Saturday, July 31, 2010

Good Morning! Good Afternoon! Good Evening!

One thing that took me a while to realize was the importance of greeting people here. My first few trips were full of missteps but I've finally gotten the hang of it. In the US of course it’s kind of like whatever, if you walk by someone and happen to make eye contact you might say “hi” and hurry along. If you know someone well you might say “Hey, how are you?” but not really stop to hear the answer, and you know it’s usually “I’m great!” anyway.

Well in Nigeria it is very different. No matter how many people you walk by from Point A to Point B you are expected to say the appropriate greeting (Good morning! if it’s the morning, Good afternoon! if it is after noon, etc.) and very often you will get a “How are you today?” and it’s a question that merits stopping and actually engaging in a conversation about how you are really doing. Sometimes those conversations are relatively quick, but sometimes they are longer. It’s very hard to be in a hurry here. If you don’t do the appropriate formalities then people think poorly of you and you get to be known as a “bad person” and basically no one wants to have anything to do with you. That is usually, especially for me especially, that is the worst path to take. In as social environment as this you need to have people think well of you. Once you get to be familiar with someone it then becomes “Good Morning Aunty!” or “Good morning Uncle!” or sometimes using someone’s name, though that greeting is usually from me because I still find it uncomfortable to call some people Uncle or Aunty.

Right now I am still in the “get familiar” stage so if I am with L or F (which is often) in addition to greeting I am also introduced. Usually short “This is Lindsay. She is a PhD student from the US who is here to do some research. She will be with us for 5 months. You will see her around the University a lot.” And then usually some small chit-chat. Repeat this about 30-50 times in a day and you might have an inkling of my day-to-day life right now.

1 comment:

ange said...

At least you aren't being ignored!