he got up the nerve to talk to his fellow students, he had to overcome other cultural barriers:

I do not … mean to underestimate the difficulty for me as an African and in particular as an Ethiopian to give a proper picture of the place I call home. Many people seem to have a thick background reinforced with terrible images of war, famine and overall poverty…

Personally, I do not feel rejected. Neither do I feel fully embraced. I still live with the situation where more often than not, people prefer to sit by people of their color type even when I am sitting alone.

The writers of Mitmita got into the Christmas spirit “basking in the double consciousness that is our Ethiopian hearts and western habits”. In The Mitmita Girls’ Naughty Or Nice List they wrote:

First comes the depravity of the European Christmas, followed by the more sober and deliberate “Gena” celebrations – after all everyone knows that Jesus hails from Nazret, Ethiopia and was born on January 7th!

Ethiopian orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7.

Bernos writer Elle B, who described herself as a “black American”, shared her experiences dating an Ethiopian man in the United States in the post Cross Section of Addis & Georgia:

I was not prepared for the tightly knit nature of the habesha [Ethiopian] culture. When I met and fell in love with a habesha man, I was not ready for the frustration that would ensue. I was not ready for the remarks from habesha women that were along the lines “why did I take a good one?” because my boyfriend had a great paying job. I was not ready for the disgusted stares that would come from the habesha community as we walked down the U street

I would come home at night and ponder how some members of the habesha community could be so against one brown person loving another brown person. I wasn't angry, but frustrated.

She soon discovered that racism was not just an issue of black vs. white:

Although he didn’t believe the stereotypes of Black Americans, I am sure it was in his subconscious mind. I would call him African – he would say “I am habesha.” I would tell him that those countries [Ethiopia and Eritrea] were in Africa and he would say “we were told that we were different, but I know that we are in Africa”…

My boyfriend walked outside of a grocery store and it happened. What Black Americans know and never forget…that it lives…and it rears its head in the nastiest of ways sometimes. My habesha boyfriend walked out of the grocery store and mistakenly walked behind a car that was trying to pull out of a parking spot. The enraged driver said “Nigger!!!!” He came home and told me the story and said “but I wanted to tell her that I wasn't a nigger, I'm habesha.” I shook my head and let it drop into my hands in pure frustration.

In a multiple cultural crossover, Don't Eat My Buchela(s)! showed what an Ethiopian-American-Chinese-French Christmas looked like in French Restaurant Santa in China.

Arefe from the blog I Was Just Thinking wrote about Ethiopian artist Elias Sime having his work chosen by an American director for use in an Australian production of Oedipus Rex by Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky.

Looking at crossovers from another direction, British economist Owen Barder wrote about importing a cutting-edge piece of American culture into Addis Ababa in the post The Kindle in Ethiopia:

In Ethiopia the wireless does not work (presumably Amazon does not have an agreement with the Ethiopian mobile phone company, ETC). So periodicals do not arrive automatically, and you cannot browse for new books on the Kindle itself. But it is very easy and quick to download the latest edition of a newspaper or to get a new book from Amazon on a computer connected to the internet (it takes about 30 seconds to download today's edition of the FT) and then to transfer it via USB cable to the Kindle.


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