I’ve been feeling a bit down lately (read sorry for myself). One myth about living in a small town is that community feeling you’re supposed to experience living in a geographically small area where you’re bound to bump into the same people day in, day out. Wrong!
I’ve since discovered that living in a small town can be one of the loneliest experience ever. What do I mean?
Coming in as an outsider has it’s benefits. You’re not bogged down by historical social norms and can just be yourself. You can challenge the status quo and engage in discussions where you share your perspective gained from travelling the world. There is also the added bonus (or maybe not if you’re a bit of an introvert like me) of pretty much drawing attention wherever you go. Be it because of my Afrocentric hairstyles or my clothing, I tend to garner attention wherever i navigate in town.
Most people are friendly. A comment about your gele turns into an animated discussion about fashion around the world. A compliment about your braids may become an invite to coffee and a request to please please braid their own hair too. Because of these interactions, most people (read Le hubs) tend to think I know a lot of people and have a lot of friends. I thought so too in the early days only to find out that friendly as the small town residents may be, you are probably still considered an outsider. Great for small talk on the side walk or even in a coffee shop but not close enough to be invited home for the same cup of tea.
And here lies the cultural difference. Nigerians are by nature very friendly. We are friendly especially to foreigners and to each other especially in diaspora. To the average Nigerian, an invite to visit one at home even to a relative stranger or acquaintance is not unheard of. It is an invite to start a friendship. It means I think I like you, I’d like to get to know you more, pop by my house. To the average Irish, an invite to their home is reserved for family and real close friends. Although an introvert, I’m quite a social person. I enjoy having people over just chilling listening to music and having nibbles. I love nights in with friends as much as I enjoy going out to the cinema etc. Living in a big city means you tend to form relationships with friends with different interests. You know who to call to go out for drinks and who would drop everything for a night in with some vino and bad TV.
I’m finding that living in a small space that time may have forgotten can be limiting. It’s been a tough time adjusting my expectations of small town life here in arrghland. I’ll write more soon…