My name is “Alan,” and if you don’t know my name, please just say, “Hi!” or any of the other greetings you use on your fellow Kenyans. Jina langu si “British” or “mzungu.” I don’t know what your parents told you, but I don’t think white people like being called either of those names. In fact, in America, it’s borderline racist to yell someone’s ethnicity or nationality at them. You don’t see me walking around shouting “Kenyan!” at people.
I know it’s not a huge problem, but I walk two kilometers to the market every day; it’s like a gauntlet. People on the left yelling “mzungu,” on the right saying, “British, how are you?” and mamas instructing their babies to look at me, pointing openly. Sometimes I’ll even pass a group of high school boys and that is pretty intimidating (they’ll say things in groups that they’d never say if they were alone). I used to get annoyed and say things like, Mimi si British (I am not British) or “I am American” until I realized that, even if I was British, that’s no way to greet a person!
These days I usually just say Jina langu si mzungu (my name is not mzungu). This at least prompts some productive dialog like, “Ni nani?” (it’s who?). The little kids honestly don’t know any better, so I just smile and wave, but the teenagers should. After all, it’s considered a bit abusive to call other Kenyans by their tribe. Wewe mkamba, kuja hapa (You Kamba, come here).
To be honest, I used to get offended that they thought I was British (not that being American is anything to brag about)… but I don’t think they can tell the difference between someone who comes from the USA, Sweden, Germany, etc. It’s understandable, though, because I can’t tell the difference between a Kenyan and Ugandan or a Tanzanian. Funny enough, I’m almost positive a Tanzanian would be upset if I called him a Kenyan, so it’s a good thing I don’t go around calling people by their nationality.
Oh well, we all need something to complain about. That’s just life. Thanks for reading.