Life Abroad

Culture Shock In Germany

Living outside one’s country certainly comes with its pains of personal struggles and ups and downs. It can alter one’s lifestyle in so many ways. Not when you are used to living your life in an environment where the dynamics of daily living is borne out of a state of “disorderliness” that has become a norm. Coming from Lagos, where you have spent most of your adult life and used to the beat and rhythm of daily living, a city with its special character, and all of a sudden finding yourself thrust in the middle of a certain daily life that is totally alien and too orderly for you, then you are bound to experience “culture shock”. Your first thought will be probably to flee! To run away from it all! You begin to nurse the idea of running back to your country to continue your “(ab) normal” life devoid of all these orderliness! For you the orderliness in this new environment is strange and too much of a “disorder” for you!

Imagine walking about with a map. You ask someone on the street for the description of a location and the next thing he does is to ask if you have a map of the city. “What? A map? Excuse me! Please just describe the place” you pleaded! What will yours truly be doing with a map? He cast a strange look at you and before you could say Jack Robinson, he whips out a map. He begins to trace the route to the place you intended to visit and you remain all the more bewildered! The last time yours truly read a map was in the primary school and one did not even take it seriously. Remember the good old Atlas? You think of your dear Lagos and yours truly wished “Okada” operates in this city. For you the average Okada man is your map, your human encyclopedia to the vast and complex Lagos.

Can you also imagine not being able to answer the call of nature anytime this God given natural phenomenon beckons? A few days ago yours truly was terribly pressed while walking home. Still having some few meters before getting to my apartment, it dawned on me that I may not be able to “wet the flowers” that lined the street. It was indeed the longest walk of my life. My bladder was full to the brim no thanks to the avalanche of coffee I had consumed previously on that wintry day. I kept walking and looking frantically for a deserted area to do justice to this call. Isn’t this supposed to be the call of nature? But this was a call that can land one in serious trouble if answered inappropriately. The more the call beckons the more I quickened my steps. I finally broke into a run as I neared my street and people cast curious and frantic looks at me as I dashed for the staircase leading to my apartment to answer the call at the appropriate place. I remembered Lagos and the number of warnings that read “Don’t urinate here’ and you still see people ignoring these warnings as they urinate or excrete in the open. Here, I have so far not seen any sign that warn people from urinating or excreting in the open. It will be considered barbaric to do this. But really, I mischievously wished I was in Lagos on this particular day!

As days turned into weeks, and your beards begin to grow rapidly in the Osama Bin Laden style, you ask to be shown a barber shop where you can go for a clean shave and the next thing you hear is to book an appointment. “Book an appointment to see the barber? You hollered! Isn’t it just a simple task of shaving? Why should I book an appointment just to shave? Well, sorry, you are told that is the way it is done here.

These people can be very interesting indeed! Also a few days ago yours truly got an invitation from a Caucasian class mate to attend her birthday party and one had looked forward to the invitation. Who wouldn’t? This was the first social invitation you will get since arriving in this city having stayed indoors for most of the weekends. Moreover, you had thought it will be an opportunity to quaff a few bottles of the famous German brew. It was thus in anticipation that one had expected this party. You donned your best attire and struggled to locate the venue which later turned out to be a bar. Why have birthdays in a bar you thought? But you soon reassured yourself that may be the celebrant wanted to close the bar for the purpose of this party. As more people arrived, you observed that they had in their possession their personal drinks. You still had not become suspicious because these well wishers may have brought the drinks as gifts for the celebrant. The celebrant emerges and the chant of “Happy Birthday” song rented the air. Then you saw people paying for their drinks over the counter. Yours truly was lucky to have brought a few Euros with him. Otherwise one would have clink an empty glass to propose a toast for the celebrant! You went home disappointed and then you really wished you were in Lagos and you daydream the number of Lager that will be “destroyed” if your friend invites you for a similar party. Why invite me to a party and still expect me to bring my drink?

Only recently I met an enthusiastic German lady, we got friendly and exchanged numbers. As soon as she gave me her number trust Niger boy, I began to torment her with one flash after the other! I cannot remember the number of times I dialed her number just to say hi. But to my greatest disappointment, after speaking to me the first time, she ignored all the subsequent calls I made to her mobile phone which the Germans called “Handy” here. The next time I saw her she walked up to me in the lobby and told me pointblank that it was not normal for people to call the way I had called her over the weekend. She was really scared according to her of the annoying “flashes”! She went on to tell me that I should have informed her that I wanted to call her over the weekend not to mention my strange “flashes” which are completely normal and have become an absurd telephone culture in my country. I stood in awe and with mouth agape as I digested this information. Then my thought returned to my homeland and imagined yours truly booking an appointment to call a girl! Well I have since learnt my lessons!

What sort of life is this? How can a city be so orderly? I think am going to crack if I continued living in the midst of this orderliness. The environment I am coming from does not support this new lifestyle! I yearn to go back to my homeland, out of this orderliness. Imagine not being able to buy your drugs over the counter or from the “Aboki” next door. This is totally out of place for me! I cannot walk to the nearest drug store to complain to the all knowing “chemist” about my headache! Where are the ubiquitous drug hawkers I see everyday on the streets of Lagos hawking drugs that can cure a mere headache to the more complicated ones that will send the physicians in LUTH scurrying for their medical books? It does not matter if the drugs are fake, expired or killer drugs! Now I have a mere allergy in this very “organized” city and I must see a doctor who will then prescribed the needed drugs for me which I will then take to the drug store before I can buy them for my ailment. This is totally unfair! I am even lucky to have a Health Insurance cover otherwise this ailment would have gone out of hand. These people have made the job of Dora Akunyuli too simple!

This city is also too quite for my liking? Where are the screaming sirens from the banks bullion vans, Governors, Commissioners, Local Government Chairmen, State, Local and Federal Government First Ladies and Deputies, Traditional Chiefs, Commissioner of Police, CEOs, every Tom Dick Harry and the endless list of VIPs convoys that shatter our peace, keep our ear drums busy and generally make our life a misery in Lagos? I wonder, is this city not the capital of one of the most important states in the Federal Republic of Germany? The State of North Rhine Westphalia with a population of 18million inhabitants and over 170 world class financial institutions in Düsseldorf alone should indeed learn some lessons from our financial institutions in Nigeria on how to move money with maximum amount of noise and bedlam!

There are so many things that are making my life here a living “hell”. Suddenly, I can no longer sit in traffic for four hours or more in a day because of the absence of traffic logjam! I can no longer buy my pure water and litter the street with its sachet, or board the rickety moving coffin called Molue .Where are the piles of flies infected refuse that dot every major streets, including the highbrow areas of my homeland? To make matter worse, I have to now keep appointments as the African time syndrome is a taboo here. Imagine not being able to get to appointment one or two hours late! These Germans are too time conscious. Why should I get to a meeting five or ten minutes to the time when I am used to keeping people waiting in previous appointments and in most cases not turn up at all or even have the decency to call to reschedule or apologize? Where are the area boys and social miscreants? Any “sane” country need these set of people to heat things up a bit! What is life without being harassed by street urchins? Life will be boring without you constantly having the thought of making a quick get away when these street urchins start to do what they know best.

Consider also that I cannot hop on my ever ready “Okada” or “Keke Maruwa” who will take me on a breakneck speed to my destination. It does not matter if the Okada man is totally drunk on ‘Paraga’ and driving against the traffic in the manner of a psychopath. What matter is to get to my destination in peace or pieces? Now I had to buy my bus or train ticket monthly. And why are people so law abiding in this town? I am yet to see any motorist that is bold enough to drive against the traffic! Why are the motorist too timid to break a simple law such as driving against the traffic or run through the Zebra crossing? I also do not understand why these motorists have to stop for mere minnows like cats, dogs, pedestrians or even puppies to cross the road. It is totally strange for me. They are simply running out of business the pepper soup seller or the “mai suya” in down town Obalende who will be glad enough to cart away a dog accident victim run over by a deranged Lagos motorist.

The last time we paid a courtesy visit to the State house in this city, I almost mistook the Minister of the State of North Rhine for an ordinary citizen! He came out of his office to meet us with his Secretary and shook hands with everybody. He was just a simple man that boards the rail like everybody else! He drinks coffee down the road unnoticed in coffee shops that line the streets! As he walks along, he shakes hands with everybody, gives a hug here and a word of encouragement there! He stops to have discussions with the elderly, young and old. But I was disappointed seeing this Very Important Personality behave like this! This is totally alien to me. This man would soon lose the respect I have for him. This man does not even know how to “enjoy” power. What is wrong with him I thought to myself? Why is this man degrading this exalted position by walking the streets and talking to ordinary people and having coffee with all these folks while discussing the state of the economy and other state matters?

What do these ordinary folks understand about the “difficult” issues of governance? Where are the Personal Assistants, Senior Personal Assistants, Special Advisers, Commissioners and all the political appointees? Is Germany not a super power nation? Is this city not rated number one city with the highest quality life in the Federal Republic of Germany and number five globally? Where are the retinue of aides and hangers-on I asked myself? These people really need some lessons from our leaders on how to maximize albeit obscenely the use of paraphernalia of office. Imagine, they are even making a big deal in the media of the Minister visiting a public primary school to sit in the class and have coffee with the teachers and pupils thereafter.

Now the light goes off as soon as you leave the vicinity and you will have to switch it back on. For example, your bathroom, kitchen, corridor or garages light automatically turn itself off as soon as you leave these places. These account for about thirty five percent of energy saving measures in this country. Why can’t I leave all my lights on and put pressure on the transformers and the distribution network? It does not matter if my action is killing our quest to have the proposed number of megawatts that we targeted for eight years despite the 10 million or is it (billion?) dollars spent on energy in my country!

Here you can drive the whole length and breadth of this city at night without having to switch on your car headlamp because the street lights are as bright as the Northern Star. I have also made enquiries and was made to understand that they are powered by solar energy. Even in winter? Why is this so I ask myself when you can drive in pitch darkness in which case you will be lucky to get home unscathed anywhere in my homeland? Driving in Nigeria is pure adrenalin in which case you will also have to watch out for carjackers, ritualists (who can make mince meat out of you within the twinkle of an eye), how about the ubiquitous broken down tankers that can snuff life out of any promising Nigerian? The list is endless.

Looking out of the window of my apartment on this snowy and wintry evening, these thoughts continued to plaque my mind. Isn’t it absurd that what seem civilized and normal in other climes is the opposite in my country? But the question is why do I feel out of place in this civilized environment where things are done with decency? Why is this orderliness a disorder for me? Why do I wish to flee from this state of orderliness and civilization to the state of disorderliness and absurdity that thrive in my homeland? Could it be that years of living in my previous state of disorderliness has affected my psyche so much that it has become difficult for me to adjust to a life of order? I also reflected on the reasons why a lot of promising Nigerians decide to brace the odds to stay put in Europe, the Americas and other parts of the world they have made their adopted homes as a result of the situation in our country. I cannot but help empathize with the desperate conditions that have driven many of them to sojourn in these lands in spite of the difficulties they face in their new environment among which are integration and social acceptance by the natives of these developed countries. Ultimately, I concluded that the redemption of our country lies in every one of us because no matter the situation, there is no place like home.


  1. Luciano good lord. The Germans are not going to start ww4! They are not world dominated crazies. For all we know a Hitler could’ve grown up in a different country and those people would be called crazies.

    This is a great piece and it really fascinates me. What it must be like to live in Germany! Orderliness is important-but Germans still know how to break out the beer.

    Germany is a great civilization. They are technically younger than the United States. You may feel more at home in Naija but don’t beat on the Germans!

    Rosie’s insult about Bayo’s homeland has nothing to do with WW4. I don’t even see a connection.

  2. Rosie oozes with so much miseducation that she does not know when tongue-in-cheek expressions smell like fart.

    Good or bad naija is the only place where I wake up without the slightest feeling of being a second class citizen. I will never sell one second of my self-respect for 100 yrs of “orderliness”.German one for that matter!

    Yes ww2 ended a long time ago but the tragedy is that people like Rosie don’t recognise that they are actually on the frontline of ww4 since the cold war ended!

  3. Holy crap luciano…relax. WWII is over. The ‘civilization’ bit is tongue-in-cheek (abi you want me to explain that one too?) Also, I gave the author 5 stars as i do agree it is an excellent piece.

  4. I don’t know if Rosie is from naija or not.But her comment is a very bad summation for an excellent piece.Imagine her calling the land where Hitler labeled blacks as half-apes about 70 yrs ago as “civilization”.Let me tell her clearly that some of us who are back home experienced the jaundiced “civilization” as far back as ’88in Dusseldorf and are glad that we are back home doing well.Yes, we have our problems but we will sort ourselves out eventually.Germany did not start as a nation in 1960!

  5. You are indeed an excellent writer. I just hope you would consider developing this tell into a book. I think you have all it takes to do that as far as the power of English language is concerned. I really enjoyed this piece.

  6. Bayo….just the sunshine I needed this saturday morning!! What a superb write up!! The culture shock can be so daunting that if one is not well ‘padded’, one can ‘snap’ from the cultural shock.

    I believe with time, one gets used to the system that when you visit homeland, you just can’t fit it. Western world is not a playground for fickle minded….it’s challenging and interesting depending on your perception. You are challenged by life to adapt to your new environment and if you don’t have the necessary survival skills, you are doomed. You fall…you rise and keep trudging on. Living in diaspora, develops you…it makes you stronger.

    Thanks for your write up.


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