Despite schooling in a different part of the world, I’ve never been one to leave Nigeria for more than 3months. It’s safe to assume that all the attributes that people identify about the stereotypical Nigerian, I really never noticed. The reason shuffles between either not paying enough close attention or I’d never been away for long enough to notice. I recently went back after a full year of absence and boy! I did notice a lot, I even took notes.
From the trolley-pusher who randomly sat beside me to start a conversation on how stressful his day was, to his asking me questions about what I was doing in the airport upon my arrival. Nigerians are not only the most inquisitive people I know, but adequately, the most friendly. Non-Africans seldom start random conversations with strangers. And I noticed this almost everywhere I went in Nigeria, at some point, I resolved that I must have had a “please talk to me” sticker somewhere on my forehead.
It’s also no exaggeration that Nigerians have the best customer service you’d ever experience. “Fine girl, come now, I have that shoe or dress you’re looking for”; “Beautiful madam, what is it that you want, I can help you get it if we don’t have it in my shop”. The typical Nigerian is always willing to go that extra mile to make sales & ultimately ensure a decent customer base. The customer service in England and in many parts of the world is not comparable. An average sales person is only interested in doing the minimum and getting paid. Once in a while, you do get some friendly ones that do the most, but it’s nothing compared to a Nigerian trader willing to journey 30-45 minutes to an unrelated store down the town to get you the exact fabric that matches your taste. The emphasis here is “unrelated store i.e. not his chain of stores”. I stand to be corrected, but this is seldom the case anywhere else.
Not so fast, you thought it was only the good I noticed? I did notice some of our not-so-decent behaviors too. An average Nigerian can stare and worse even, forget their eyes on you. What I find more appalling is the sizing up, rolling off eyes and rude stares. Sometimes I wonder if what they’re staring at is really more than the person that just walked down the staircase or are there more imaginary objects I can’t see. I had a discussion recently with a couple of my friends about this, and it’s safe to say I’m merely stating the obvious. Some agree it’s an inferiority complex, others point to it as merely a defense mechanism, whatever this case is, I find it very appalling. I wouldn’t want to be pushed to saying “Dear, please have some manners and stop staring intensely. You won’t be writing an exam about her”
I would hate to put it out there, but as much as corruption& dishonesty is everywhere, the level of dishonesty still in my country pains me. I’m no saint myself, and I don’t intend to write like one but from the very first day upon arrival, it couldn’t even hide its ugly head. Let me narrate this experience at the airport. A man selling sim cards asked me if I needed a sim card to call the person/people to pick me from the airport. As much as I wasn’t sure how I’d get to call them (as I found that my sim had expired) I told him I still haven’t made up my mind. Before I could say jack, he brought me a sim and said “Aunty it’s N500”. After thanking him but politely explaining to him that I couldn’t take it even if I wanted, as I needed a micro sim instead. Then he not only went on about how he had registered the sim for me (First system fail: registering a sim, without any of the user’s details) but how he had already bought it for me and he couldn’t return it.
Long story short, when I got picked up, he went off to my parents that we needed to pay for the sim as he’d already gotten it. As much as I had to raise my voice sharply to insist that I didn’t ask him for it, I was shocked at how he manipulated the story till we had to pay for that sim. I’m not your average quiet girl, but I was even too shocked to argue. It was then reality dawned on me, I was back home, if you can’t fight for your right, you’d be tread upon.
There was also a man that credited my modem with a N2,000 credit as opposed to the N10, 000 he was paid. Wouldn’t it be shallow if I was judging from just 2 experiences? But it’s no exaggeration to say that this was almost the situation all the time.
Not withstanding, I did enjoy my stay, it was refreshing to say the least. I met some amazing people and boy! Nigerians do know how to have a good time. I almost forgot that. More importantly I can now clearly identify some of those areas we’re brilliant at and some that still need some working on. The most important lesson I learnt was that, even though I had individual experiences that made up the story of my stay in Nigeria, each person was able to either assert some of my assumptions, or correct them – consciously or unconsciously by their actions.
I learnt that sometimes and many at times in life, we would be the only board some people have to read to make their stereotypes and believes. We need to make conscious efforts to give people a positive story about us, our schools, country, gender, race, and everything we represent.