Thursday, November 15, 2012

Differences In Cultures

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a wedding in Houston, Texas. My experiences led to some nostalgic moments that have inspired me to write this blog. While I waited in line at the reception to get some dodo and Jollof rice, I could not help but activate my aggression (battle of the fittest) mode to ensure I was not cheated by other Nigerian guests waiting in line. Upon arriving home, I pondered on why I had been so aggressive while waiting in line, in spite of the fact that my aggression remains passive at predominantly American weddings.

I believe there are two types of aggression; passive aggression and active aggression. The passive aggression is that form of aggression that I have observed in American culture, more specifically, the Caucasian culture. When faced with difficult or chaotic situations, I have observed that Caucasians here tend to have a calmer way of responding to danger. By 'calmer," I mean having a concise view on things. To further explain, I will share an event I experienced a couple of months ago. Over the summer, a close friend of mine got married in Detroit. The wedding was suave; service was short and concise, reception started on time and everyone strictly adhered by the rules without any complications. Yes, it was an American wedding. I was more impressed by the fact that people shouted less, followed orders more, argued less, agreed more and ended the event at the right time. While dinner was being served at the reception, guests waited in line until they were called. In addition, I never heard anyone complain about another individual's greed or cynicism. At the entirety of the event, I was in my 'passive aggressive' mood.

Some months prior, I had just arrived in Nigeria to spend the Christmas. On the night of Christmas, I visited my cousin and decided to take a taxi commonly known as 'Cabu-Cabu.' Prior to boarding the taxi, I had done my research on the prices to ensure I wasn't cheated. Halfway through my ride, the driver stretched his hand to the back and asked all the passengers to pay. He shouted, ' E sanwo e mo'wo yin wa (pay now and give me your money).' I put my hands to my wallet and handed the driver 30 naira, the cost of my trip from Oju-ore to Fowobi station. When the driver approached Fowobi station, I ensured he was aware that my stop near. Upon our arrival, the driver told me I could not leave since I had not paid. I was shocked. I proceeded to telling him that I paid my fees halfway through the trip, but he disagreed. That was when I lost it, my 'active aggression' was activated. Here, there was no 911 to call. I proceeded to take matters to my own hands, and prove to the driver I could be crazy when push comes to shove; to leave the taxi without paying an extra dime. Just as an argument was about to exacerbate, another passenger decided to speak up on my behalf. He said, " Baba, he paid you when everyone was paying.' That was his saving grace. When I returned to the US, I thought about how I was ready to risk my life for 30 naira ($0.19).

That was active aggression. The type of aggression that most often projects itself with boistery and physical confrontation. I've experienced this too many. During my years as an undergraduate, I recall attending meetings with fellow African students. Within minutes of having a heated debate, we would gesticulate and shout until other people told us we were too loud.

As I conclude, I am yet to figure out why I was 'actively aggressive' while waiting in line for food at that wedding. Then it dawned on me, I was surrounded by Nigerians, even in Texas. I do not condone any of these cultural differences. Given the fact that I find myself at the cross-roads of Afrocentricity and the western culture, I embrace them and inculcate these two different characteristics defined by two separate societies to my advantage at needed times.

E pluribus umum; out of many, one. These observed differences have brought more unity than differences around the world. It has not only allowed us to appreciate the diversity in skin color, but also the way to project our mannerisms. Now I understand the saying, 'you can take the boy out of the village, but can't take the village out of the boy.' We are defined by our identity.