Review: The British Tribe Next Door

Unless you live under a rock (or to be fair, just in another city or country) you’ll know that Manchester has been saturated with non-stop rain lately. Literally, non-stop, torrential rain for days on end. It just is not stopping. I start my days by walking my dog in the dark, cold and rain, and I end them walking home in the dark, cold and rain. So in case it wasn’t clear, we have some seriously heavy rain here. And for someone whose mood generally changes with the weather, I’m finding it a real struggle at the minute to maintain the zen that my hot yoga classes have been giving me, regardless of how many times I say ‘namaste’ each day in an attempt to fake it till I make it, and convince the world I’m full of peace and zen (namaste). It’s fair to say that I’ve been a little in need of a pick me up.

It wasn’t too hard to find one, really. It’s Thursday which means tomorrow is Friday and Friday is my favourite day of the week. Moreover, it’s cold out, and whilst this usually creates the problem that unless my heating is on for a full 24 hours a day, I’ll freeze to death, today it means that I don’t have to put my red wine in the fridge to support my weird taste for ice cold red wine, as the wine in the cupboard is cold enough to drink straight from the bottle. Result!

I wanted something ‘easy’ to watch whilst I had my tea, and due to James being out, I get full control of the television for a change. There will be no football permeating my house tonight and I intend on making the most of it. I recalled that we watched the first episode of The British Tribe Next Door a few weeks back, but that James found it vile and distasteful so we haven’t watched it since. I wonder who wears the trousers in our relationship?! Anyway, I personally was quite touched by the show, and found it generally positive overall, so I still wanted to watch it despite the bad press it’s been getting.

I didn’t really know much about the programme other than it featured Scarlett Moffatt and family, who I found funny when I used to watch Gogglebox years ago. The idea is that they up and move, house and all, to a Namibian village to live alongside the Himba tribe and embrace the culture swap. I love learning about different cultures and ways of life, so it attracted my attention. If you can get over the fact that it must have cost a sickening amount to build the Moffatt family home brick-for-brick in the middle of the Namibian desert and equip it with all the Western luxuries one could desire, whilst outside there’s kids milking goats and lugging huge buckets of water about just so they can eat and drink, you may enjoy it for what it is – a cultural exchange and learning process. No I’m not fickle, I was still a little uncomfortable in episode one to see the tribespeople trekking for miles for water whilst the Moffatts had their own specially imported water tank, but I’m an optimist and I watch the programme on the assumption that the Himba tribe will be thoroughly recompensed for this experience. They have consented to partaking in the show, afterall. I don’t know this for sure, of course, but I suspect that that’s how it’s gone down over in Africa, and the tribe’s responses and interaction with the show seem to support this narrative. And despite its flaws, I think the show is really quite positive.

The Himba tribe are interesting, funny and incredibly kind. Observing the sharing of cultures, we see a range of differences between them and the Moffatts. We watch Himba women attempting to climb stairs for the first time inside the Moffatts’ home, whilst Scarlett covers herself in ochre in their huts and attempts to wear traditional Himba clothing. We see Himba women enjoying a cup of tea together whilst talking about how much they love to sleep with each other’s husbands and boyfriends, whilst Scarlett shows them the concept of Tinder and modern dating. Watching one of the women so thoroughly enjoy eating a piece of toast, as well as watching another woman look at herself in the mirror, before becoming aware that she is seeing what she looks like for the first time in her life reduced me to tears. Watching the tribespeople be so kind and welcoming to the Moffatt family really did warm me up in this cold and dreary weather. To top it off, the tribe throws a party in the Moffatts’ honour which consists of them dancing to express joy and touching their friends and loved ones mid dance to show them they care. How nice would it be if we could go around dancing and touching our loved ones to show that we’re happy?

The directness and honesty from the tribe is wonderful and at times, extremely funny, and their confusion over the Moffatt family’s way of life is palpable. They can’t comprehend why Scarlett has so many ‘things’ for just herself, or why she hates her body so much – apparently they’ve informed her that they even like her rolls of fat. The Chief’s wife Ueripanga can’t understand why Scarlett’s Mum, Betty, won’t let her sleep with her husband, Scarlett’s Dad, Mark (!). Speaking of Mark, he’s out with the lads herding and managing their cattle – which is how the tribe maintain their wealth – but instead of keeping tabs on the 6 cows he’s kindly been gifted by the tribe, he’s gone and lost them almost immediately and spent the last three days straight trying to find them. The tribesmen are aghast and simply can’t understand how a man could possibly lose his cattle. Scarlett and Betty try to comfort Mark by pointing out that he’ll now be known to the tribe as ‘Mark the Cow Loser’, which is helpful.

Through a web of cultural differences, traditions and norms and the intertwining of two completely different ways of life, we are able to see an authentic insight into the lives of an African tribe and how they compare with life as we know it, here in the Western world. This show’s got a lot of stick, for various reasons, not least why Scarlett Moffatt and her family are the ones representing British culture out there in Namibia. But I have to say, I’m definitely pro-The British Tribe Next Door. I think Scarlett Moffatt is lovely, her family is funny, relatable and kind, and I think it’s wonderful that they have taken this opportunity and ran with it. They certainly brighten my day.

I really love it, and I think for no other reason than it may brighten an hour of an otherwise gloomy, wet and miserable day, you should give it a go!

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