I had a very unusual experience last week Tuesday, and I had been looking forward to  writing about it.  It’s amazing how sometimes we get caught up in our own lives and experiences, that we tend to feel that everybody sees life the same way we do. It can be quite interesting to be jolted out of that way of thinking.

I and a colleague, Cynthia, paid a visit to a customer’s office. I’ll call the customer  Hassan.  Hassan is one of the more interesting characters I’ve gotten to meet in the course of the year. A Lebanese by nationality, Hassan grew up in Kano and speaks Hausa fluently. Putting it differently, Hassan acts with all the hues and shades of the Nigerian character.

That day, Hassan was in a rather irritable mood. His belly hung out beneath his Polo T-shirt as he barked out orders in Hausa and Pidgin English to his workers who scurried around like mice. Eating Pringles and puffing away at his cigarette, he let us know in his characteristic gruff manner that he did not have time to attend to us. Cynthia and I chuckled and went into his office to sit and wait.

Sitting in his office was his svelte Lebanese wife, Aisha, sitting daintily at a table in the office. We exchanged greetings and Cynthia made the introductions because I had not met her before. I noticed that her brown and cream Channel bag was the same shade as her open-toe sandals. I also noticed that her fingernails and toenails were perfectly painted in this shade of wine that really suited her colouring. I couldn’t keep myself from noticing her golden-brown hair that looked almost like the Brazilian weave that Nigerian ladies spend tens of thousands to acquire. I knew it was real from the way she would run her hand through it when trying to explain a point, or flip it to one side unconsciously.

Still, the most interesting things about her I got to learn as we began conversing to pass time. She began by telling us how  bored she was with  just sitting at home all day watching television. That was why she decided to begin to work with her husband Hassan. Looking at the work station she had set up for herself, I nodded approvingly. She had an Apple notebook on the table, and her I-pad was set up on a stand beside it. She was in charge of administrative duties, and she seemed to have a good idea of what to do.

Aisha began to speak of visitors, and she declared that she could not abide people calling on her at home without informing her first. She made a good point, saying that she might have her hair in rollers, or she might not just feel like receiving visitors; and so if you call on her without informing her before hand, you would be turned away politely. She ended by saying that it was the practice in Lebanon, so people there tend not to visit others impromptu. Cynthia and I laughed,and spoke about the Nigerian culture of ‘branching’, which describes a situation when one is heading for a destination, but decides (sometimes spontaneously) visit one or two people who stay around the primary destination.

Interestingly, she began to speak on her personal preferences in dining. Aisha said that she could not stand someone bringing a piece of cutlery to pick from her plate. She declared that she would stop eating immediately. Such a person reeks of bad manners and must be corrected, even her children. Strictly speaking, she was right. But then, I remembered of  life in the university hostel where such a thing was practically normal, not to speak of the countless times I’ve done that to my mum, or had my sister do that to me!

One other point she raised left me quite speechless. She said that it was not possible for her sister to come visit her and go into her room, open her wardrobe and pick some of her clothes. Outrightly impossible. According to her, even her room is out-of-bounds to everyone, so her sister is not likely to think of such even if visiting. At this point, Cynthia who is an Igbo lady was struggling to hold back her laughter. She couldn’t fathom relating with her relatives in such a manner. To Cynthia, a family feud would ensue if she attempted such a thing.

At this point, I just couldn’t help marvelling at the way people have different notions on life because of their background and culture. From mundane issues to the very important, people react differently based on where they are coming from.

Can you really declare one culture’s peculiarities right and the other wrong, especially in issues that are not morally wrong in themselves? What traits do you admire and which irks you the most  in any tribe? Let me hear your views!!