Being Nigerian

I’m breaking my rules. Yes, it’s a Wednesday post.

In case you did not already know, my name is Afoma and I’m a Nigerian. I was born and raised in Nigeria.

Nigeria is such a beautiful place complete with colour, diversity and culture. I love that place. Today, I’ve put together a few things that amuse me about growing up Nigerian. I hope you all enjoy it and think of home, especially if you’re not in Nigeria right now. And if you’re not Nigerian, this is a rare peek into the life of a Nigerian child.

The Nigerian Experience

-Nigerians are so big on respect. They love to be respected and they teach their children to respect everyone older than they are, even if they’re just two minutes older. Please whatever you do, do NOT greet a Nigerian elder with ”hi” or ”hello”, been there done that, it does not end well;

You: Hi aunty

Aunty: Ehn? Hi kwa? Can’t you say ‘Good Afternoon???”

There may or may not be ensuing slaps.

I believe respect is also the reason why children are not allowed to drink malt, No? Even in weddings! The servers will pass by you or give you coke, Fanta or Sprite if you’re not an adult.

-No one punishes like Nigerian parents. It’s a fact. The fear of your parents is also a very good place for wisdom to start. When you have committed, your parents will call you by your full name (Chukwuemeka Obinze Nwokolo) and after a dialogue that is actually a monologue of them shouting rhetorical questions like; ”Am I your mate??- at you, they will proceed to either flog you or hit you with anything from a spatula to slippers. God bless you if their weapon breaks on your body, because then you will be beaten for the loss of the weapon. Also, do not attempt self defense, you might destroy the weapon and like I said, that doesn’t help you. And do not try to run, they will throw things at you and  catch up with you. So, don’t do it.

Also, whatever you do, do NOT respond to any accusation your Nigerian parent makes because it will  be held against you.

”Why are you just coming home?? You were with that boy again abi??”

”Daddy.. we just went to…”

”Shut up! Are you talking back at me??”

-Nigerian parents are the lords of sarcasm and bitter irony. When your father calls you ”my friend”, it’s not good. They also have the habit of calling your name a specific number of times (they know this number) designed to instill fear and then they’ll ask- ”How many times did I call you??”– when you’ve done wrong. They’ll say things like –”Ask me!’‘ when they don’t know the answer to your question or ”oya beat me!” when you try to defend yourself against them. Again, don’t listen to Nike. Abeg, don’t do it.

They’ll tell your teacher to flog you, yes, they might plead with her to flog you very well if you do wrong. You might be fortunate to have parents on the other side of the spectrum who’ll come with a cane to flog your teacher after she has flogged you.

-Try not to correct your Nigerian parents, especially in English related issues. If they’re in a good mood, they’ll laugh and say;

”Ha! It’s not my language oh!”

If they had a bad day?

”So, you now have no respect abi? Is that what they’re teaching you in that your school?”

Ignore the fact that your parent says ”Bee-yonce” as opposed to ”Bee-yon-say”. DO NOT CORRECT THEM.

-Nigerian parents are not pro dating. They are pro marriage. They expect to see a prospective husband or hear about someone coming to ”knock door” when you’re twenty five but they expect you to never date anyone. Well, ladies, we have our work cut out for us. We ”garra” make some magic happen!

They are not the greatest in sex education either. This is what happens in most Nigerian homes when the girl begins to menstruate;

”Ehen, Amaka. Now, if a man just touches you, you’re pregnant oh!”

-They were all straight A students in their time. You have no business failing any course.

”Mummy, I had 90% in Mathematics!”

”Ehn… Where’s the other 10%?”

Daddy interjects: In my time, I had 98% minimum!

Well, what can we do? This is why Nigerian students do very well everywhere.

-Nigerian parents do not understand the song choices of this generation. And while I don’t blame them, it hurt my feelings when my mother said that my favorite Beyonce song ‘Halo’ sounded like a funeral song. Despite my arguments, she still maintains her ground till today. My mother also thinks Beyonce is possessed especially when she does her ‘mad woman’ dances on stage. In agreement with an earlier point I made, I try not to argue. She also says Chris Brown sounds Efik in ‘With you’. *sigh. She’s probably right. They’re probably right and we’re all too starstruck to see clearly.

Nigerian parents are very squeamish about saying ”I love you”. You have to say it first. Many Nigerians have never actually heard their parents say ”I love you” to them. They love you, they’re just shy. I know, it’s cute.

-If you were raised in a Nigerian home, especially if you’re female, you’ll know that every morning, you should sweep the house and its environs. Basically, you clean every day like a health inspector is coming to visit. The only problem is that Nigerian mothers are stricter than the average health inspector.

-Nigerian weddings are the greatest! Food and dance! The problem is that it starts two to three hours later and to be an MC you have to be a proficient ‘apologist’ to apologize constantly and promise to set the guests free on time. Another problem is that people will probably fight about food and drinks. And insult those serving and accuse them of enormous partiality. You also have to bring a gift or forget about receiving a soh-veh-niah (souvenir).

We invented spraying money on the couple while they dance happily. And then we dance on the naira notes.

At a Nigerian event, it is most likely that you’ll be unable to see in front of you, thanks to the many gele wearing women.


”I’ll use the money to feed you. Who pays your school fees??”

They will even make you wash dishes and clothes when you have a dishwasher and washing machine. Do you want your husband to send you home?. No? Ehen, wash.

-Hot chocolate like ‘Milo’ is called ”tea”. In Nigeria, no one drinks tea. It means you’re suffering because you can’t afford milk or you’re trying to lose weight. *shrugs*

-Visitors show up without calling and eat all the food in your house and leave a mountain of unwashed dishes. At least, its not as bad as family that come to stay for a week and stay a year.

And now, some final fun facts;

-In Nigeria, an average road side seller of ‘Gala’ runs faster than Usain Bolt.

-Nollywood movie witches are 100% scarier than Freddy from ‘Friday the 13th’.

-Nigerians are accustomed to doubling words, e.g; ‘follow follow’: A person who follows the crowd. ‘Chop Chop’: Someone who loves to eat. ‘Kata Kata’: Basically trouble of massive proportions.

-We rename objects; T-shirt= Polo. Hair packer= I honestly don’t have the word for this, that’s how deep I’m in, its like the hair band thing you use to pack? your hair into a ponytail.

-Nigerian breakfasts are the greatest. They range from akara, bread and akamu to yam pottage. They’ll have you either sleepy all day or extra fortified depending on the kind of person you are.

-No one makes declarations like Nigerians;

Calling the name of their hometown when they slip ”Isiokpo oh!”

”The devil is a liar!” can be a declaration, confirmation or question.

”Jesus is Lord!” comes in handy in times of profound shock.

-A Nigerian child is everyone’s child. Your mother can call your neighbors to beat you. Yes. Or they’ll just come on their own. This is why everyone both related and unrelated to you is your ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’.

I love Nigeria. I love my parents and all Nigerian parents and every time I see other children who weren’t raised properly, I’m grateful to my parents for teaching me courtesy, respect, self sacrifice and patience. Appreciate your parents! They love you.

PS I would love to hear your funny experiences growing up Nigerian and maybe we can have a readers edition. Don’t be shy, leave a comment! x

PPS To read even funnier experiences, see Christiana Mbakwe’s post growing up African here.

  • Hahahahahah!! I actually can’t! I relate to much with everything on this!! Thanks for giving me a good laugh

  • deliteful

    Has fun reading this.. Especially the full name calling part! Lmao!

  • Oluwadunsin

    I can’t help but giggle while reading this… fun filled…It made me really Nostalgic…
    Addition: Situations when you’ll come back home probably soaked by the rain, and your mother will look Outside and say “Rain, why did you beat my daughter, you should have waited for her to come home”…lol

  • Victor Enahoro

    There was one time I went to a hospital, and they were forcing one little boy to drink his medicine which of cus he didn’t like. To my ernest surprise the mother wrapped this little boy like an anaconda, used her fingers to shut his nostrils leaving the poor boy with no choice but to open his mouth AND GULP!! went the medicine.That was some 6 yrs ago and I still haven’t recovered from that.

  • I love your post! This is hilarious. Most of these things apply to me. i have never been to a Nigerian wedding so maybe one day I’ll see the money spraying in action. I have, however, seen money spraying at random Nigerian functions and the fields of gele, lol.

    It doesn’t matter what country you are in, a Nigerian parent is a Nigerian parent. I grew up in London and my parents have done most of these things 🙂 I got the whole respect thing which is important but some adults abuse the privilege. I got the punishments. I had a huge bunch of keys thrown at me across the road because I was scowling at a family outing, I didn’t want to take pictures. We were crossing the road and the funny part was I had to go and pick it up. My dad once threw his ice cream at me in France out of frustration. I did deserve it but I didn’t realise it at the time. My brother and sisters walked away from me like they didn’t know me. Lol!

    I was lying on the couch when I was younger and I puked on the floor. I just lay down and acted like I was sicker than I was. Either my mum or dad came back to the house and saw it and said ‘Who do you think is going to clean this up?’ Nigerian parents have antennas and no child can escape!

    I told my dad something about his phone bill being high and he told me to shut up and that I was stupid. When he received the bill at the end of the month, we both knew who was right. I didn’t wait for the apology. Funny thing is that I do the exact same thing to my dad. I will talk even if I am not right and by the time I realise he won’t bother waiting for an apology because it will take hours, lol! Self defense did work for me once though. I was blocking faster than Jackie Chan! I’ve only tried it the once. I respect my parents for the punishments. I did resent them at the time but I understand now. A favourite of my dad’s is ‘Who are you making that face for?’. You even have to smile while they are shouting at you, lol!

    My parents have never worried me about marriage though I was surprised when my dad said, a girl should me married by 24/5. I looked at him thinking, ‘Good luck with the wait.’ I still don’t understand the contradiction about not dating and marriage though. Sex education I learnt from school unless they did teach me and I forgot! Definitely the former.

    As for education, I am lucky that my parents understood that it is not everyone that can pull an A out of their nose. My dad is always saying get A’s but if you come back with a C, he is still encouraging, God knows I have the best parents.

    My dad thinks my music taste is horrible but I think his is worse. It’s a running joke between us. Lol @ Halo being a funeral song and Chris Brown sounding Efik! Your mum is funny.

    I hate cleaning! My mum did teach me how to dust a tv for an hour! My dad knows I don’t like cleaning so he doesn’t bother me about it. He always jokes about getting a cleaner! I do force myself though.

    I am familiar with visitors coming without calling which is annoying. They pick the say that you want to have a lazy day to appear.

    For someone that has grown up in London, I say ‘The devil is a liar a lot’ especially when I am joking.

    Nigerian films scare me even in the daytime. There was a film Liz Benson was in where a group of boys dug up her grave and stole her jewelry. She came back to haunt them. That wasn’t the scary bit. What was scary was the powder she packed onto her face to show that she was a ghost. I could not sleep for days! Nigerian scary films made me think at a time that a witch was going to pop out of nowhere.

    It is interesting being a Nigerian. We are a different class of people. I am proud to be a Nigerian and I appreciate the way my parents have raised me. They made sure that I know where I am from by sending me to do secondary school in Nigeria and making sure that every year my family and I go to Nigeria. I am planning on moving back this year, I might have grown up in London but they have raised me as a Nigerian the core.

    Essay over! Lol!

    • LOL! You’re hilarious!! My parents are also very understanding about the result part as well. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • I forgot to add, we have so many people staying over it’s like my front door is revolving.

  • Chidera

    Awesome, hilarious and truthful post!! lol!! and d hair-packer stuff???? its actually called a scrunchy 😉

  • Thank you!! lol!!

  • This is the definition of HILARIOUS!
    Gosh…I really enjoyed this post.
    You’ll never know how much I needed this laugh.

    …Can I reblog this? Plsssss?

    • Sure! It’d be my pleasure. I’m glad it made you laugh. 🙂

  • OMG!!!!… Okay I think dat was my most hilarious laugh in what? weeks?? Of course it’s soo true!!! Yeah and we have Nigerian Mums that’d call U from how many miles away 2get them their bag or the remote control that’s probably just double their arm’s length..dats what I call ‘abuse of parental power’ :D… Cant wait 2c if awd maintain the trend in my time too…Might just be so cool 😉

    • Loool! I can imagine you doing same!!

  • Did I say??? It’s an A.M.A.Z.I.N.G one Afoma 🙂

  • lol.. I can’t keep Calm… I’m a Nigerian… reminds me of fighting/quarreling scenes at the market or the fuel station…lwkmd

  • This is hilarious and so true, Nigerian parents are the best, aren’t they? I am grateful everyday to have the kind of parents I have though, my dad is very understanding about the grades thing and we had a week long, 2-hour daily sex education talk before I went off to secondary school, maybe it’s because my dad is a doctor but then again he was in the Nigerian army so… LOL
    Anyways, I’m just glad I have such a liberal father.

    AndI lost my mom when I was quite young, so growing up and being the eldest child, I did a lot of that calling someone who’s in another room to come give me the remote control that’s just a few feet away from me

  • I read this post in the library and you imagine the kind of noise I must have mad that attracted 8 people to my screen. By the way u have their comendations…good stuff. One experience I cannot forget growing up was when I did something wrong (can’t honestly remember what I did) but I knew d beating was gonna be out of this world. There and then I planned to kill myself. I manged to find a collection of sleeping pills and took a handful. For some unknown reasons sleeping pills refused to work o. I tried my best to die but it just didn’t work. I haven’t still recoverd from the beating of that day.

    • LOL You tried to die!!!! Thank you and say thank you to the 8 people for me.

  • Its official are a wicked somborry…dz laughter is killing..
    My Lord!..9ja!the place to be…
    I remember d day my dad stopped d car on the road and asked my elder Bro to get out for farting.d car ddnt have air-conditioning…lol
    Nigerian parents are always right..NEVER EVER wrong and they know all things and d experience based advice that begins with, ‘in my time’ ?(every kids nightmare trust me)..d curfew of 6pm too is infuriating,God knows I keep late nights@skl and flaunt it by picking their calls on busy,noisy roads late @nyt..Mum expects me to go round and greet everyone in church .she evn has a mental list of folks I ddnt greet which she accosts me with @d beginning/end of service…smh.
    Till date.dear momma still warns in me ‘that voice’ abt collecting food&stuff frm people.just d oda day,I was on d fone with her with food in my mouth and she goes, ‘what are you eating?’
    Me:oh my neighbor just gave me yam chips and ketchup
    Long pause……
    Mom:hmmmm…*calls my native name*…be very careful abt eating from pple.the world is wicked…smh…
    The calling to get stuff close to them is exasperating.
    I love ’em tho for instilling strong outstanding values in me and like a friend says, ‘for giving me deep roots but finding it difficult to give me d wings to fly’ in their protectiveness and need to live vicariously thru extensions of themselves, I think what counts however is that we understand…*smiles*.
    Great post as always Afoma!..I hope we learn and do better in the nearest future..Thanks for the laugh.

  • Damilola

    I’m reading your blog at work and can’t stop laughing, my colleagues must think I’m losing it.
    Hmmn, memories…
    I remember sweeping the house so early in the morning and doing it barefooted so that my mom’s leg won’t pick up a grain of sand. Even now my sister said she cleans her home “as if mom’s coming to visit”.
    Childhood was fun looking back…..

    • Glad I could make you laugh! x

  • I recall once getting into some trouble as a teenager. My mum came into my room, called my name the usual number of times. I, honestly, wasn’t listening. She asked afterwards how many times she called me. I looked at her baffled, i wasn’t expecting the question, she (if i remember correctly) had never asked me that question before, then i replied calmly ‘3 times’ and the interrogation continued…

  • I loved this!! Totally loved it!

  • damilolafasetire

    Lol! and Don’t forget that your business is everyone’s business in Naija. Also, Nigerians will proceed to give you an advice anyway even if you don’t ask for it. “Hmm…let me tell you what you should do…it’s for your own good oh!”

  • Edidiong Nsek

    I can relate to every single point you have written about. It is very funny reading about it now, however it wasn’t fun at the time. Even at 27, I still get the “how many times did I call you?” . You should try and turn this into stand up comedy. A lot of Nigerians will definitely relate to nearly of these and these myfriend is money. I am a proper Nigerian.