• Tola Coker

Diary Of...

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

I think it’s safe to assume that growing up in the dynamics of an African household is fundamentally different from that of a white western household. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but just pointing out an observation.

Traditions and etiquette, for example. I’m not sure how true this is for other Africans, but the rule for Nigerians is: when greeting an elder, it’s customary to kneel or curtsey – it’s a sign of respect. It could be at a wedding, a party, at church or simply that a friend of your mum is coming over to say ‘hi’. I can recall a few odd times where my mum has had to prompt me or twist my ear to remind me, it’s one of those this I’ve never questioned and always (mostly) done. Saying ‘hello’ is not enough, you have to greet.

Women are expected to go on their knees when greeting someone older. The men have it harder though, they’re expected to ‘ko mo le’, which means prostrate. Most men, however, simply place their left arm behind their back and bend to touch the floor with their right hand, instead. I’ve seen my dad do this a few times – quite amusing if you ask me.

Speaking of age and respect; I could never...under any circumstances, call my parents or anyone significantly older than me by their first names. Not even as a joke because if I did, I would hear: “Am I your age mate?” followed by a swift smack to the back of my head. When it came to greeting aunts, uncles or even my parents’ friends, I have to call them ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’.

When I tell you, I was shocked when I heard my white friends call friends parents by their first names...I could never. I would refer to them as ‘Lily’s mum’ or ‘Alice’s dad’. Even now at this my big age.

And with that, being the oldest in has is perks, despite the complaining that I do. Whenever my Uncle and his family visited, he would give us money before they left. I was given the most, then my sister, then my brother. I got first dibs on anything (including the top bunk) and the biggest meat in the pot, though I must disclose that this a rule I tried and failed to enforce on the Coker household. Let’s not forget to mention that African parties have seemed to gain a reputation for being extravagant.

I can only speak from a Nigerians perspective. Still, during the time I have been alive, I can honestly say that Nigerians can and will find any reason to party, period. Always a big buffet, SUPERMALT, strange party favours, you’d never leave on an empty stomach and with food to eat on the way home… and for breakfast the next day. But they never end!

Say the party starts at 12 pm- 5pm not only will it start at 1pm but it’s most definitely going to finished way after 5. It’s like the times on the invitation of more a suggestion; then you and your siblings are left bored because your parents are talking your lives away.

Many things make up the Nigerian experience, and I know that there are plenty that I’m forgetting. Still, I wanted this one short and sweet. Being Nigerian is a lot of things, but it’s most definitely character building.

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