Am I Your Mate?!

It has been five months since my move to Lagos and I’m still learning the nuances of the various cultures in Nigeria. In a country with over 500 ethnic groups, cultural differences are to be expected but what I have observed as the two consistent values across all cultures are respect for your elders and clear boundaries between the classes.  I dare not enter a room full of my elders and not curtesy(kneel down as a sign of respect). But I’ve noticed that not all elders are created equal. I’ve met a number of cooks, drivers and office assistants who are twice my age, some  with children and grandchildren. I am called “madam” and “aunty” and some will prostrate or curtesy for me, even though they probably have children my age! Why am not expected to show them the same level of respect as I would the attorneys or bank CEOs who are my seniors? Sadly in Nigeria, your class and station in life will determine the level of respect you can command from those who are clearly not your age girl-kneeling-and-boy-prostrating-for-a-woman2mates.  The other day in my friends office, there was an incident between the cleaner and the CEO’s personal assistant.   The office manager, who by age and job title is senior to both parties, had to mediate. Although the personal assistant was clearly at fault for attacking the cleaner. The office manager kept shouting at the cleaner “IS HE YOUR MATE”?!! She only focused on the age and class differences between the two men and not the facts of the matter.

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