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| PSA – Much Ado About Being Cultured In Nigeria|

The infiltration of the west indoctrinated us into basing our scope ofΒ  “cultured” persons on foreign acceptance. Being exposed is awesome and we all need it. However, when the quest to be exposed leads to pretentious acts and knowledge of foreign stuffs become the yardstick for determining who is cultured or not, then that leaves me with wanton curiosity.
In law school, during the mandatory dinner organized for us, we were expected to eat in a cultured manner. Food that was meant to be enjoyed became a burden. I saw friends and colleagues struggle with dinning etiquette. Fork and knife mandate became a Beethoven rehearsal. I am very good with fork and knife (I love it) but how does that make me more cultured than someone who dines with a spoon?
In Nigeria, if I speak English with Igbo influence, my people say I have Igbo tongue, but when a foreigner speaks with native influence, we call it accent. C’mon fellow Nigerians, that is ridiculous. A lady went for a conference in Greece and after delivering her lectures on International Law was ushered to a wine tasting event to pass the time. Of course she could not decipher one wine from the other. All she knew was the wine was sweet. The foreigners near her gave her that unwanted stare – “uncultured person”.
I did not grow up in the privileged home where folks take their kids for wine tasting events. How does my not telling one wine from another make me uncultured. In defense, our forefathers too tasted wine. Africa Magic viewers would be familiar with this saying “This Mazi Okeke’s wine tastes good. It is not like MaziΒ  Ezemba’s “. Last last, all na wine tasting. I look forward to the day a Russian will tell me the difference between fresh palm wine and fermented one.πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ™„
The quest to be seen as cultured has made many Nigerians go for degree programs abroad and come back with British accent despite growing up in Aba. For some privileged Nigerians, it is their normal life style. Just because one can hold a conversation in East Cockney accent, Yorkshire or Lekki-British accent doesn’t make one more cultured than one who speaks with Yoruba accent. It only shows your level of exposure.
Β I remember holidaying in Texas in the Winter of 2013 and my high school classmate came around and took me to the cinema and a lunch at McDonald. While, conversing I told her how much her accent has changed and she responded that she actually toned it down for me as she usually does when she speaks with Nigerians living at home and stated that I needed to see her speaking with her Texan friends. I knew better what to expect from that conversation. I can understand hers, because she is permanently based there and might have to switch accent to avoid having to be repetitive during conversations – a fact I learnt first hand in Florida as my dad switched accent while speaking with the locals. I admire the fact that my friend tones down her accent when speaking with Nigerians but I do not understand why someone who goes on holiday or an academic program comes back home and speak to us in foreign accent. How does that makes you cultured?
You see Nigerians who don’t have foreign passport looking at our food as yucky “I only eat Chinese” “I hate swallow”. Now taste is acquired. It is nothing to be ashamed or pretentious about.
The taxi driver (a Dominican American) who we hired through out our stay in Florida, offered to show us a good restaurant for a good meal. Off we went, my dad, bro and I to this Japanese restaurant. Buffet it appeared and I watched my dad and the driver serve themselves starters of Oysters, large crabs, Salmon fish and a good wine. They ate with relish (Dad is accustomed to some finer things having dined regularly at Lagos exquisite restaurants) Bro offered to do same and then came that look…….apparently his stomach and his foodie mind did not agree as the raw salmon made him nauseous. He excused himself to throw up and came back to help himself with some wine to aid his relief. He loves experimenting with foods but this time, he was taken by surprise. As for me, I saw what looked like jollof rice but they called it Mexican Rice with a prefix I cannot remember (na dem sabi) and saw large chunks of Chicken. That made my night along with the fruit salad that I ate as appetizer. I cannot be forming for what will enter my stomach abeg (I don’t like seafood).
I cannot pretend to like Pizza more than Amala and Ewedu because I don’t. Yes I love pizza a lot but I’m not gonna be pretentious about it. I can’t eat swallow with cutlery no matter the occasion or continent. This is me! The food will not just go down well.
An Aristocrat is taught French, German, Latin, Art, Music, Polo, Tennis, Croquet, English History, European History, Wine tasting and other finer things and well heeled individuals who wanted to mingle with the gentry learnt this too. I can hold my own in any occasion – with the affluent and influential and with my naija brothers on the street level. I was raised in Lagos and obtained my first degree in the University of Benin, Benin-City. The gods will slap me if I try to put up a posh demeanor when talking to my home boys.
The term cultured has a snobbish undertone to it which is the problem. People have varied levels of exposure and experiences. How does my seeing the series Originals make me more cultured than someone who knows every episode in Jenifa’s Diary when an American can’t tell the difference between a Yoruba and Igbo dressing. I can tell the difference in wine glasses not because I was raised that way but because I researched on it (O yes, I love to read). Not underplaying the importance of travelling, it is pertinent to know that One can travel the world on a plane of books while sitting comfortably in your armchair (please travel if you can)
I feel being cultured means not having a closed mind. Your grammatical expression is more important than the accent in which it is conveyed. If you pronounce this words “Villa and Pique” in English and Spanish, you’ll get different pronunciations and meaning. Listen to foreign commentators and see how the names of our sportsmen are carelessly pronounced with a reckless abandon yet we put in too much effort to pronounce an eleven lettered Polish name with only two vowels. πŸ˜…πŸ˜‚
Being chivalrous – saying please, thank you, excuse me, I’m sorry, respecting women’s right is more important than knowing the logo of Under Armour. Read, open your mind to learning, travel, experience and enjoy the 9ja life and giveaways. Foreign stuffs are good but our certification of who is cultured shouldn’t be solely hinged on knowledge of foreign things.Β  Whatever, you do just have enough culture in you to get by in every occasion. Don’t be pretentious of who you are not – it pisses people off. That you call it dreads doesn’t make you more cultured than those that call it dreadlocks. After all, some still insist it is called locks. Don’t force yourself to look socially acceptably cultured when you end up dinning with knife and a spoon like my colleagues in Law-school.πŸ˜…πŸ™ˆ
Just when you feel pressured to act against your will power, remember that nobody gets irked when a Briton can’t tell a kunu from furaΒ or moimoi from okpa. Take a chill pill!
I’ll like to know your perception of being cultured. Do share in the comment section.
Peace, love and spaghetti
Acknowledgment: Atoke

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Featured Writer:Β Wisdom Dickson

Dickson is a lawyer and voracious reader who blows off steam by reading and watching movies when he is not screaming and rooting for Liverpool’s every match day. Don’t mind him if he sound light-hearted sometimes. Having lived in every part of the Nigeria, you begin to realize that life is not that serious. In his thinking room, he decides to sit behind his keyboard and a cup of coffee to dissect prevailing social issues. In his words β€œMy mind is pressed. Allow me ease my pen.”

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Aba – a city in Eastern Nigeria

Lekki –Β a city in Western Nigeria
jollof rice – Nigeria’s most priced food
na dem sabi – a Nigerian slang meaning ‘it’s their problem’
Amala – a Nigerian delicacy found among-st the Yoruba tribe
Ewedu –Β a Nigerian delicacy found among-st the Yoruba tribe


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