December holidays are here and many diasporans take the opportunity to travel back home for the festive season. Here in Kenya, the Kenyans living or studying abroad who come to visit and vacation home are collectively known as ‘summer bunnies’. I don’t know where the term originated from but I’ve heard it a lot recently and been referred as one when I’m here on holiday. I don’t know if other African countries have names to which they refer their citizens who return home to visit from abroad but these guidelines may be applicable to them as well.
I didn’t think much of it but recently it’s become evident that there are some negative connotations around being a summer bunny. As per social media memes, conversations with people and comments I’ve overheard, it seems that summer bunnies are seen to come disturb the peace in boisterous ways.
Since there is so much negativity around being a summer bunny, I decided to write guidelines for my fellow bunnies (spare me, I don’t like the term either) to consider while home. Please note that I’m not writing from a ‘holier than thou’ perspective. I have also been challenging myself to reflect on my thoughts, language and actions whilst vacationing home.
Here are the 6 guidelines:
1. Be considerate
You were Kenyan first. You’re also still Kenyan thanks to dual citizenship if you also hold citizenship of another country. Referring to local residents as “you Kenyans” especially when talking about negative things can easily alienate people around you. Be considerate.
2. Be Positive
Don’t just focus on the negative. Yes, traffic can be really bad, customer service is poor, personal space may be non existent and the news may be full of corruption scandals. However, you can’t spend your holiday complaining about everything just because they are not up to your standards. Take time to also appreciate the positive aspects of the country. There are so many new developments, a lot of new infrastructure, technology is on a whole other level , and the ingenuity and hard work of everyday people is impressive. Focusing on positive aspects of the country changes your perspective a lot. Focusing on the positives may inspire you to resettle back home. Be positive.
Considering the move? Get tips from a previous post: the African diaspora dilemma; move back or stay abroad?
3. Be humble
Don’t try to make people around you feel inferior based on the status you are afforded with by having money from abroad. Dollars, Euros, Pounds etc. are a much stronger currency (except the Canadian dollar of course lol) and you’re able to afford a certain lifestyle much easier than many local residents. Kenya is a super classist society and a vast majority of people are very marginalized. If you are helping others, do it ethically and with compassion without boasting your power and resources. Be humble.
4. Be proud
Stop pretending that you do not speak Kiswahili (until someone says something bad about you then you magically recall it). Speaking another language is a huge asset and it also has cognitive benefits. The notion that speaking local languages is reserved to lower social classes is very colonial. Be proud of who you are, your identity and language(s), whether at home or abroad. Be proud.
5. Be reasonable
It can be easy to develop saviour complex tendencies. Your foreign education and foreign money does not necessarily mean you have the solution to everyone’s problems. Listen to people first, discuss with them and if you are in a position to help, do it in constructive ways. Be reasonable.
6. Be honest.
Be real and honest about the benefits and disadvantages of living abroad when people ask you. A lot of people are enchanted about the diasporan life based on what they see online and may be oblivious to the amount of hard work and sacrifice it entails to make it as a foreigner abroad. Be honest.
It’s definitely a great privilege to get the opportunity to return home to visit family, friends and enjoy this beautiful country. I wish you all a joyous festive season!
Cover photo: My girl Trysh Tum and her brother enjoying a camel ride in Diani, South Coast, Kenya.