An expatriate guide to settling in Rwanda

Life in Rwanda is best approached with respect and without an air of being better than or smarter than locals.

You move to a new country as an expatriate, an individual who relocates temporarily to a nation outside of their own for work purposes. Here you are now settling into life in Rwanda, a geographically small landlocked nation in Africa.

 A place where a little over two decades ago, war was the order of the day but in 2019 it is a nation-state punching above its weight. All the while doing so with little resources but with the heart and soul of might.

It is interesting to watch and see how people from different parts of the world tend to relate to life in Rwanda. More often than not, the attitude of the individual expatriate reflects the foreign policy and overall attitude and culture of his or her government’s.

In itself there is nothing wrong with adapting one’s government’s position with regard to other nations, but there is always need for moderation and openness to discoveries without the burden of preconditioned mindsets.

I have found this to be especially true for life here in Rwanda.

There is much to learn, appreciate and understand in a country such as this with its history, deep sense of pride, worth and potential. The nuances of a language only spoken here make many of us reluctant to put in the effort to learn it.

Nothing wrong with not learning Kinyarwanda as the length of the words, the abundant use of the letters k, u and r which are problematic for many native speakers of Germanic languages.

However, we need to note that not speaking the local language locks us out of many parts of the society and understanding the true nature of the people and their culture.

We should never be upset when it is difficult to find a moto driver who does not speak English or French. It is our choice to not learn the local language. Choices have consequences.

Yes, on the world stage your home country may be a powerhouse. It has a history of being able to mould other nations into doing what it wants. Maybe your country also has a way of making it seem as though nowhere else on planet earth is worth living other than yours.

If you believe nothing else you read here today please believe me when I tell you that your time in Rwanda will be much better if you leave that mindset at the airport before even boarding the plane for the flight to Kigali.

It may be the numerous mountains or the beautiful climate but something about this nation makes one stop, pause and realise that the stories which make us feel superior are not true.

Understandably, there are those who resist and try to maintain their sense of superiority but soon find that they are speaking but no Rwandan is listening. The audience disappears.

Life in Rwanda is best approached with respect and without an air of being better than or smarter than locals. This is not one of those duty stations where the government and locals treat expatriates like mighty rescuers who know everything and who must be lauded and treated like a saviour.

Here the people and government know what they want to achieve and the rest of us need to fall in line. Try as we may to pretend as though we have the answers and must be listened to, we get left behind.

Left behind to beat our gums and to seem desperate in our need to be acknowledged as the power base for all things which could make this country better.

Without doubt, it is infuriating to be consistently stated at while going about one’s normal business on the streets of Kigali or elsewhere in the country. But alas is it not a small price to pay to live in a home the size of which you would never have in your home country?

To enjoy gorgeous weather for most of the year and stunning views from almost every home is a bit of staring not somewhat tolerable? Every time someone stops going about their business to examine your every being remember what you have gained from living in Rwanda.

Do not get angry and do not disrespect the individual doing the staring.

For those of us from lesser developed nations let us see what we can learn from this country to take back to ours. Rwanda has done what many of us dream of for our countries and with less resources than many of our home countries possess.

Let us not be stuck on what has been termed as the “now arrogance of the Rwandan people” stemming from the success of their leaders and nation state.

Let us celebrate one of the few nations of Black people that is on the road to development and happens to be doing so without being the puppet of any other nation.

This in itself is a feat. Let us rejoice in the positives and the idea that a poor nation can have pothole free roads, clean cities and a clear plan to make its people and territory great.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.