JJC to Nigeria: Questions from New Arrivals like Me

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

Please don’t mind me: I am a new arrival, a JJC to Nigeria after almost three decades in Yankee. Since my arrival, I tend to get things wrong in terms of my understanding of body language, meaning of idiom and parables, permissible and impermissible behaviors, fashion and music and how to approach women. I knew, but somehow forgot that the Western and non-Western world are worlds apart in terms of authenticity of language and nuances. You see, I have been cheated and taken advantage of so many times by taxi drivers, market women and by my neighbors it is no longer fun being a novice, a Johnny Just Come. In fact, I get too many things wrong so much so it is beginning to bother me as my mistakes and miscalculations generally open me up to ridicule and exploitation. Haba, what’s a man to do? Please help with these questions and observations.

First, how do I get rid of my Yankee Accent? Every time I open my mouth to speak, it gives me away. Something else: I keep forgetting that the currency is Naira, and not dollars. Every time I say dollar this or dollar that, the merchants eyes light up — signifying “here comes another sucker!”

Second, what’s the matter with my eating habit? I am still not comfortable eating with my bare hands. I eat pounded yam, egusi and panla with knife and fork; I eat Amala, ewedu and gbegiri with knife and fork. The other day when I asked for a straw and ice cubes with my glass of coke, my host looked at me funny.

Third, I went out on my first and second date early this month. On my first date I caused some commotion when I paid half of the bill and asked my date to pay her half. I haven’t seen her since. On my second date, when I attempted to kiss the girl in public, she refused asking that I wait until we are alone. Nna, what’s the big deal kissing in public?

Fourth, what is it about Mr. Biggs and about chicken joints? Most people I know prefer that we go to such places. I am more than 80 pounds overweight — which was brought on by several years of eating cheeseburgers, pizzas, fried chickens and tacos in America. Here in Naija, all my male and female friends want chicken and cheeseburgers and egg rolls and meat pies. Haba, I go die oooo.

Fifth, what is it about can Coke, can Pepsi, and can Sprite? Is it some sort of status symbol? I am a social drinker. In Yankee, it takes me a week or so to consume a six pack of beer; here in Naija, people are drinking the equivalent of a dozen six-packs at a sitting without getting drunk. My goodness, have you seen those hefty beer bottles?

Sixth, there are fine-fine sophisticated babes in Naija. But tell me: why is that most don’t shave their armpits? Unshaved armpits are bloody turn offs. What’s more, some leave the bush down under to grow uncontrollably. Why? Besides, most wear cheap and nauseating perfumes.

Seven, you know what pisses me off in the mornings? Those preachers! Just when I am about to get round-three or round-four sleep, some bloody preachers starts to preach and ring their bells telling me about the need for me to forsake my sins and all that. Haba, there ought to be a law against early morning preaching. Can you imagine committing fornication or adultery that morning and then some preacher telling it to your face?

Eight, if you think those preachers are intrusive, well, there are other pests: merchants who invades ones thought and privacy in city busses — selling all sorts of traditional and non-traditional medicines. The other day there was this fucker who wanted to sell me the Nigerian version of Viagra. He told me that his concoctions will help in congolizing babes. Heck, who told him I needed help in that department?

Nine, once it becomes apparent that I used to live in Yankee, I become the center of attention; once they know I have the ability to return to Yankee and that I do not need visa to dozens and dozens of countries, they become enamored with me. Gosh, in America, I was a cook with mere community college (AA) degree, yet even those with master’s and law degrees in Naija want to pin themselves to me. Kai, na wetin happen?

Ten, it is amazing how Nigerians are able to walk around with bags and bags of the Nigerian currency. The other day, I wanted to change $5,000.00 into naira…I needed a bag to hold the local currency. Not only was it inconvenient, I thought I was going to get robbed. And you know what: it took me forever counting the money to be sure I wasn’t being short-changed.

Eleven, when I was a boy/teenager growing up in Lagos, Ibadan, and Ilorin, prostrating to greet an elder was the normal, correct and required thing to do. I never shook an elder’s hand unless the elder extended his or her hand (even so I bowed and bowed and bowed to receive the hand). Today, I don’t see that many people prostrating to greet their elders. Young boys just say “Hi!” “Hello!” or just greet nonchalantly. Haba, what’s going on?

And finally, are there boarding schools left in Nigeria? I sometimes think that if I hadn’t gone to boarding school, I would have turned out less than a model citizen. (Trust me I am a model citizen!) Besides great formal education, there is a lot boarding schools give, i.e. self-discipline, responsibility and responsible behavior, time management and the ability to multi-task, getting to know and establishing life-long relationship with people from diverse background. My stay at Government Secondary School, Ilorin, Kwara State, was a balm…one of the finest and best years of my life.

You may also like


olub January 12, 2008 - 7:06 pm

…13, am listening,is that all? cant stop laughing

amaka July 4, 2007 - 12:40 am

Your article made for interesting reading. About ten years ago, I visited Naija after a 12 year absence. I lived in Lagos for 3 years. At first, one does experience culture shock but after some time, one learns to adapt. At the time, I absolutely refused to speak broken english to try and fit in. I was and still am proud of my "yankee" accent. Yes, I was called a JJC and an aje butta but I didn't care. Trust me, the cab drivers and women in the market place got to know that I was no easy mark. I learned to haggle with the best of them. As for the chicks with the harry pits, that's on you dude, cause in the circles I hung out in, no chicks had hairy pits. Good luck to you and hopefully, things will get easier. I eventually plan on living in Nigeria and am looking forward to that day. God bless.

Tootsie June 17, 2007 - 5:08 pm

Bros I feel you on this one! Almost every corner in Lagos is turning into a church. I can relate on that one. Even when i refused to say a word, the Aboki looked at me and was like this one na from America! He said i was looking fresh. It took me a while not to say dollar in the market place. My sista always knudges me like – big sis…and i'll be like oh em naira. I once got pulled over by a 9ja cop and tried everything to disguise my accent…even that didnt work cos he eventually found out and asked me to settle him! I spoke ibo, pidgin, nothing worked he said even my pidgen and ibo has a bit of a phonetic flavor to it. I even lied that i was based in 9ja, a student at university of Ilorin and didn't have nothing to settle him…he will not give up, even his oga joined in and we had to go to the station, no be small thing o! I parted ways with 5,000 from the original 20,000 i was being fined. They said that the ownership of the car had not been transfered. They were lucky i was in a good mood that day, if not…them for see pepper.

Anonymous June 4, 2007 - 6:39 pm

Na you sabi, Sabella! Put up or shut up! 9ja will not change for you. As for the non shaven armpits of women….. i dont know where you got your women from but most ladies I know shave their armpits in Nija. Maybe you were checking out the ones of red light districts of Bar Beach, Empire and Ojuelegba! Lol

Tokunbo Awoshakin June 4, 2007 - 3:57 pm

Witty..easy to read. and very real. Thank you Sabella. Tokz.

Rosie June 4, 2007 - 3:37 pm

Heyaaa! Brother Sabella, don't worry. You will soon adjust. Thanks for the gist sha. Me, I am planning to go dis october. I no go take leg waka for Lagos without my sister abeg.

As for under arm hair on women, Sabella focus!!! What happened to inspecting boob-size?

You never go reach one month, you don find woman to fornicate wit? Thank God for early morning preachers. God sent them to you Sabella for a reason. For my papa house dat one no fit happen.

Thanks for the update. Now I know what to look out for.

enitanmason@gmail.com June 4, 2007 - 10:51 am

Haba! Why have I become so attached to this web site? Why do I find myself reading things that I feel compelled to respond to? Must be the excellent atmosphere of this forum and the on- top-of-things moderators. (Well done Sola and Co.) I must compliment the writers who sometimes get a hold of my reflex nerve. SABELLA! SABELLA! SABELLA! Hear me well O! I am concerned that your frustration with Nigeria is beginning to overtake you. You are losing that light hearted cynicism that made your writing one of my favorite things to read. Adjust to Naija or buy a ticket and head somewhere else. No place in the world will remain as you left it. Things will change and continue to change. Choose the place where you are most comfortable and settle in. In the final analysis you will have to evoke the 11th commandment — Do as you please. I wish you well. However, please stay out of the under arms of women; find something else to inspect. L.O.L.

Adebisi (UK) June 4, 2007 - 7:37 am

Hmmm… still cracking my brain to see if a "still self exiled 9ja man" could be of help here but then these are the same experiences I have also had to endure whenever I went to 9ja a.k.a Babylon on vacation. Like you, because I was partly raised and lived in the US, I have an American accent and no matter how much I try to push the 9ja accent through, wear shorts or buba and sokoto to disguise my JJCism, those sharp witted 9ja market women and peeps have their ways of finding you out. As for the babes, well my opinion is that as there are many gold diggers out there so are also very decent babes who know not to see a man as a "tipper" who'd be always more than willing to tip out all the coins and notes in anticipation of "some" that you might not even get in the end (trust me, many 9ja babes are hit and runs)

As for the preacher thing, I once had to go out one morning at about 5am to ask some silly dude who had come to our street in Surulere at that time of the day, to preach with a megaphone while brotherman was still trying to sleep. I was so pissed off I literarily went out on the street and asked him to cut it out.

So what to do bro? Well just see it as being a "born again" Nigerian. You were lost to Babylon, and now you're back. So like a child you're going to have to learn to start from the beginning. Whenever you go out, make sure you have some old friend, family or relative (unemployed of course) along who will ensure that you were not cheated out of the change they sure do hope to earn from you eventually.

Anyway, we all will be here in the DIASPORA daring the day we will have to perhaps come back and submit ourselves to what you are going through. But as long as you have you BLUE or RED P, remember, dem no send you comot from here o!!!

Anonymous June 4, 2007 - 3:57 am

Oh this is fun! Sabella you'll just have to enjoy life and adjust!


Leave a Comment