Top 7 Signs You Have Been an Immigrant too Long

So how do you know that you have been away from your native country for way too long. Never fear, I am here to give you the warning signs that you have lost touch with the motherland.

African lady representing in the middle of China town

1) Communication is Lacking: You go to your native countrymen to have a conversation and the only word you understand of a language that you used to think was yours, is the greeting. This particularly applies to creole or ever-evolving languages such as sheng.

2) Everyone Talks to You in English (or French): Even though you grew up speaking the local languages, as soon as people see you, they change from natives to Rhode Scholars.

3) You wear a Kenya/Ghana/South Africa T-shirt IN Kenya/Ghana/South Africa: Short of special events, most people don’t wear shirts proudly declaring their citizenship while they live there. Clearly you have missed the place.

4) You Pay Higher Prices for Everything: As far as shopkeepers are concerned, you are a tourist and so should be treated as such.

5) Your Family Members Don’t Recognize You: Maybe it’s the weird curly kit hairdo (both men and women), maybe it’s the excess of baggy clothes, maybe it’s the weird walk and the even weirder accent. Either way, when your aunties look at you, they are actually looking through you searching for the young person they sent abroad.

6) You Expect Everything to be on time and efficient: You complain to anyone around you that passports shouldn’t take this long to process/ buses shouldn’t be four hours late/ the police should actually live to serve people.

These complaints are almost always taken as a spoiled cry-baby trying to tell everyone what to do.

Previously, your concept of time was in as good shape as this clock

7) You are on time FOR EVERYTHING: If you find yourself being punctual for everything, occupational functions AND social functions, then clearly your concept of “African time” is gone and you have been abroad too long.

Off the top of my head I can think of a few more but I will leave for the floor open for y’all to share with me some of the signs you have noticed of this deadly disease.

From one member of the diaspora to another,


No Comments

  • By Caustic Blonde, April 20, 2008 @ 7:10 am

    Ah ha! I now know why my Kenyan friend is rarely on time for anything much less early. :)

  • By Mwangi, April 20, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

    @Caustic: There is real time…..and then there is African time. Huge difference!

  • By Dave Duarte, April 20, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

    Lol! Good post Mwangi!

  • By Mwangi, April 20, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

    @David: Glad I made you chuckle. Looking forward to seeing more of you in future :)

  • By gal africana, April 21, 2008 @ 3:48 am

    Dont knock those t-shirts! I especially love the “I’m kenyan, uta do” ones hihi…I also go to the extra length of buying those t-shirts for my friends :-)
    And after my “lateacholic” confession, seems I’ve just been an immigrant long enough to start changing my african timeness…

  • By Mwangi, April 21, 2008 @ 3:58 am

    @gal: And with your even thinking about punctuality, your slow descent into the dark side begins…..they have “I’m Kenyan Uta Do?” nowadays. I actually used to think that my “Hatucheki na watu” t-shirt was edgy but now with the “Si lazima” shirts and african tees I am feeling soooo last year lol

  • By seinlife, April 21, 2008 @ 4:09 am

    LOL soo very true…how about you become a tourist in your own country, hitting mara, mombasa et. al. for the majority of your time.
    Btw – on the other end of things how about those in diaspora who 6mths into it no longer speak or understand their native tongues….that always gets me..

    Nameless is growing artisticly(sp)….

  • By Mwangi-the Displaced African, April 21, 2008 @ 5:37 am

    @seinlife: Those two things you just said, completely apply to me:
    a) My comprehension of Kikuyu is almost nil after 6 years here and when I came I could understand it just fine, fortunately though, Kiswahili, Sheng and Kenyanese English are staying put for now.
    b) Next time I go home, I am hitting shagz, Coast, Dar-es-Salam, Botswana, Zimbabwe…truly you gain new found appreciation for home once you are out of it.

  • By seinlife, April 21, 2008 @ 8:27 am

    @mwangi – seriously? 6yrs and it is going? do you never speak it at all? woow that is amazing!
    Happy travels – it would be fun to hear about your travels..maybe you can blog about it?

  • By gal africana, April 21, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

    “si lazima”?..noooo! I want one of those as well hihi…I must say my kyuk is at best very rusty…learning another language and speaking it often pushes my kyuk to the ether regions of my head…and kyuks are not exactly an everyday occurrence here, so no practice…must say it comes back quick when I get home…so it’ll come back for you as well when you go home and hear people speak it..and embarrassingly begin to stutter your own language…much to the chagrin of you family members lol…GOOD LUCK with that!

  • By Mwangi, April 21, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

    @seinlife: I definitely intend on blogging about my journeys- part of which is going back home to learn my mother tongue.
    The problem for me was that, though both my parents were Kiuk, they never spoke to me in Kiuk, only to each other, so all my life I could hear what people were saying but could never speak it because I never had to.
    Now that I am older and away from people who regularly speak Kiuk – though some young folk here would make you think you are back in shagz – my comprehension is slowly but surely fading.

  • By Mwangi, April 21, 2008 @ 3:31 pm

    @gal: You haven’t seen me trying to talk Kikuyu, at best it is a butchering of the language….I can’t wrap my head around anything…the verbs, the tenses…nothing.
    But I do decree as surely as I am writing this blog, I will become a literary genius in Kiswahili – Sanifu, not that wonderful massacre that we have in Kenya – and Kikuyu. Ironically, my baby sister who grew up here and has no comprehension of Kikuyu either wants the exact same things….I guess you don’t miss the water until the well runs dry.

  • By MissingHome, April 22, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

    Actually, Mwangi your experience is not that uncommon. My mother tongue foundations were shaky at best. I grew up in Nairobi, with a wide range of ethnicities.

    Parents struggled with English even though they went to grad school, so they worked double hard to make sure that we never had to struggle with Englsih and in the process forgot about the mother tongue fell to the wayside. They thought I did not have to explicitly learn the language, so why should I teach you? You will learn by listening.

    For anyone out there that is a very good business idea, many in the diaspora have children who are not exposed to Kiswahili, or the mother tongue, and would be willing to pay for either correspondence lessons, or a sort of language summer camp. I know I would for my kids, and even a brush up for their old man!!!

  • By Mwangi, April 22, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

    @Missing: That idea for a Kiwahili church camp is genius. It would be complete immersion in a language that is usually necessary for us to pick it up. The kids would enjoy being with other children from similar backgrounds. Definitely something worth considering. Thanks for stopping by and looking forward to your opinions on other posts in future.

  • By Kelly, April 23, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

    What do you say to those of us who complain about the tardiness of our fellow Kenyans even when in the country?? Good Post! I will carry a sheng, and Swahili dictionary even as I leave!

  • By Mwangi, April 23, 2008 @ 11:37 pm

    @Kelly: Btw personally nowadays when I see Africans being tardy to social events, I get pretty happy because it reminds me of home and also reminds me that you can take the African timer out of Africa but the African time is not leaving him.

    The problem with sheng is it changes every second and a half so by the time you get back a whole new sheng dictionary will probably have been written. Stick with the Kamusi; the beautiful, mellifluous Kiswahili language is timeless. There is also an online Kamusi at

  • By acolyte, April 29, 2008 @ 6:52 am

    That nameless track is timam! I’m sure the time issue will hit me when I get back to Kenya.

  • By Mwangi, April 29, 2008 @ 6:58 am

    @acolyte: The track can definitely become the next anthem. It would be hilarious to hear about people’s experiences especially when dealing with banks and parastatals where punctuality is about as existent as Big Foot

  • By Sunny, April 30, 2008 @ 12:19 am

    I noticed the way back home people speak to you very close to you holding your hands etc, and I have been here so long I noticed the way I minded people being so in my face.Have I become so accustomed to the concept of ‘personal space’

    Also, I realized that hairstyles are different. I was quickly shut down when I wanted to have a ka-Afro, people said, I will pay for you if it is a question of $$$. The natural DO is not as popular as it is here.

    As for the vernacular. I have a pretty solid ear for my mothertongue but speak it like a foreigner to my home area, to the amusement of my fam.

    On the issue of a Kiswahili language school, I may well be able to offer some elementary instruction. Applicants welcome. I passed my exams and used to recite mashairi(poetry) so any interested parties, holla.

  • By Mwangi, April 30, 2008 @ 3:08 am

    @Sunny: Yeah, the whole thing of personal space is over-rated in my opinion. I used to love the feeling of being in each other’s lives up close and personal that I got back home.
    You know, I think one of the great debates that you black women have never had that you really should are over natural vs synthetic hair. African women hate on other women so much for either going short, el natural or the dreadlock way. Usually this hate comes from women who have, no offence lakini it’s true, hideous bird-nests on their head that masquerade as weaves – especially the middle age women, ga ga ga ga! It just saddens me the heat that the natural mamaz get…but I digress.
    Don’t underestimate the power of that Kiswahili school, a couple of years from now a brand will probably need to be set up to educate people such as my 10 yr old sister who doesn’t know A WORD of Kiswahili.

  • By Mo Ma, May 4, 2008 @ 5:32 am

    My uncle recently came back to Kenya after 11 years away and he could still speak fluent Sheng…from another era. It was indescribably funny hearing him spout ‘buda’, ‘beste’ and other phrases from the 90’s.

    After 4 years away, I just stick to standard Swahili when I go back for hols. Don’t even get me started on keeping up with the latest local hits. I watched TV and it felt like I was listening to a Zimbabwean music channel.

    I’m losing my mothertongue and, as another blogger mentioned on her recent post, it seems that preserving languages is not like riding a bike. You either use it or lose it and the new language or local dialect you pick up sort of ‘overwrites’ your least used language which often turns out to be your mothertongue.

    Cool blog layout btw.

  • By Mwangi, May 4, 2008 @ 11:42 am

    @ Mo Ma: Thx 4 complimenting the layout. I can pretty much relate to losing my mother tongue. I was never able to speak it, but I was always able to understand fluently. Now, I can’t even understand it.
    I think Kiswahili, or at least the butchered version we speak in Kenya, is actually a bit like riding a bike. I never used to speak it at all when I was in Kenya but after a few years here I became so used to speaking Kiswahili and Sheng that I even began to think in Sheng and Kiswahili. Which post is this that talks about languages?
    Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to what you have to say about my other posts.

  • By Mo Ma, May 4, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

    The comments are also worth checking out.

  • By Mwangi, May 4, 2008 @ 11:07 pm

    @Mo Ma: Cheers for that, I’ll have a look at it now.

  • By godwin benson, May 26, 2008 @ 8:50 pm

    tell me more on how to How to Immigrate to Australia Within a Week

  • By Mwangi, May 26, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

    @godwin: I am going to doing a series on where I live, Melbourne, Australia, which should give you a bit more information about that.

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