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Question It! 9 Nigerian Societal Norms that May Be Irrational

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Nigeria, like every other society, has a number of social norms that guide the way its people behave. The need for people to conform to these social norms is quite understandable. These norms provide order in society and create a sort of predictability in social relationships, making it quite easy for people to understand each other’s actions.

While these social norms – strongly influenced by traditions, culture, and religion – are accepted standards of behaviour, some of them do not really make sense.

The world is changing; people know better and are starting to embrace their uniqueness better…and when you think about it, there is no justification for why people should necessarily conform to these social norms.

Wearing Different Clothes Every Day
“Oh! I wore this yesterday; I can’t wear it again today.”

Who cares? Why is there so much pressure to wear a different apparel every day? What difference does it make? How does it make the world a better place? I mean, if you like a fabric and a certain style, why can’t you wear it every day for a week or even a month, as long as you are able to keep it clean and well ironed. Why is this even a norm? You have people at work giving you the weird look, or shaming you for wearing the same dress 3 times in a row, maybe even starting a gossip chat about you…why?

The Right Hand Syndrome
You must greet people with your right hand, you must take things from elders or anyone really with your right hand, you must also eat your food with the right hand or you are seen as disrespectful, ill-mannered or just rebellious. The left is a part of the body created to just chill and make the right hand feel like it is not alone in this cold and wicked world. Why? Why is the right hand the “chosen”? Does passing an object with the left hand rather the right hand really change its quality or outlook? Does eating with the left make the food taste any different from what it originally tastes like?

Sitting While you Eat
Who invented this norm, really? As a child, you are made to sit while eating and automatically you grow up only feeling comfortable to eat when you’re sitting. Eating while standing, walking or even lying down is frowned upon; people look at you like you are challenged mentally or they make comments that imply that you are now well-trained. Why do we have to sit?

Responding to people with the same language
It is an unwritten rule that you respond to people in the same language that they have spoken to you. Doing otherwise will present you as cocky, disrespected or even crass. If someone speaks Yoruba to you, you respond in Yoruba; you do not respond in English…who do you think you are? Better than everybody else? If you cannot speak the Yoruba, you are expected to fetch a translator or respectfully smile and nod all through the conversation…especially if it is a superior, or an older person. In the case where you understand, but are not fluent in speaking, you bite your tongue and respond in the best way you can. You cannot just respond to the person in another language and continue the conversation with two languages. Should uniformity in language used in communication matter, if understanding is being achieved anyway? Why is this even a thing?

Offering visitors food or drink
When you have guests visit you in your home, you are expected to offer them drinks or food, otherwise you would be considered inhospitable. If the visit was not planned and the person just popped in, or even if your pantry is empty, you are obliged to go buy and offer a drink…at least. This norm dates as far back as when people had to offer Kolanuts to their visitors and the visitor was also obliged to accept it to show that they had peaceful intentions. But does this make sense? Why should your choice to offer or not offer food or drinks determine  how homely or welcoming you are?

Not burping or farting in public
There is an Ibo adage that translates: “farts have no toilet”, but in spite of that knowledge, you are looked upon with disdain when you fart in public. Also when you burp while eating in public, you are considered to have bad manners when in reality you are just succumbing to a natural body process. People stifle farts and burps and endure extreme discomfort to avoid being shamed. If we can leave with people breathing in public and even sneezing in public, what makes farting and burping different? They too are spontaneous body reactions. Why can’t we stop being pretentious and be real humans?

Men can’t Have Handbags or Wear High heels
Handbags and high heels are foe ladies and if a man is seen wearing any of the two, they are condemned and tagged gay or too feminine. They are expected to either carry back packs or briefcases, even when the accessories do not suit their dressing or if it is not convenient. A hand bag basically is for carrying items you’d like to have with you day-to-day…why does a man carrying one make it worthy of derision? Also, why do women get to wear high heels, but men can’t? Wouldn’t it be more flattering for short dudes if they could? Why are they considered strictly feminine?

Not Talking to strangers
“Don’t talk to anyone you do not know.” Almost everyone grew up with their parents singing the song in their ears. Sure, they were much more concerned about your safety as child…but as an adult, should this norm really still apply? We ignore everyone else so easily, and never question what others are up to or interact unless predetermined or necessary. We end up only interacting with a select 20 or so people in our daily lives. How do we meet new people then? How do we learn about other people, cultures, and life in general? How to do we socialise? How do we share ideas and move forward? How is this norm helping us move forward as a society?

Being Nice in Public
It is not proper to display any kind of negative feeling in public or wash dirty linens. You cannot shame anyone or even yourself when in public, you have to be proper and pretend to care for the person or be okay with their actions as showing anger, frustration, or impatience is unacceptable behavior. Shouldn’t we be able to express exactly how we feel at all points? Isn’t that part of what makes like interesting? Why the façade?

Can you think of any other social norm people our society conform to but does not make any sense?

Photo Credit: Laurin Rinder | Dreamstime

Nkem Ndem is an energetic and highly accomplished Media Consultant who loves to help small businesses, especially women-led, grow their online presence using the right digital strategy or transition from traditional organizational boundaries. With years of experience in Copywriting and Editing, Content Branding and Strategy, Social media, and Digital Marketing, she is clearly obsessed with Digital Communications. She is the Head of Content and Lead Consultant at Black Ink Media - an Ideation and Content Agency that excels in providing fresh, creative digital services to content-centric businesses. Find out more about her at www.blackinkm.com or send her an e-mail at [email protected] Also follow her on IG: @nkemndemv, Twitter: @ndemv.

20 Comments

  1. WORD

    August 24, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Abeg wear,d same clothes everday ma…dorty pesin like u. Mess anywhere u go, dorty sombody like u….How all these take affect the ‘tradition’ wey allow old men to d rule us. U no see somethin to write on wey go bgin shift people thinkin to enta potentially useful realms?

    Ginger pple 2 d mess anyhow for public u hear? Very soon Oga no go gree comot from him house bcos air full of mess! Them go need time to renovate air 1st

    • Na wa!

      August 24, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Lol. But she did say if you can keep it clean and well-ironed. Una dey vex for here oh! Na wa!

  2. kiks

    August 24, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Bella just tell us you are now pro gay, this is the second time this week you are writing something related to this subject.

  3. o

    August 24, 2017 at 11:30 am

    SMH. Where in the world do ppl lie down to eat? This is not a Nigerian norm, its common sense!! I agree with the left hand point but all others are not making much sense. Its only normal, all over the world i might add, to entertain your guest and be nice.

    I know you may be under pressure to write a certain number of articles per day by pls think am well. It’s no easy tho so well done

  4. Misandre

    August 24, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Wearing the same dress 3 days in a row….. in this Nigerian heat?!? You must be a dirty person.

  5. Mtscheew

    August 24, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Nkem, this ur article no follow at all o. I got tired of reading and has to scroll to the ebd expecting to see you were pulling our legs. Dus one no be am abeg.

  6. Tobi

    August 24, 2017 at 11:52 am

    This article no make sense at alllllllllll

  7. Jade

    August 24, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I love to eat lying down, its my favorite position sef, i dont mind walking and eating as well but wearing the same clothes 3 days in a row???! hell nah! i can’t even wear one dress or shirt twice in a month sef

  8. Lailatu

    August 24, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Really Nkem?!, Men wearing heels and carrying purses IS weird and gay everywhere. Go easy on the copy and paste, instead do some research before submitting your next article. I used to feel bad about the bashing you get, but girrrl, this right here is just silly.

    • Anon

      August 24, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      The only thing that makes people gay is attraction to the opposite sex. Nigerian men FORM UP macho the most but na them gay pass

  9. Somewhat sunny in London

    August 24, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Sorry Nkem but this article is off point

  10. larz

    August 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    why can’t you wear it every day for a week or even a month, as long as you are able to keep it clean and well ironed.

    That statement seems a little contradictory. I struggle to believe that in a hot country like Nigeria, you can repeat a cloth for a week and get me to believe that it is clean. It is not impossible, just unlikely. This will mean this person will get home every night (or every other night), wash his/ her sweaty and dirty cloth, dry and iron and re-wear the next day when they go out.

    Eating whilst you sleep surely cant be good for digestion?

    Never had issues speaking to someone in English when they speak in Yoruba. what I get though is people think you parents did a horrible job if you cant speak their native language even if said parents were exiled from their village and never took you wherever they came for or worse you never stepped into their country.

    Offering visitor drinks or food (even water) is good manners and it transcends culture everywhere. Although in some Western cultures, visting without invite is a bigger no-no

    Mine are:

    Why is it ok for people (family, friends, church member you never spoke to before) to feel entitled to your money?
    Why is it okay to be entitled to invite other people to you event? I hosted Christmas party and my sibling wanted to invite a friend to come and sleep over in my home. [I barely know this person and my hubby never met her]. You can ask but it doesn’t mean it will be granted..
    Shaming ppl in public? when you are not a street fighter. For me it doesn’t show class. Personally, I dont care enough about stranger enough to be riled off by them enough to fight them. And if someone I know and I am with decide to display their agression in public, the benefit of a public place is ability to walk away

    My social norms peeves are:
    Why is it that if someone does not meet a standard you are used to, they don’t have home training? For example, Mr A visits Mr B and their child greeted them standing up but this child also, cooked for them, helped carried their load, did not interrupt them once or talk back at them but somehow that child has no respect. Meanwhile, your child greets kneeling down, doesn’t offer guests seats or greet them, talk loudly on the phone when you are talking with your friends.

  11. TMT

    August 24, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Nkem I guess at times bizarre and weird thoughts runs through you.Most of the things you wrote there makes no sense…Abeg don’t advocate abnormal behaviours.

  12. Ottawa Queen

    August 24, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    OMG! I’m totally disappointed in what I just read…. Whaaat?? Are these so-called “norms” really questionable to be serious? Besides, they aint even just a Nigerian thing… it’s just plain right that certain things should be done in a particular way. I won’t even waste my time to discuss on them one after the other, cus this write-up doesn’t make much sense at all. It’s like a primary school student asking these questions. The one that pertains to culture is offering a guest or friend something to eat/drink. This is widely known…travel out and experience how different cultures receive their visitors and friends. Even the most common, the British who will still offer to serve you tea/coffee during one hot afternoon.

  13. abby

    August 24, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    LMAO!!!!! i know that you are joking, so i wont say that you are a dirty, smelly pig..if you can comfortably wear the same clothes three times in a row..Come on! burping or farting in public? Please now behave like a human being..dont talk to strangers? no worry body go tell you.. by the time you find yourself in Ikorodu shrine

  14. Frank

    August 24, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    As much as I might agree with most points the writer made. I’m yet to understand the high heels part. Are you implying men need to start wearing heels now. This is a typical case of if you live in “Rome you behave like the Romans” It’s people like you that just wanna change norms, beliefs, culture and tradition overnight. I live in the US and behave like an American but I’m never gonna come to Nigeria and behave American. That’s why we as Africans and Nigerians are losing their sense of belonging thinking, believing and picking up the western way of life. Thinking western way of life is better than Africa traditional way of life. Because it works for westerners doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gonna work for Africans or Nigerians. So get your head out of the western man’s behind and be proud of your culture and tradition cause 1 day it might be gone thanks to people like you.

  15. Meee

    August 24, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Nkem, I am a fan o, but this article no be am at alllll. Apart from the right hand syndrome and replying in the same language, I differ with all the other points. Serving drinks or food to your guests? Its not only in Nigeria my dear, its simply being courteous to your guests. Being well behaved in public? Seriously? Wearing the same clothes every day or twice/thrice in a week? Haba, even if you wash the clothes everyday let the cloth even rest naw. As for the talking to strangers part I mean you should apply wisdom here now. Its actually mostly for kids but then would you just talk to a random person on the street in the name of ‘meeting new people?’ You apply sense here now. My dear you write well but I humbly disagree with about 70% of the points you listed.

  16. Ethio

    August 24, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    Beht why I go wan mess for public biko? Na so una dey take do for jand? Anwuom anwuo! *runs outta here!!* (Before you run dry my already low iQ)

  17. elizabeth

    August 28, 2017 at 11:23 am

    wear different clothes everyday… as long as it is clean i don’t think anyone should care
    the right hand syndrome.. i agree it doesn’t make sense
    sitting while you eat- because it the safest way to eat
    offering visitor food and drinks- its simple courtesy when there’s an invitation
    not burping or farting in public- affects other people personal space
    not talking to stranger- security purpose

  18. Faith

    January 26, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Pls can someone help me with shared norms and value of Nigerian community pls

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