I was at the mall the other day and within the course of 15 minutes heard at least 6 different languages spoken. After being in Mozambique where there was one dominant language and culture in our part of the country, it continually astonishes how diverse Namibia is. There is a large white population here in the capital city, and at my weekly exercise class the white instructor switches easily from English to German to Afrikaans to accommodate her clients. There are the Nama people of the south as well as the Basters, further north the Damara, the Ovambo, the Herero, the San Bushmen, a whole group called Colored with their own unique culture, and then across the Caprivi strip there are numerous people groups. There are also many Angolans, both residents and visitors, and it is not uncommon for me to hear people speaking Portuguese around town.
All of that can lead to tensions between the groups, especially with the tumultuous history of a country that has only been independent for 26 years. There are stereotypes and misconceptions among the groups, but our president frequently encourages the citizens to all make peace together in this “Namibian House”.
As newcomers and as Americans, we are thankful that people are friendly and welcoming. It is easy to chat with people on the street, and most everyone is able to converse with us in English. We try to remember our Afrikaans lessons from years ago but are far from fluent! I don’t think we will ever understand a lot about each one of the cultures represented in this beautiful country, but we are trying to be open to learn – C