About a week ago, I posed a question on Facebook:
“Does a country make the people, or do the people make a country?”
I already have my personal stance on this, but I was curious as to what other people thought. Especially from an American versus Namibian perspective. Overwhelmingly, Namibians answered that the people make a country.
While this country is contrasting and beautiful, it just so happens that the people are my favorite part of Namibia. It only seems appropriate that today, on Namibia’s 28th Independence Day, I share why I appreciate and admire Namibians.
They are proud.
No matter where you go in Namibia, you’ll see people overflowing with pride for their country. This is most prominently displayed through their clothing, dancing, singing, tradtional cuisine, local businesses, and general demeanour towards all things Nam. It is ever evident that the people make this country, and not the other way around.
Their traditions are rooted deep.
The people of Namibia were here long before the country achieved independence. Because of that each tribe in Namibia has unique traditions that have been passed down for generations. From the way they eat and dress to the way they celebrate momentous occasions – all rituals are rooted deep in the culture and upholding these traditions are of utmost importance to Namibians.
They tell it like it is.
Most Namibians I’ve encountered are not afraid to speak their mind and will not hesitate to call you out on things like gaining weight over the holiday break (eish, speaking from personal experience here). But I’ve come to realize this is more a sign of endearment than anything, and I’ve learned to appreciate the honesty.
They value family above all else.
Family units in Namibia go beyond the mother, father and children. When you ask someone about their family, they will start naming their aunts, cousins, and friends from the neighboring village. Their sister might actually be their cousin who they grew up with in the homestead. Your friend’s mother will call you their daughter after meeting just once. Family is so important to Namibians and it’s easy to see the love they have for each other.
Respect is important.
There are a lot of everyday occurrences that have shown me how important respect is to Namibians. Some examples:
- You must greet a person before beginning a conversation or even asking a question (this includes store clerks, security guards, etc.).
- Elders get to cut the line in Post Offices and at the bank (honestly, such a great policy).
- Meetings always begin with a prayer, and protocol is always followed when announcing the meeting participants.
- A guest never leaves empty-handed.
My favorite saying is, “in Africa, we share”. In contrast to America, which I would define as a predominately individualistic society, Namibia is very collectivistic. Namibians rely on each other, and are very willing to share their good fortune with others. As a guest, you are always offered food or drink (like I said, a guest never leaves empty-handed). Even those who do not have much will offer you some of whatever they have. It’s truly inspiring .
They are hospitable.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more welcomed by host country nationals than during my time in Namibia. Families will take you in like you’re one of their own. New friends will treat you like they’ve known you for years. Their hospitality is /na.
They are thrifty.
A gourd? It’s actually a ladle, once dried and hollowed. Old metal wires? With a little creativity, it becomes a child’s beloved toy car. Even their staple crop, Mahangu, is used for like 10 different traditional food and drink items. Their creativity never ceases to amaze me.
They love themselves.
I’ve never met people that love themselves as much as Namibians do. And it’s awesome. People openly talk about loving their bodies and minds and they are no stranger to the shameless selfie. It’s totally acceptable to post pictures of yourself on #wcw because #selflove. I completely admire people who are comfortable in their own skin and aren’t afraid to show it.
They are hopeful.
Despite what can only be described as a devastating history, Namibians are hopeful for the future. This country is still in its infancy and there is still much work to be done, but Namibians recognize this and are determined to accomplish goals like Vision 2030 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan. The tenacity, grit, and passion that Namibians possess is what makes Namibia one of my favorite countries on Earth.
Here’s to 28 years of independence, and the wonderful people of Namibia!