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We may not be the easiest people to piss off — all the same, if you wanna give it a go, you can’t go wrong with one of these clangers.

ZIMBABWEANS ABROAD are fair game. They won’t be easy to piss off as they’re generally obstinately tolerant (though there are always short-fused exceptions). At first they may dimple up, humoured by your savage ignorance, audacity, and arrogance. So it’s up to you to push buttons straight-faced until their smile fades and a deep-set frown decorates their forehead, crying out “Is this #*%* for real?!?!”

There are millions of Zimbabweans outside the country, living on the East Coast of the US, in the UK, South Africa, and Australia mainly. You may come across a travelling ‘Zimmy’ (a very effective scowl-inducing term to greet any Zimbabwean with. It sounds like a cartoon character from another planet or a really crap scooter). You may even meet one who has lived through a feather-ruffling role-play not unlike the scenarios that follow. All the same, this is a water-tight way of drawing out a reaction if you’ve got nothing better to do when you encounter someone from the teapot-shaped nation.

Ask really naive questions.

It’s always important when getting to know people to ask about where they’re from, right? In this case, there are certain questions that will lead you closer to your goal. These are directly from my own or other Zimbabweans’ real-life experiences:

  • “Did you go to a school made of mud?” – one of the first questions I was asked at school in the UK.
  • “Did you have to hunt for your dinner?” – a classic, the Big Mac of blinkered questions.
  • “Did you go to school on an elephant?” (to which my friend replied, “No, but sometimes there were lions in my garden so I couldn’t go to school.”) – a good example of how the situation may be flipped by a wily Zimbabwean, so tread carefully.
  • “Did your dad shave with glass?” – this one utterly confused me as I didn’t know why glass would be so readily available in this boy’s fantastical imaginings of Africa. He followed up with this vintage question on identity…
  • “Why aren’t you black?”

There are many more questions you can think up about how wild a Zimbabwean’s life must be. Just have faith and be creative / outrageously naive. Think Lion King.

Say you’re going to see Victoria Falls…from the Zambian side.

Tell them you’re going to visit Victoria Falls because you’ve heard it’s magnificent. Tell them you’ve heard its raw power is incomparable to any other waterfall and it’s something you have to do in your lifetime. Tell them you’re going from the Zambian side.

They will then ask enthusiastically why you don’t walk 10 minutes across the border and see it from the Zimbabwean side too. You now have them in the palm of your devious hand. Explain matter-of-factly that the view is so much better from the Zambian side that there’s no point. This will get a reaction from almost all Zimbabweans, as it’s common knowledge that the Falls and most of its viewpoints drop mainly on the Zimbabwean side. It’s a point of national pride.

As they try to convince you, start to give in a little and say you’d be interested in checking it out but you don’t want to get shot.

Nothing pisses a Zimbabwean off more than exaggerations of violence, so comparing a tranquil riverside resort to a gun-frenzied war zone should get their fuses sparked.

Piss off a white Zimbabwean.

If you meet a white Zimbabwean, the first thing you must do is screw your face up extremely tight when they tell you where they’re from. Really question the fact that white Zimbabweans exist. Remind them that they’re not black. Then screw your face up again. As the conversation moves on and your face relaxes, you must be sure to wear a soft smile that suggests you still don’t believe them.

Another option is to tell them you know all about Zimbabwe. Sympathise that it must’ve been tough losing their farm. When they tell you they lived in a city, give them a knowing look that sees through their attempts to deny the bitter truth of loss. As they tell you more about this ‘city’ they lived in, give a tight, reassuring, wordless squeeze on the shoulder. Just to let them know you understand. As your prey tries to wriggle free and convince you they did actually live in a city with skyscrapers and cinemas, be the bigger, more patronising, person and change the subject.

Piss off a black Zimbabwean.

If you meet a black Zimbabwean, be sure to tell them you have lots of black friends and they’re a good bunch. This will immediately raise tensions and should lead you closer to pissing someone off.

As you talk more, pick up on the fact that they don’t have an ‘African accent.’ Really emphasise that there is a universal ‘African accent’ and you’ve heard it many times. Describe the accent and even do a caricature impression with inflated facial expressions and hand gestures. Explain that the ‘African accent’ is much more bouncy and sing-songy than their own and that they must have spent a lot of time overseas. Skepticism is the key.

Throwing in “Really!?!?” and “Are you sure?!?!” reinforces the disbelief as it undermines their entire backstory and should piss them off.

Call them South African.

There’s a disease affecting many small countries that live in the bulky shadows of their neighbours. New Zealand has it with Australia, Canada with the US, Portugal with Spain, and Zimbabwe with South Africa.

Here’s a great tip. Make your Zimbabwean friend comfortable, get to know where they’re from and what it’s really like there. Once you’ve created this cosy bubble of understanding, start referring to them as South African at every opportunity. They’ll try to reiterate that Zimbabwe is not in South Africa, that they’re two different countries and both are in Southern Africa. Say “Oh, okay.” And ignore them.

When you next introduce them to friends, call them your friend from South Africa. Later on when talking merrily with all your buddies and a topic comes up, ask your friend if it’s like that in South Africa. Follow this formula for the rest of the evening and everything should fall into place, leaving you with a really pissed off Zimbabwean.

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About The Author

Dikson

Dikson is a spoken word artist, writer and photographer from Zimbabwe. He spent the latter part of his youth in the UK, he has performed around Europe and Africa and has collaborated with jazz addicts, hip-hop heads, DJs and Italian guitarists. He works for Magamba Network in his hometown, Harare, and is the editor of the youth platform www.kalabashmedia.com. If you see him buy him a drink.

  • Natalie Kombe

    The Victoria Falls one definitely gets me riled up lol. Nice one.

  • Samm Monro

    Hehehe! Classic bra! Love it!

    • Anna Sophie Greiffenberg

      Shaving with glass??? Ignorance is indeed bliss and adverty free

  • Tinotenda Arigurinu

    this is my life. lol

  • Ingrid Næss-Holm

    Haha, good one (and love the photo).

  • Vimbai Gabriel Mukarati

    ha ha..nice..and what an epic photo…

    • Mark Harper

      Love it.

  • Petronella Mhishi

    so true and funny.

  • Spiwe Chireka

    Very true!

    • Tafadzwa Sayi

      You don’t sound Nigerian. True story

  • Fungai Machirori

    Nhai zvako iwe! The accents one is the one that I get all the time! But how come you speak English so well? Surely, but surely you went to school in a tree, so how did you learn such smooth and flowing English?

  • Carlo Alcos

    Well done Dikson. Well done.

  • Joyce Mahlatini

    Been living in Asia for 10years and have most of these questions thrown at me,haha gotta love it

  • Craig Skip Scheepers

    You have bitten on the reaction South Africans have always gotten when traveling abroad. Be original in your writing or pay homage.

    • Jo Adeyemo

      I’m Zambian and I’ve experienced some of these things and I know many people from a number of sub-Saharan countries that have some kind of similar experience. South African don’t have a monopoly on these kinds of experiences.

  • Katie Jackson

    A friend of mine even got asked whether or not we have the sky in Africa. Something that really gets me and my family pissed off is when people insist on calling Zimbabwe “Rhodesia”. The worst though is when people say you can’t be white and Zimbabwean. “So where are you REALLY from?” or “No, but I mean what are your ORIGINS?” It got so bad that my sister cooked up a really good answer: “Well it all depends how far back you want me to go. Technically I originate from somewhere in Central Africa. And so do you.”

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0603/feature2/map.html

  • Ellie

    I’m a Canadian living South Africa and of course know many “Zimbos” as they are referred to here….I’m also in the African travel industry and can def attest to the Vic Falls thing…I’m constantly telling travellers not to waste their time on the Zam side. But alas, you made small error, Canada is in fact NOT a smaller country than the US, it is actually much bigger in size, the second largest country in the world as a matter of fact. So now you’ve pissed off a Canadian :p

  • RaniJayne

    Brilliant. I’m not Zimbabwean, but i was fortunate enough to live in Vic Falls for six months last year. And I am proud to say I only ever saw the falls from the Zim side. The biggest issue I think when I got back to Australia, every one just presumes that Africa is one big country, and not actually made of many different countries which are all so different to one another. I think you give people, particularly Westerners, too much credit by thinking they even know zim is in southern africa. Or maybe that is just the naivety of my friends ha?

  • Alexandra S Maseko

    lol yessss! ive experienced all of these things too smh.. I especially hate being called South African! still do! very well written…

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