November 30, 2017

New book helps Westerners navigate African culture

Written by  Emily Jones
“Acclimated to Africa: Cultural Competence for Westerners,” a new book by EMM worker Debbi DiGennaro, is a practical guide to help Westerners navigate African culture. Photo provided by Debbi DiGennaro. “Acclimated to Africa: Cultural Competence for Westerners,” a new book by EMM worker Debbi DiGennaro, is a practical guide to help Westerners navigate African culture. Photo provided by Debbi DiGennaro.

NAIROBI, Kenya — In the new book “Acclimated to Africa: Cultural Competence for Westerners,” author and Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) worker Debbi DiGennaro provides a practical guide to help Westerners navigate the vast cultural differences between Africa and the Western world.

“Acclimated to Africa,” published by Summer Institute of Linguistics International, discusses seven of the most common areas of misunderstanding that Westerners encounter when relating to African people: organization, finances, friendships, spirituality, communication and conflict, leadership, and work. A playful dialogue between two recurring characters, Wesley from the West and Juma from Africa, highlights key differences in worldviews.

DiGennaro writes in the book’s introduction, "In my own experience and observing other expatriates in Africa, I notice that we generally manage to adapt well enough to the food, the climate, sleeping under mosquito nets, and possibly even regular encounters with amoebas; but it’s in the interpersonal dynamics where the battle for cross-cultural competence is won or lost, and these dynamics are commonly encountered at our places of work, worship, and recreation."

Floyd McClung, who founded international church-planting network All Nations, says, “Debbi DiGennaro’s book is an extraordinary book of wisdom for those who want to serve Africa. I commend it as a proven roadmap to a continent of adventure and beauty.”

Sarah Lanier, author of “Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot — and Cold — Climate Cultures,” also recommends the book, saying, “DiGennaro has an easy, conversational style for explaining key insights into life in Africa for the Westerner. Her years of living in Africa have given her perspective in such a way that she clearly explains many cultural differences in an honoring way. I highly recommend this book to people who seek to find appropriate ways to relate to their African colleagues and friends.”

In the foreword of “Acclimated to Africa,” Laurenti Magesa, Tanzanian priest and author of multiple books, writes, “Mrs. DiGennaro has written an extremely lucid and witty book about the pillars that sustain the African cultural heritage. ... The book cannot be recommended highly enough.”

DiGennaro draws on nearly 10 years of experience as an EMM worker in Nairobi. She has served as EMM’s regional representative for East Africa since 2011. Her book is intended to support the work of Western churches and individuals who are engaging with African people, either in Africa or within immigrant communities in the West.
“Acclimated to Africa” can be purchased on amazon.com.