Cultural Schizophrenia: Nigerian in America

22 Sep

Sometimes in the morning before heading to work, I take a good look at myself in the mirror and I laugh at myself.  I laugh because I am about to hit the switch that will change me into this Americanized version of myself.  Everything about me makes me laugh.  My hair, make-up, clothes, even the sandwich in my brown bag makes me laugh.  The fact that last night’s dinner of egusi and pounded yam still seats comfortably in my tummy makes me laugh.  When I move, it jiggles…that makes me laugh.  I laugh because I dare not, I repeat – dare not – take egusi to work for lunch.  Career suicide does not begin to describe the aftermath.  In fact, the last time I tried it (back in 1998 when I worked as a cashier in a store) they fumigated the entire break room.  It took a week to remove the smell of okpoloko.  Don’t blame me.  I was a JJC. FruitSaladFufu

So why am I so tickled?  Because we have become experts at being what I call ‘culturally schizophrenic.’ We are one thing and we are another and neither one is fully authentic. Everything about us is dual in nature.  Most of our duality, we accumulated over time.  Call it self-preservation, call it Americanization.  Either way, it is God’s way of playing games with us. Let me illustrate some differences between my two selves with this magic switch.

Scenario Switch on: Work Switch off: Home
Lounging during free time I sit in reception areas making small talk (that is quite useless in itself but means life or death in your career) with co-workers Singlet and ogodo, watching Nigerian movies. Onwele ebe m n’eje?
Sports “William, I think the the Cardinals have a chance at the superbowl this year.” “Up Arsenal!”
Dining I order a salad (goat food) and try to eat with a knife and fork while I talk to co-workers.  Don’t these people you don’t eat and talk at the same time? Ofe onugbu and akpu. Silence until the very last ‘gboom’ sound of akpu hits my stomach.
Speech I say ‘oh really?’ and ‘awesome dude,’ where appropriate. ‘Oga, ikwusi kwene!  Na you biko.  After you, nobody.’
Social Events I listen to chamber music and stand around with other co-workers drinking virgin (no alcohol) punch.  No use getting into trouble because I am over-served. Daquiri, Long Island iced tea, vodka redbull or the King of Beers (Heineken). Jamming to soukous music in Tropical Hut in Detroit (before all the gang bangers took over).
Drinking tea or coffee I go to appropriate tea room downtown, order green tea with some random pastry.  Take tiny sips and nibble at pastry.  I carefully dab my lips with napkin when I am done. Get a jug, pour hot water, make big jug (not pot) of lipton tea or ovaltine with lots of Nido milk and eight cubes of sugar. Pour myself a big ugly plastic cup. Take a big slice of naija bread slather lots of margarine and dip a chunk into the tea.  Yum.  Wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

So you see why I laugh….yes, only crazy people laugh by themselves but then take a good look at yourself as a Nigerian in America and you will laugh too.

PS: Blogville, should I make this a two part series?  ‘Cus there is a lot to talk about on this issue.


15 Responses to “Cultural Schizophrenia: Nigerian in America”

  1. countessa September 23, 2009 at 3:50 am #

    oh mi dayzzzzzzz……this is so trueeee…man gats to survive…no b our fault…afterall there is a reason y man is know as the mammal which adapts easiest even in the most adverse of conditions.

  2. culturesoup September 23, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    Great post, I’d love to see another part!
    This is always the way it is with cross-cultural individuals. And of course, there are different degrees of these interactions – if you increase the number of countries or add different races/languages to the mix it becomes even more complicated. Sometimes it can be hard because you start to question which is your real self or whether all your identities are fake. The positive side: you are a unique blend of everything.

    Lol at taking egusi to work. Stockfish is terrible, it tastes so good but it has such a strong smell. I had a similar experience when i cooked egusi in my residence and one of my flatmates made a nasty comment. I don’t even remember what he said exactly but i was offended because i didn’t complain when i found the smell of something he cooked nauseating. It was like, i have to put up with your food but it’s ok to make fun of mine because it’s ‘ethnic’.

  3. joicee September 23, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    lol…pls do make a two part seirs

    This is so true…not just for naija folks living in America…you can find tales like this from folks throughout the whole diaspora.

    Good one!

  4. shubby doo September 23, 2009 at 10:47 am #

    Lol…naijas in britain are just as mad…trust me…I’m one of them 🙂

  5. Rosie September 23, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    Countessa: you are right. That’s why they say if you go to a town and see no Nigerian, then that place is not fit for haibitation.

    culturesoup: i hate to think how much more complicated it can get with various ethic groups, but you raise many good points. I will get to work on a second part.

    joicee: true. my bro in london prolly goes thru the same thing.

    shubby doo: omo , (or nne) depending on which you prefer (lol) I tried to find you on twitter but no go. Are you undercover?

  6. Shonavixen September 23, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    This isnt just a Nigerian thing but Africans at whole coz I so totally can relate to this…and yep I do laugh…i laugh when I want to tell them I had gizzards but then explaining what exactly gizzards are stops me in my i just laugh and say ‘ooh i ate some soul food’..LOL!!
    I always want to bring my left over sadza (maize-meal) for lunch but I dare not..

  7. Sugabelly September 24, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    LOL!!! This is sooooo true. I see this happening with Nigerians and lots of other Africans all the time. Astute observations

  8. tobenna September 25, 2009 at 2:56 am #

    Pls. make this a 2 part series.
    Interesting read.
    How you guys manage to watch their sports there is shocking. Was visiting once and see how Naija boys dey analyse one NFL game wey dey go on.
    The thing tire me.
    What happened to proper football?
    As for beer? Heineken?
    Hell no.
    It’s gotta be Star/stout or Gulder at the worst.

  9. N.I.M.M.O September 25, 2009 at 7:51 am #

    Up Arsenal!? Why not ‘Up Sootin’?

    Waiting for Part 2.

    • Rosie September 29, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

      NIMMO: I have a friend who reads this blog who is an Arsenal fan. If I did not give a shout out, i would be disowned. Anyhue, I hear liverpool is giving them hell.

  10. Rosie September 29, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Shona: yes, it is not just a Nigerian thing. Imagine what Indians have to go through with all that curry cookinig.

    Sugar darling: I am so loving your blog. abeg visit a

    Tobenna: how bodi? You wife don born?

  11. Original Mgbeke October 5, 2009 at 1:17 am #

    LMAO, this was heelar! Girl, I DARE not take soup or any fishy related foods to work o. I recently made plantain pottage and wish that I could take it to work, but crayfish full the thing o. 😀

  12. yinkuslolo October 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm #

    u are def talking about pple like me. i tire for these two lives one has to juggle.

  13. Rosie October 14, 2009 at 4:51 pm #

    Original: the thing don tire me sef. Na only salad and sandwich i dey chop for work. Even boiled plantain na wahala…talking about, “what’s that smell?”

    Yinkus: this is why we go a little crazy each day. Coping mechanisms should help us small.

  14. Caramel Delight January 5, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    I’m in tears, actually tears of laughter

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