Any African living abroad can relate to this topic. I remember the first time a non-African asked me a question about Africa that caught me off guard and made me think whether or not it was punt to be a joke or a prank of some sort. Alas, Youtube was not popular; hence, could not have been a prank. It was a pure sheer of lack of knowledge at its utmost level. Here's a college student asking a question about Africa that made me question his entire intelligence and I couldn't fathom the idea that he was truly not joking at that point.
Fast forward, now as a professional adult and a father, I wanted to approach this issue of lack of knowledge about my continent differently. Before we address questions that you should avoid asking your African friends, let's start with some questions that may be good icebreakers on getting to know your African friends.
The top five questions to ask an African friend:
1. Which country in Africa are you from?
OK. This one is the No.1 Icebreaker. Just asking this very simple question will make your African friend more susceptible to believe you have the basic knowledge about Africa and the world Geography that any decent human being should have as a minimum.
It tells your African friend that you are aware that Africa is NOT a country, but a continent composed of many countries.
A Bonus version of this question: "Which one of the 54 African countries are you originally from?" Ask that and you will get a close friendship.
2. How many languages do you speak?
That's the second-best question to ask an African. It shows your understanding of the fact that Africa is not a country, AND not all Africans speak the same language. Just like other continents, Africa is blessed with many cultural diversities and lots of spoken languages and dialects that accentuate its beauty. Also, this question brings up the true fact that all Africans speak at a minimum of two languages. Bonus version of this question: "How many native tongues or dialects do you speak other than the official language?"
3. What made you move to <your current country>?
What made you move to the United States? What made you move to France? This question brings up the fact that you do realize that Africans don't just choose to leave Africa. There is a reason beyond anyone leaving away from home; not just Africans. Migration is always associated with a cause. It could be related to anything: pursuing a better life, discovering other cultures, running away from danger, etc... This question makes your African friend understand that you know he/she is there for a purpose. NOTE: No African leaves Africa just because they want to leave. There is always a story behind each migration. Be ready to be amazed when your friend gives you the answer. Oh, be ready to listen for more than an hour. Bonus version: "What made you leave such a beautiful continent?" This tells your friend that you understand something had to happen for them to be where they are.
4. What is your favorite home food?
As easy as this question may sound, it just communicates that you understand the basic fact: that Africa is just like anywhere else. People living in Africa do cook differently and also have various tastes when it comes to gastronomy. There is no such thing as "African food" because of question Number 1: AFRICA is NOT a COUNTRY. You need to be specific. The bonus version of this question should be tailored based on your friend's origin. For example "What is your favorite Congolese food?" Just that little change int he question could bring you up close and personal with your African buddy. He/She may even invite you to try that special dish because there would be a high probability that he/she has some leftover at home - or at least, something close enough to it. Two things, we, Africans really enjoy Food and Dance/Music.
5. What are the most beautiful things to see in your country?
This one just brings up one major point: Africans are very patriotic. We love where we come from, no matter how shitty or beautiful it may be. You can take an African out of Africa, but you will never take Africa out of an African. This question just emphasizes that you do understand this point, no matter what's the current condition or situation exists in your friend's place of origin. They will be glad to list you all kind of cool things to do and things to say. But I can guarantee you that they will tell you this: the best thing about their country is the people. Africans are unique, and I just can't explain it to one article.
Now that we've gotten you close to your African friend, let's try to keep your relationship close by giving you Five question that you should never ask an African: