We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.
In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:
A primer on how to avoid mistakes in
f you are speaking the language, some of the languages have different ways for someone to address someone older than themselves. You do not hand things over to people, especially adults and people older than you, with your left hand. It’s considered an insult. You don’t cross or jump over someone’s legs if they are sitting with the legs extended out.
It’s considered bad luck. Avoid shaking hands with elders and older people in non Igbo villages. It’s disrespectful to do that. Can you bow down a little? Kneeling or genuflecting for women or prostrating by men (especially among the Yoruba) is the normal thing to do. You may not need to do it either, but just show some form of respect when greeting older people. You can get away with not doing that in big cities or urban areas, they are less traditional there.
If you want to go out with anyone (friend, interest) whatever the sex, it is customary to allow the friend (if he/she is still living under their parent’s or guardian’s roof) to ask them first. The sense of youth independence is highly restricted by the parents or guardians. When entering a house in the predominantly Muslim North, you have to let them know in advance that you are visiting so that the women can prepare (cover themselves up). Some Islamic customs require women to cover their hair and bodies to other men and this is practiced in the North. Knock on the door and wait to be answered before going in. They will ask you to wait while the women are informed.
Do not be offended by the wait. When entering a house in the metropolitan area, you (as a foreigner) or visitor should endeavour to find the owners of the house and greet them and let them know of your presence. Do this when you are leaving as well. Most times they will like to entertain you with drinks or a meal. Airports can be stressful, as the organisation is a bit confusing particularly at Port Harcourt Airport. If you are White, be prepared to keep hold of a couple of “dash” (Envelopes with a couple of Niara or American dollars), Nothing big, just a small courtesy tip, as sometimes Airport security take longer searching your bags on purpose, as they know and or assume you are wealthy, hoping for a small dash in order to make your search easier. This may not always be the case, but if a general states “Do you have an coffee or mineral to give me”, this is a hint that they would appreciate some dash.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Nigeria, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Nigeria food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Nigeria? Please comment below.