I love my country, I really do. But remember the saying, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed?” Nigeria has both its good and bad sides and I think it will be very necessary to familiarize yourself with every facet.
In case you’ve not heard about Nigeria – yeah, there are some people who claim not to – it is in Western Africa, bordered in the north by Chad and Niger, in the east by Cameroon, and in the west by Republic of Benin and considered one of the most populous countries in the continent. See here
Nigeria has a lot of rich and in some instances weird culture, such as not using the left hand to greet people (that one is seen a taboo), or looking straight into an elder’s eyes, or some misread culture you don’t want to get caught doing.
So if you have any plans of visiting, here are 10 weird things you should know when traveling to Nigeria.
Number 10 – Our Popular Language is Called Pidgin
Nigeria has over 500 languages, but the main one that is universally acceptable no matter which part of the country you’re going to, is Pidgin, also known as Pidgin English.
Everyone speaks Pidgin English in Nigeria. It is a local variant — like a unique language on its own — that combines local dialects, slang and some English words.
It’s your fail-safe when you need to quickly communicate and you’re assured you can never go wrong and can quickly endear you to Nigerians just for the fact that it is obvious you are making an effort to blend in.
An example of pidgin goes like this:
English: I’m Hungry
Pidgin: I dey hungry
It’s useful and absolutely one of the first things to know when traveling to Nigeria.
Number 9 – Nigeria is not a Cashless Society – Yet.
Yeah I know the world is a cashless society and you probably don’t have to carry cash where you’re coming from but that is not the case when you step into the Nigerian system though we are getting there soon.
Before you even board your flight I’d advise you to keep a few change in your wallet as there are levy to be paid that do not require credit cards and ever so often you may need to um, settle a bill you have no idea about.
Yes, there are some places that will accept your Master or Visa Card but don’t rely on them – especially if you’re sure your time is very important to you and you don’t want to get stranded in the middle of nowhere holding a paperweight card.
This being said, there are some cities in Nigeria that encourage cashless transactions but these can be unreliable in smaller cities and smaller establishments.
Number 8 – Never Say The Word “GAY”.
Homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Nigeria, while gay marriage and displays of same-sex affection are also banned.
Any form or mention or association with the rainbow brings a jail sentence of 12 years in Nigeria, so it may be weird for you but my advice is that if you’re coming anywhere near the country, erase the word from your vocab. Like for real. You’ve never heard of it.
Sometime in July there was a mass arrest of gays in Lagos and it was a statement by the Nigerian Government how badly they want to clamp down on the movement.
We are hoping that it will get to a point when the country is enlightened like the others, but until then we just have to live with it.
Number 7 – Lagos Traffic Is Not for the Faint of Heart
Lagos is the commercial city of Nigeria and was once the capital too. It’s like every major Commercial City in the world – loud, hot and dusty. But what they don’t tell you is that Lagos is ranked in the worst 15 countries in the world when it comes to traffic.
Business Insider also lists the mega city as one of the worst places to drive, and that’s to be expected considering that they have a population of 24 million.
One particular day I did about 6 full hours in traffic going from the Mainland to the Island and I can assure you it’s not a day I want to repeat. True story! So If you are visiting Lagos, you’ll need to brace for the traffic.
Number 6 – Get a Yellow Fever Vaccine Because our Mosquitoes are Huge
Getting a yellow fever card is probably one of the most important things to do when traveling to Nigeria because you know, our mosquitoes don’t play.
Malaria is one of the most severe public health problems in Nigeria and in the whole world. Nigeria has the greatest number of malaria cases.
You could be here for just one day and leave with a bad case of malaria and I’m not saying that just to frighten you. Bring along treated mosquito nets or lotions and bottled water is a necessity, not an option.
In fact, in September 2018, the Nigerian government enforced the rule that everyone should have a yellow fever card.
Number 5 – Nigeria Has a LOT of Public Holidays
Apart from the usual New Year and Christmas holidays, Nigeria has quite a few public holidays more than usual. Being a mixed Country, we celebrate all Muslim holidays + Christian holidays and government related holidays. There’s a public holiday literally almost every month.
So if you’re coming for business… well, best wrap your head around the fact that you may be relaxing more than working, because you know, you may arrive when it’s the birthday of a Nigerian governor and he declares it a public holiday… we are cool like that.
Number 4 – Nigeria has Really Nice Tourist Centers
I know most of the news around Nigeria isn’t flattering, but take your mind away from it and reflect on the fact that the country has amazing tourist centers.
Weird, right? Why should a country so fiercely reported have such cool places?
For starters, from the famous Olumo Rock in Ogun State (in the western part of Nigeria) to Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi (the northern part), you can never be bored.
Take for instance, the Kajuru Castle in Kaduna state – a luxury Medieval-German style villa, built over 3 decades ago. The villa is designed with bedrooms modelled after dungeons and several towers with crenellated walls. The medieval theme is seen throughout the castle, it even has a portcullis (the vertically closing gate) with a crocodile pit?
Imagine how much fun you’ll have!
A word of caution though: Apply the necessary safety precautions as with any other foreign country when going on tours.
Number 3 – Nigeria has a LOT of Churches and Mosques
Don’t say I did not give you a heads up, and don’t act all surprised and start staring when you come across five churches on one street and another five mosques on the other side.
Or when the power goes out and you hear your neighbor uttering a prayer or reciting a psalm.
Nigerians have a healthy mix of Muslims and Christians with about 40% each, so you can say without a doubt that this is normal. Muslims go to mosque on Fridays – the National Mosque is even a local tourist attraction – and Christians go to church on Sundays and in between, there’s your mix of the traditional worshipers.
And also your tourist guide could also be a pastor, so keep your cool. Nigerians wear their religious affiliations on their cars, door posts and popular culture and seem very happy about it.
Number 2 – Em, There is Such a Thing as African Time
So you like arriving to events early? Wipe that off your list. It’s not a virtue here, it’s a vice. Why? Because There’s such a thing as African time
Here in Nigeria, even though start time for an event is 4pm, people don’t start arriving until it’s like 6pm.
So if you get an invite to a Nigerian party – we have those only like once every day; we are like the party HQ of Africa or something – you don’t want to arrive too early. Please, don’t arrive too early! By chance you actually have an invitation card if it says 2 pm, arriving at 4 pm is trying too hard. Try strolling in by 6 or 7pm. By then the party is in full swing, I kid you not.
Number 1 – Nigerian Jollof Rice is Worth the Hype.
If you ever had a Nigerian friend then you know Nigerians are particular to what is called jollof rice. It’s so popular there was once a Twitter war between Nigerians and Ghanaians about whose rice was better and even the BBC covered it.
Nigerian Jollof Rice is the most popular rice recipe in Nigeria. It is also a big party favorite, just like the Nigerian fried rice. Don’t play with this as you’re bound to fall in love. For real.
Take a pen and paper and write this down as delicacies you must taste when in Nigeria: Jollof rice, Killishi, Asun, Edika-ikong soup, akara and my personal favorite, local drink called garri sprinkled with groundnut.
So good luck with your travel plans when heading to the beautiful city of Nigeria, and don’t forget to bring your taste buds along.
Hope this helps!