I guess that the time that you arrive to a new place, the way you arrive to it and the general circumstances are what print that first impression in your mind about the place.
For me, I started arriving when I first got on the plane in Paris. Having lived in China for the last 3 years, my mind immediately started to draw comparisons between the Chinese and Congolese (worlds apart).
I always found that Chinese people are often in your space with very little consciousness of privacy, they may push you gently away, touch you, pass you in a line or sit right next to you in a public place…but with the Congolese, well they kind of SIT ON YOU.
I am not exaggerating, there was a beautiful “mama” sitting next to, on me on the plane. She was huge, loud, knew most passenger on the plane and was very very sure of herself (something you rarely ever notice in a Chinese woman). She very casually and repeatedly placed her bags ON ME while she fished inside them for things, laid her arms on me to rest them, and her head too occasionally. I was too fascinated to even think of complaining. At some point she was speaking to someone and gesturing wildly, so without a side glance she knocked my table and my tea about 50 cm up in the air (my first tea shower). She giggled apologizing in a very charming way that I had to smile.
So, yes, they are in your face in a very intense way, not shy at all.
The eyes too look you straight on, no wavering like the Chinese.
What makes the African an Africa, and the Chinese a Chinese? A mystery that always boggles, is the magic of how different humans exist together on this ball, so close and yet so different.