From the series “DISCOVERING FRANCE’S DIVERSITY”
An interview with EVANS MANGENA, Entrepreneur, Zimbabwean, 30 years old
Describe yourself in a sentence.
I am the result of intriguing life accidents.
What brought you to France?
I moved to France in early 2017, after fleeing my country for political reasons. I was recognized as a political refugee the same year and a new chapter in my life began.
What makes you wake up in the morning?
My self-determination and what I want out of life push me to get up every morning and pursue my dreams. I recently launched the Linestepper clothing brand and my company has become the center of my life.
What do you like about France?
What makes me happy to live in France is the cheese and cheap wine! What’s also great is that France is close to everything, you can travel to another country in just a few hours like Tunisia, Spain, Switzerland.
The diversity of the country is so impressive, the south of France is quite warm with beautiful mountains while in the north it’s quite cold. Paid vacations are quite long compared to other places, they are 5 weeks a year.
It’s quite nice to be an expatriate in France, but nothing is perfect… even in France.
Tell us a funny experience about cultural differences / tell us a little joke 🙂
I’m the first Zimbabwean that people meet. It is a certain pressure for me because I want to give a good impression of my country. The cultural differences are not so big, we share more or less the same interests, no matter where we come from.
I speak Ndebele, which is a Zulu dialect from South Africa. The language has a lot of language clicks¹. When it is spoken, most people who want to try to speak Ndebele can’t pronounce the sentences correctly and that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard so far. 🙂
A favorite dish from your country. And why this choice?
My favorite Zimbabwean dish is Sadza, for Zimbabweans it’s what pasta is to Italians. This dish is made with cornmeal or cornmeal, it’s like a thick porridge. It’s quite thick and hard, you eat it by making balls in your hands and dipping it in a sauce or meat or vegetables.
You can serve it with any side dish and it is eaten as a starchy food. I like this dish because it reminds me a lot of Zimbabwe. Living in a foreign country and eating meals from my home country is by far one of the best sensations.
Any advice for newcomers?
My advice to newcomers to France is to take things slowly and move from day to day. Learning French is not easy, but small progress is the best thing you can do.
Joining expat groups on Facebook has helped and guided me in many administrative, social and things to do during my stay in France, I highly recommend the same to newcomers.
In general, there is no magic solution, the best thing to do is to surround yourself with like-minded people and you will be able to learn on the job.
¹ Language clicks; One of the phonetic peculiarities of Zulu, Xhosa, and Sesotho (a neighboring language) is the use of clicks. The three basic clicks in Zulu are :
ǀ] dental click, denoted ‘c’;
[ǃ] post-alveolar click, denoted ‘q’;
ǁ] lateral alveolar click, denoted ‘x’.