Article from the series: Frequently Asked Questions about Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo
Top 10 Countries Among Our Tourists in Uganda and Rwanda
To answer the title question we of course tried to obtain national statistics — but ultimately failed to get something comprehensive and fresh enough. As a proxy we dove into the stats of our own trips and accommodation in Uganda and Rwanda in the pre-Covid period. We looked at the data for three full years, 2017-2019, and ranked nations based on the amount of business they brought us:
1) United Kingdom 🇬🇧
2) United States of America 🇺🇸
3) Germany 🇩🇪
4) Slovenia 🇸🇮
5) Canada 🇨🇦
6) The Netherlands 🇳🇱
7) Sweden 🇸🇪
8) France 🇫🇷
9) Belgium 🇧🇪
10) Israel 🇮🇱
Slovenia is high on the list because one of the founders of the Gorilla Highlands Initiative originates from this tiny country. Israel made it due to our popular backpacker location. Otherwise the Top 10 looks relatively representative based on what we know about our region, only the order will differ based on a country’s colonial legacy.
Why Offer Statistics Only If We Can Provide Stereotypes Too?
Mountain gorillas, majestic volcanoes, fascinating lakes, vibrant cultures, an ancient rainforest and much much more. Everybody would want to visit a region with so many wonderful sights, right? Apparently, some nationalities have a better taste for the Gorilla Highlands region! And, in the process, they become more known locally …
When it comes to tourists, people are tempted to pigeonhole. Almost every nationality comes with its own set of clichés. But how accurate are these images? Is there a kernel of truth in it or is it all nonsense?
We’ve taken the Top 3, added two countries due to this writer’s personal biases, and honoured the five with some special attention (that we only hope they will appreciate). We let our local guides decide if the stereotypes are precise!
Let’s begin with our list’s champion, the British! The former Ugandan protectors are still drawn to the region.
There are two antithetical stereotypes regarding British tourists. There are the fancy-a-cup-of-tea-dear types. Extremely polite, always apologising and very open-minded. On the other hand you have the drunk, bare-chested, fist-wielding hooligans who trash everything that crosses their path. However, all the British are the same at two levels. They are easily sun-burned and they have an odd sense of humour.
Guide 1: The Brits live up to their reputation of being well-mannered and friendly at all times. They ask many questions whenever you are going through a village or witness locals doing something. Despite this, they whine a lot. Sometimes they look like crybabies. They can also become snooty when they cross other Western people. I once hosted an English group that refused to share their local experience with the French. However, it’s possible that this is merely an old rivalry resurfacing?
Guide 2: To me, British people simply live life to the fullest. They like to complicate things and love dancing. Even if they have planned a long hike for the following day, they will still party all night.
Americans in Socks and Sandals
Given the size and riches of the United States, it’s hardly a surprise that the country of the Stars and Stripes came in second. They are the king of the tourism jungle! Loud, impatient, obnoxious and frequently dressed in socks and sandals, a baseball cap, and a front-worn backpack. Disrespecting local cultures and food while comparing everything to their own ‘awesome’ American way of life. They throw money around as though it grows on trees.
Guide 1: Often when I guide Americans, they act a bit fake. Pretending to appreciate all they see when, in fact, they don’t. Even if they are disappointed, they will not show it to you. And they always want to brag about how amazing their country is. Nonetheless, they give out a lot of tips. So, they aren’t all bad, I suppose.
Guide 2: My experiences with Americans haven’t always been pleasant. They believe they are the most powerful people on the planet and that they can do whatever they want. As a result, they have little respect for our culture and nature. Some of them still think about exploiting individuals in colonial-like style.
Guide 3: When I go on a trip with an American, I always have to speak louder to match their volume. They are, however, quite generous, offer tips and like to hand out gifts.
Germans with No Sense of Humour
Coming in third, the Germans. You know the type: from the time they get up till they sleep, they eat Bratwurst mit Kartoffeln and drink beer constantly. You might be wondering what draws Germans to East Africa. Their lives consist of structure, they are efficient and lack a sense of humor. One could say that a German and an East African are opposites?
Guide 1: Most of the time when I guide a group of Germans they reinforce the stereotype; they all seem humorless and unfriendly because of their strict attitude. Man, even their language is structured and sounds angry! You can never tell if they are having a good time. … Until the end of the tour, when they bring the booze out (they always have a secret stash in their backpack) and things change. Once alcohol is involved, they become social and hilarious. You can sit around the fire with them and exchange stories or play card games while drinking. They always make up their own strange rules during these games, although they aren’t that innovative — if you fail, the same punishment always applies: take a shot.
Guide 2: At first, Germans may appear serious and quiet, but this quickly changes. When you become their friend, you are a true friend. They’d even go to war for you. They are generally helpful and value others. Oh, and they enjoy a good beer!
The Netherlands is stranded at the sixth place on our list but, still, they do deserve a mention! In other words, as a Belgian, I like to make fun of them.
How do you know you’re in the Netherlands? When you see toilet paper hanging out to dry… That is one of the bad jokes told in Belgium to mock our northern neighbours for their alleged cheapness. Dutch tourists are supposed to be stingy and looking for discounts all the time. There is a reason that splitting the bill is referred to as ‘Going Dutch’. Nevertheless, Dutch tourists are also known to be quite adventurous and friendly.
Guide 1: I enjoy guiding Dutch tourists since they are usually very social and not at all cheap. I recently led a group of guys from the Netherlands, and they were honestly some of the best people I’ve ever met since they were so nice and humorous. They also really liked drinking beer and being social as they wanted to pressure everyone to drink along. When we were camping at Lake Kayumbu, our host was a church priest and refused to provide alcohol. He demanded that everybody who finished a bottle they’d brought should hide it. The Dutchmen followed the rule and everybody was smiling when we left.
Guide 2: One thing is certain: the Dutch like to drink. More so than the Germans. When they make a reservation for a trip, they already specify that they need beer every day. Even the elderly consume copious amounts of alcohol. They are also direct and know exactly what they want. But if something goes wrong, they can be really positive, flexible and practical.
Belgians with an Inferiority Complex
While Belgium just made it to the top 10, there are various reasons to mention them. First of all, Belgium colonised two Gorilla Highlands countries and had an important (though not particulary bright) role in their history. Secondly, I feel compelled to please our Dutch readers so that they will not accuse me of being biased.
How do you make a Belgian smile on Monday? By telling him a joke on Friday! The Dutch tell equally bad one-liners about their smaller brother, as the other way around. Belgians are seen as not very bright and a bit naïve. They possess an inferiority complex because of the small size of their country. As a result they have a self-deprecating sense of humor. The only reasons the world know they exist is because of their chocolate, waffles and football team.
Guide 1: When Belgians travel to Rwanda, they appear dissatisfied. They appear to feel bad since they were once our colonisers, and they wish to avoid discussing the past. They are, on the other hand, exceedingly helpful and generous. They aim to aid Rwandans and Africans by providing money to pay school fees for children and students, as well as assisting vulnerable families.
Guide 2: In my opinion, Belgians and Dutch tourists are very similar. Always friendly and really easy going. But the thing that shocked me is that, in comparison to other Europeans, they are both excellent hikers. However there are a few distinctions, while Dutch can be direct, Belgians can beat around the bush. Another difference is that Belgians value cultural interaction, if you understand what I mean … They frequently attract an African lover!