“Hello, I’m Edna and I come from Tanzania”, I introduce myself to a stranger at an expatriates event. “Oh, the devil! ”, he exclaims. Huh…did he just refer to me as the devil!? I contain myself and suppress the need to sarcastically refer to him as God. “Do I look like the devil?”, I ask him with offense written all over my face. “No, I mean the Tasmanian Devil, I meant it as a joke because you come from Tasmania.” I excuse this as a misunderstanding and laugh politely. He then proceeds to give me a lesson in social studies by explaining that a Tasmanian devil is a small carnivorous animal found in the Australian state of Tasmania.
“Yes, I am aware of the Tasmanian devil but I am from T-A-N-Z-A-N-I-A. It’s a country in East Africa,” I reiterate with a geography lesson. “Ah yes in Africa, of course, it is! I want to visit Africa one day, I would love to climb the Kilimanjaro (highest mountain in Africa) in Kenya”. Wrong. The Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania not Kenya, I tell him. “Ah, of course, it is!”, he proclaims. “Well, after climbing the Kilimanjaro I will take a trip to the island country of Zanzibar, I also want to see the Victoria Falls in Uganda,” he goes on to say. Wrong again! “Zanzibar is not a country, it is in Tanzania, the Victoria Falls is in Zimbabwe and Zambia”, I educate the man again. I am beginning to get tired of him so I smile sweetly and leave. He wants to sound knowledgeable yet he has no clue. He is not alone. I have encountered this before and I do not understand why people pretend to have subject- matter knowledge for the sake of making small talk and being perceived as intelligent. It would be much easier if they simply stated their ignorance and learned something new. To put it bluntly, this gentleman made an idiot of himself.
Holland is NOT a country
I am pretty sure the above caption will surprise many people. I know from experience that many people who do not live in the Netherlands believe it is also called Holland. North and South Holland are provinces in the Netherlands. There are 12 provinces in the Netherlands and the two Hollands takes up the biggest space on the pie chart, they encompass the large and important cities of The Hague, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam. To break it down a bit, I live in North Holland, West of the Netherlands.
THE Ukraine does not exist- Do not insult Ukrainians
President Barack Obama committed a sin against Ukrainians in 2014. He opened old sores and caused discomfort. The wise and intentionally diplomatic president made a speech at an elementary school in the United States whereas he referred to ‘The’ Ukraine. The fact is, The Ukraine does not exist. ‘The’ Ukraine is what the Russians (long time arch enemy) referred to it during the Soviet Union times. Ukraine is the correct usage of the country Ukraine. Ukrainians are sensitive to this incorrect reference to their country because it brings up past scores of the suffering, enslavement, and massacre of Ukrainians during the Soviet Union times. It also denies the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. Ironically when Obama gave that speech he was actually expressing disapproval of the invasion and occupation of part of Ukraine by Russia. However, one could consider the use of ‘The Ukraine’ to be Obama falling into the Russians’ way of thinking (past or present) – that is, ownership of Ukraine. I honestly think the good President should have done his homework before insulting a nation. It was ignorant and unintended of course, but one cannot overlook the fact that elementary school children are prone to adhere to that painful reference and that it could also lead to an unsettling political situation. Personally, I think Ukrainians have every right to be sensitive.
The Hague is not a country, The Hague is not a court
I have encountered two types of people, those who believe The Hague is a country and those who believe it is a court. Surprisingly some of these people have been seemingly intelligent people. One person actually shocked me by challenging me, a resident, to a debate regarding the “international court” status of The Hague. This is someone who graduated from a university in England. This is foolish confidence at its best! The fact is, The Hague is a city in the North Sea coast of western Netherlands and capital of South Holland. The Hague is known as the international city of peace and justice and boasts international organisations and international (world) courts such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. It is no wonder its status can be confusing.
There are two types of Irishmen
There are two types of Irishmen; One will offer you Jameson whiskey and the other Bushmills whiskey, one will promote Bulmers cider and the other Magners cider. So what am I on about here? Well, the fact is, these two Irishmen live in different countries.The Republic of Ireland is an independent country and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The Irish (in the Republic) often consider the Northern Irish as deserters and traitors who chose to side with the UK during the fight for cessation and independence. Do not get me wrong, the two sides live peacefully next to each other but don’t expect an Irishmen from the Republic to buy a pint of beer for the Northern Irelander. Do not expect them to celebrate St Patrick’s day together and by all means do not expect a Republican Irishman to drink Bushmills whiskey. However, you can expect to be offered Guinness beer by either. Both Irishmen produce and love their Guinness.
The Vatican is a country
In this paragraph, I have a confession to make . Until recently, I thought The Vatican was a city in Italy that enjoyed autonomy because the Pope is its ruler. I know I am not alone here because I have heard the same from a number of people. You see, I can also be ignorant. I may sound like a bit of a know-it-all but I am not as knowledgeable as I make out. See, I am modest too. Hahaha. Anyway, The Vatican is NOT in Italy.
Big Ben is not a tower
Most tourists who have been to London will boast about having visited the tower of Big Ben. Wrong. The tower called “Big Ben” is actually called the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the huge bell inside the tower.
Africa is NOT a country
I just could not let this lie. Let us face it, I am an African patriot and I don’t apologise for it. I have deliberately saved the best for last. Since I moved to Europe from Tanzania I have had to educate people on the fact that Africa is not a country on a number of occasions. People assume that every African person comes from the “country” called Africa. Africa is a continent made up of 54 recognised independent states. Period.
It is easier to assume facts than to admit ignorance. Confucius once said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” I agree with this quote because in my opinion, not knowing does not make one stupid. What makes one stupid (or appear stupid) is assuming facts despite not knowing. Not knowing can drive one to seek knowledge and this is characteristic of a smart and wise person. However, there are those like the writer Mark Twain who is of the view that ignorance and confidence drives one to succeed. Hmm…its an interesting debate. The ‘Trump’ card comes to mind. The human being is certainly a complex animal.
First published on Foreign Pointers.