In Nigeria greetings are very important, you are considered rude if you do not greet someone, even if they are a complete stranger or if you interrupt a conversation to do it. It is better to interrupt than to not greet. The greetings can also be quite long with people asking about your family, the day, how you spent the night or day, about the weather or your farm and animals. For some the greeting can be quite involved. Most westerners, including myself are very bad at greeting since our culture is very different. We say hello and get straight to the point.
One of the frequently asked questions is “how is your work.” The answer is always “we thank god” or “with thanks.” I was talking with my Nigerian colleague about this and his explanation was that Africans are very religious and that since the Bible says to give thanks in all circumstances they give thanks to God for their work regardless if they have work or not. He went so far to say that they recognize that God allows all things so they give thanks in all circumstances. He said for example that suppose a reckless driver hit and killed a child. The father of the child might just say that it was God’s will that child should die, nothing could be done so the driver should just go in peace. This seems a bit extreme to me and I have a hard time imagining it happening.
It also seems fatalistic to me. It seems like this world view would say that no matter what happens God allows so why try and improve things. God is in charge, no question, but he also gave us intellect and ability to learn from circumstances and improve upon them.
On another cultural point, one of the compounds came to me with a request for a $2oo loan to build a cement block wall behind his house. It seems that his neighbor is continually asking him and his family to give him basic household items such as buckets and brooms. When the guard said no the neighbor began to call him wicked and selfish. The culture here is very communal with resources being shared and people take this to an extreme. For example it is common for a friend to ask another friend for money and if they have it the friend is obligated to him. This can also happen between complete strangers. This system sometimes works, but most of the time it abused.
Anyway our guard has become quite annoyed with his neighbor so he is building a wall to keep the neighbor out.
I am not trying to judge the Nigerian culture, all cultures have there good points and bad points. It is however interesting to learn and try to understand the Nigerian culture. This is something that we will as long as we live here.