I’m a mixed black african girl who grew up and lived most of her life in Cameroon, in Central Africa. My dad is half-white (french) and half-black (cameroonian), and my mom is 100% cameroonian. There’s little to no black african characters in popular fiction, which has always bothered me, and it would be so nice to read about someone like me for once.
Culture and food
Cameroon is a country created during colonization, with borders defined by europeans. Because of that, Cameroon is actually made of 200 ethnic groups, each of them having their own language and culture. So the culture and daily habits vary a lot depending on which region of Cameroon you are in. In the big cities, though, everyone is mingled no matter where they’re from. However, so many different ethnic groups cohabiting together often causes tension. There are also a lot of stereotypes about every ethnic group.
I grew up in the central and coastal areas of the country, and I’m Bassa. The Bassa are one of the main ethnic groups in Cameroon. If your parents are from two different ethnic groups, it is decided that you officially belong to your father’s ethnic group. My mother is Bakoko but my father is Bassa, so I’m the latter. When I meet another Cameroonian, two of the first questions we usually ask each other are : What are you (meaning, what’s your ethnic group) ? and Where is you village ?
Villages are very important in the Cameroonian culture. Your village is where your father’s ancestors were born. Even if you’re not born there, you usually have grandparents or great-uncles or family friends living there, and if you have enough money to do so you must regularly visit your village. And usually, when people earn enough money, they send money to their village so that people living there can have a better life, build more houses and schools etc.
Cameroonian food is very diverse, and varies depending on the region. The national dish is Ndolé, a dish made with ndolé leaves, stewed nuts, and meat (fish, beef or shrimps). Other common foods are bobolo and miondo (food made out of fermented manioc), soya (spicy grilled meat on skewers), and plantain. My dad is half-french though, so at home we eat almost as much french food as cameroonian food (crème brûlée, shepherd’s pie, beef bourguignon, A LOT of bread and cheese).
There are hundreds of different languages, but the official languages are French and English. Cameroon was colonized by France and England so Northern Cameroon mainly speaks english and central/southern Cameroon mainly speaks french. Most people also speak their ethnic group’s language. I don’t know how to speak Bassa, though, because neither do my parents. When me and my siblings were kids, our dad asked our baby-sitter to teach us, but she could only do so much and I only remember a few words.
Like most countries, there is a lot of colorism in Cameroon based on European beauty standards. When you’re a woman, the lighter you are, the prettier and more desirable you are considered. Dark skinned women are often mocked and considered not as pretty. A lot of people, mainly women but also men, use dangerous products to lighten their skin. Internalized racism and white beauty standards are very insidious, and a lot of people want to look like white people, including me when I was younger. As a kid I remember wishing i was a pretty blonde-haired blue-eyed white girl like the heroines of the books i was reading. Growing up I stopped wishing that, but I relaxed and straightened my hair a lot, wanting to have long straight hair without realizing that it was still an attempt to look like the ideal version of a white girl. I’m sure that if I had more black female characters to relate to when I was growing up, I wouldn’t have spend so many years hating myself without even realizing I was doing it.
Also, Cameroonians usually consider thick, curvy women to be the ideal beauty standard. But being thin is still an ideal broadcast by the media (especially that american and european media are heavily broadcast and consumed in Cameroon) so most women still diet a lot and go to the gym to lose weight.
Women wear a lot of skirts and dresses, be it casual or for work. Most cameroonian schools have uniforms and mandatory hairstyles (either cornrows or short shaved hair).
Elderly people often wear more traditional clothes and outfits. The most prominent traditional item of clothing is the Kaba. The Kaba is a long dress made of wax fabric and other materials and is owned by pretty much every woman. The dress looks different depending on the situation : the Kaba you wear when you stay at home is usually very long and very loose, the Kaba you wear during official/formal events is more tight-fitting and stylized, etc.
Dating and Relationships
I’ve never dated anyone, but when I was in high school none of my friends ever told their parents they were seeing someone. Having your parents know about and meet the person you’re dating after only a few weeks or months is something that just doesn’t happen (unless someone gets pregnant). It’s when things get serious that you introduce them to your family. Also, a lot of parents would prefer their children to marry someone from the same ethnic group.
Homosexuality is still illegal there, and you can go to jail for being gay.
My parents are still happily married, and I have 3 siblings. My parents are both close to their siblings, and I’m close to mine. Me and my siblings grew up with our cousins, we were always at each other’s houses. I pretty much consider most of my cousins as extra siblings. We have a very big extended family and every day I discover new distant cousins, aunts, great-uncles etc. My dad being half-french, when I was growing up we sometimes went to France during summer to visit his relatives living there.
In Cameroon, most people who have enough money to do so send their children to study abroad once they’ve graduated high school. I’m currently living in France for my studies, and most of my high school friends are also going to college in France, England, Canada, Brussels, South Africa etc.
Despite being only ¼ white, I’m very light-skinned. My siblings being much darker skinned, when I was a kid I thought I was adopted (i’m not, it’s just genetics). Cameroon being a black country, when someone is visibly mixed and light-skinned as i am, most people just label them “white”. A lot of people would refer to me as “the white” and it always really hurt me. My family wouldn’t understand why i was so angry and hurt, they’d say “they don’t mean anything by it, it’s just that you’re light” but the fact is it made me feel like i don’t belong. I’m cameroonian, i’ve lived in Cameroon almost my entire life, i’m black, and still some people see me as “other”, they see me as white. And so for a long time, I didn’t dare to call myself black, I’d say “I’m biracial” or “I’m mixed” instead because I somehow felt like a fraud. But I’m black and not white-passing at all, and I still experience racism abroad (but I’m aware I have a lot more privilege than dark skinned people).
So I’m currently living in France. On one hand, sometimes white people are racist toward me, or just totally obnoxious and ignorant, trying to touch my natural hair and thinking that people in Cameroon don’t have computers or whatever. On the other hand, when I randomly meet other cameroonians and we start talking, they always assume that because i’m mixed i’ve lived my entire life in France and i don’t know anything about Cameroon. And there’s nothing wrong with being a child of immigrants and not knowing the country your parents or grandparents came from, but i know that if i wasn’t visibly mixed they wouldn’t question the fact that i know Cameroon and lived there my entire life.
Because of how the media depict African countries, a lot of people think that everyone in Africa is extremely poor and starving, that we don’t have electricity and internet and that everyone lives in huts. Which is so false. We have rich people and poor people, we have huge modern cities and regular cities and small villages with huts, almost everyone has access to a tv and internet, etc.
Things I’d like to see less of
Cameroon and other african countries being depicted as poor unfortunate countries where everyone is starving and illiterate and waiting for the generous white people to save us. What we need is for people to see us as the humans we are, and to allow us to grow in peace.
Things I’d like to see more of
Black african characters being written as the complex human beings we are. Shy black african characters. Nerdy and hella smart black african characters. Mixed black african characters who struggle with their identity. LGBTQ black african characters.
Tropes/Stereotypes I’m tired of seeing.
The “savage”, “uncivilized” african. African characters who are aggressive, dumb and shout all the time. The poor africans in need of saving by white people.
I suppose one of the reasons why this whole “Dwarves don’t ever farm or grow/raise their own food” thing started is because Dwarves are mountain people, and there aren’t real mountains in Britain for reference. Growing up in Germany and first learning about agriculture as a little child, the area that had the overwhelming focus was the Alps… despite living half a country away from said Alps. I forgot most of the details but I’m sure we spent at least half a year learning about cattle and plant industry up in the mountains, and really every mountain region I know of has its own flourishing industry, the exceptions being mountain regions that just don’t have anyone living in them in the first place. So yeah, especially in a possibly volcanic region such as Erebor might be farming would be the obvious thing to do. Also goats are a thing. And livestock gets kept inside during the cold months anyway so there’d be no issue keeping them inside the mountain either. It’s been years and still this “Dwarves don’t provide their own food” makes zero sense to me
genre/warnings: fluff/romance/smut, flangst, adorkableness, use of non-penetrative sex toys, (not so) dry humping
feat: Hansol Vernon Chwe/Original Female, Joshua, Jeonghan + various
prompts: roommate!Vernon, silliness, cuddles, mac n’cheese = love
(a/n) my birthday project for my muse. thank you for everything vern:) and kisses for @vernkn who gifed my soft sweater vernon aesthetic. enjoy!
She loved Joshua Hong.
When she was so graciously offered to live in her aunt’s vacation penthouse close to her university of choice, the only catch was that she had to pay some of the bills. Completely fair, because it was a kind enough gesture to give away a freshly furnished space to a niece you barely talked to. Luckily, there was enough room for another guest, enough to split the rent.
So in comes the savior of her life, brother from another mother, Joshua Hong, decked out in sandy beige Sperry’s and ironed white jeans. Fresh from South California, he wore their sunshine on his smile, and their attitude in his Cheshire eyes. He was attending the same university as well, and was conveniently looking for a means to stay. Needless to say, she pounced on him at orientation before he could ask anyone else.
My dad is Vietnamese, but his parents come from China. My mum is from China, but she moved with her family to Hong Kong from an early age. They speak Cantonese (or as you otherwise might know it, traditional Chinese) as a main language, although they can speak (simplified) Chinese too. I was born and raised in Australia so I identify as Australian as well as Chinese and Vietnamese.
My area has some Asians, but you can get other PoC showing up too and as a writer, I like to embrace that (that’s why this profile exists). However, most people here are non-PoC, Australia being a former British colony and whatnot.
Hand me downs. When your dad has 10 sibings and 2 of them are about an hour’s drive from your house, you can’t deny that’ll happen. However, I do get new clothes every now and again.
My family does have a habit of eating rice and/or different Chinese styles of noodles a lot for dinner, but we eat pasta and other cultural foods every now and then. A typical lunch is normally a sandwich or fast food, while breakfast can be anything from dim sims to toast to apple pie (I think the apple pie is just a scrounge-for-money excuse on my mum’s part though).
We do eat Vietnamese food for dinner (a cold vermicelli dish with mint/lettuce, fish sauce and soft shell crab/spring rolls/cha lua/surimi scallops - or a combo of those - known verbally as something along the lines of “moong” to me, although I don’t know its proper name or spelling) or lunch (banh mi or pho), although the likelihood of having Vietnamese food for any given meal is significantly rarer than Western-style food/rice and normally it’s my dad who’ll eat pho.
We used to go out for yum cha for lunch (despite it being breakfast in most cases in Hong Kong) every now and again. When we’re in Hong Kong though, my maternal grandma makes us go to yum cha for breakfast and then to the same restaurant for dinner. There’s one dish I love from yum cha specifically (prawns in cheong fun with soya sauce) which is often on the menu and why I don’t mind yum cha in most cases.
My mum loves Japanese food, but my dad doesn’t like most raw things (I had a childhood friend whose mother used to work at a sushi shop, so we got lots of discounted food - it didn’t help my dad one bit) so me and my sisters have grown up eating sushi/okonomiyaki/sashimi and we’ll eat this stuff on birthdays or special occasions. That’s how we get into anime and learning Japanese at school.
My family is atheist, with a mild exception on my smallest sister’s part (she believed in the optional religious education classes a little too much, and so is a bit more insistent on Christianity). We normally go out to Chinese New Year celebrations in our vicinity (we normally buy the spiral potatoes on skewers and/or batter-coated octopus tentacles and eat them if not collecting freebies). We’ll eat mooncake, tang yuan or the like as a celebratory food around the relevant holidays, although we do sometimes eat them out of season if the food is around and cheap. We don’t take days off around Chinese New Year like Chinese are supposed to, but we do take breaks around Easter, Christmas etc. because schools, supermarkets etc. close on those days.
Red pockets (actually red envelopes, they have money in them) are a custom for birthdays, Christmas, New Year, weddings and Chinese New Year. If your birthday is close to one of the other listed holidays, you get one instead of two (see this profile for explanation). There is no set amount for the others, but normally for a 20-something-year old the cap is about AU $50 (we send the equivalent in American money to American relatives, but that’s less often than the ones we see in person and remember the birthdays for), and for weddings you should give more than that.
We take basically any excuse to get together with extended family and Asian family parties are never dull. The adults, especially, gossip long into the night and if they bust out the alcohol, they go home at midnight or 2 am because…obvious reasons.
I thought, when I was younger, my surname was Chinese, but it turned out to be Vietnamese put through American pronunciation. I told my friends…and they didn’t give any reaction. Either they took it in their stride or just continued to think I was Chinese/Chinese-Australian like them.
I’ve been to Vietnam and Hong Kong on family trips before and for some reason, even though Australia is “home” to me, when all the people look closer to what you do and experience life similar to what you do, you feel like you’re “at home” in a weird sense. Can’t speak a speck of Vietnamese and my Cantonese and Chinese have fallen out of good use though, so I’m just berated by older relatives (in Cantonese and most times to my parents’ faces) when I visit them and speak in English.
I’m a bit more tan than my sisters due to neglecting sunscreen on sunny days, but my dad used to joke to me and my sisters that I was Filipino/Indian and looking back on it, that was pretty toxic. (It was also kinda hypocritical because he’s tanner than me, but he never pointed that out.) Some other people may get offended at being called “banana” or “ABC” (Australian-born Chinese), but me and my sisters can take it as a joke.
Talking about the Vietnam War is kinda awkward for me, as my dad escaped from it in his youth. I learnt about the war while doing an international studies course and being to Vietnam - there was this aura of coldness around it all the while and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it.
I was taught Cantonese from birth, but Australia being as it is means English is my default. I had to learn Chinese and Japanese from language schools and school courses.
Hong Kong was British up until 1997, so there’s lots of English (the language, the people aren’t that common there) around and it’s easier to get by there (for me) than Vietnam. Vietnam was French in the 1800s so my dad knows limited French, but I’ve never learnt French.
I used to try and keep up with my parents’ standards of “play piano!”, “get good grades!” etc. etc. but as time wore on, I found I didn’t want to. In the end, I found they’re not too worried, so long as I do well in what I want to do and pass in what I need to do.
…I’m also a proud procrastinator, as bad as that is.
Notice how I’ve used “Cantonese” as a term for traditional Chinese, and “Chinese” for simplified? Cantonese and Chinese are completely different beasts. (I can get kinda picky about it, even though “Canton” is a somewhat whitewashed term and doesn’t refer to Hong Kong per se…I use the terms because I have no better way of distinguishing between the two.)
Tropes I’m tired of seeing
Kung fu Asians. Not all Asians are willing to whip your butt into shape with martial arts - most Asians wouldn’t know martial arts. For that matter, tai chi/taekwondo/karate/gong fu do not equal each other (yeah, Karate Kid with Jaden Smith is a misnomer).
Things I’d like to see more of
There’s one show I thought was fairly accurate in depicting a life like mine, and that’s The Family Law. Showing more family dynamics like that would be great.
I’d also like to see close siblings, regardless of genre, gender or race. (Not twins or OreImo, either - that’s a little too close.) I’m very close to my older sister, to the point where if we weren’t blood related, we’d be best friends.
It’s a weird demand, but regardless of where your story’s set or who it’s aimed at, I get kinda disappointed when people have an eating scene and they could check up some weird and wonderful food for it - for a workplace or school scene, a sandwich can make sense and it’s fine, but for one example, in fantasy feasts people eat “boar meat” and sometimes I wish they’d eat char siu instead of being so generic. Just do your research properly, spell the words properly and it’ll fit right in if it’s appropriate and/or relevant.