When I moved to Lagos a few years ago, I don’t think I would have been necessarily described as ‘street smart’. However, I like to look back on my location shift as a real sink or swim season in my life. And to be honest, it isn’t over but I think I’m just about floating.
Lagos is a jungle, the real survival of the fittest. You need to blend in to a point that you are not constantly referred to as ajebutter but bold enough not to get into a car accident every day or fall for the ‘my sister is in hospital and I need 50k’ tale every single time.
Behind the Wheel
A week before I moved to Lagos, I passed my driving test. I was so happy because I thought ‘finally, I’m independent’. But I was forgetting one little thing… Lagos streets are like no other. It is true what they say; if you can drive in Lagos, you can drive ANYWHERE. Never-ending traffic, wild animals pretending to be other human beings driving alongside you in death contraptions disguised as cars, LASTMA harassment, traffic lights that don’t work, roads that are NOT in Google Maps, window washers who annoy you with their dirty water, the list goes on. Driving in Lagos has been my biggest learning curve as I have used it as a form of anger management. Someone trying to overtake you? Let them. Someone start speeding when you indicate left/right? Let them go & try again. Someone flashing their lights behind you because the light is amber or the car in front of you has moved forward an inch? Breathe and let it go.
The First Name Basis Mistake
Having worked in London for a few years before moving to Lagos, I didn’t think much of the fact that I called my bosses by their first name no matter their age or their grey hair ratio. Try that in Nigeria. OK, I tried it. Let’s call him Tunde. So I was like “Hi Tunde!” every time for the first week. Then Monday morning came and I got an email –‘Hi Ore, please could you call me Mr Ajala from now on. Thank you.’ I wanted to be like chill off Tunde but simple respect can take you a long way.
The Customer is Never Right
I know I need to get over it but I will never get over how awful customer service is in Lagos. What haven’t I witnessed? Oh the time a waiter charged my friend’s card and still collected the cash from me? And then lied? Or the time a shop assistant said ‘look Madam Ore or whatever you name is’? Or the time when we were given an old stale pizza and the waiter lied and tried to glisten the pizza with oil to make it look fresh? No lie. The only place I can vouch for is The Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi –5 star service always.
Why Did Nobody Ever Teach Me Pidgin?
I understand Yoruba pretty fluently so I always thought it would be easy to cope in Lagos because if you don’t speak English you probably speak Yoruba right? WRONG!. ‘E de for house’… Wait, sorry what? Why did my parents never teach me pidgin? French lessons, German lessons, Spanish lessons, even Latin lessons! (Latin, an ancient language that nobody speaks anymore though). However, I was never taught to understand a key survival language –Pidgin. Thanks mum and daddy. Shout out to Abduly my gateman for teaching me the bare minimum.