I recently just went on a summer break and visited two countries: England and Turkey. It was very much needed as I haven’t been able to leave the country since I moved back two years ago. One of the most beautiful things about traveling, for me, is getting to explore different cultures and the diversity. I find it fascinating how different countries have different habits and ways of life – and that is the biggest life eye opener.
Living in Nigeria, as many of you know, is such an experience. If you can live in Nigeria, you can live anywhere else. There are a lot of things we get adapted to without even realising. One substantial thing I’ve noticed about Nigerians is how friendly and inviting we are. This is something I think most of us take for granted, till you visit other countries at least.
I was on the train that goes to Liverpool street in London and I was exhausted from the night before. When you’re on holiday you tend to over maximize the few days you have. I was so tired and kept drifting in and out of sleep. I noticed this white lady stared at me for like 5 seconds, and I thought to myself “what exactly is she looking at?” only to realize 30 seconds later that the train had gotten to the last stop and I was still seated. I was the only one left on the train. The lady didn’t say anything to me, like literally no one hinted me or tapped me, nada. In Nigeria? That could never happen, someone must tell you, because we subconsciously look out for each other – either out of friendliness or out of just being in each other’s business.
If you happen to live in an apartment building in Nigeria and you have clothes out while it starts to rain and you’re out, a neighbour will pick out your clothes pending when you get back.
In England, not so much. I mean you can actually live next door to someone for years without saying a word. All you guys will probably do is smile at each other occasionally. There was a day I had locked myself out of my AirBnB apartment in London, I called my host but he was working at a restaurant and couldn’t make it back. I stood out in the cold (the little corridor between the door and the glass door) for hours… I was still there. The neighbours saw me, but went about their business. I was there till my host asked one of the neighbours to give me the spare key.
In Nigeria that would never happen; you’d probably get invited into their home till you get sorted out. It’s very intriguing, the English might not be the most friendly when it comes to day-to-day activities, but professionally they are top notch. They are always so warm and inviting. From the girl that works as a sales assistant in Zara to the manager at the bank; their professionalism is something worth emulating. Nigerians are generally warm and friendly, but professionally it always depends on their mood. You never know what you’d get and it’s almost as if they pour their frustrations with their jobs on the customers.
Also, in Nigeria I have always struggled with working out, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I try to do brisk walking for about 20 minutes and I get so tired and I want to pass out. But what I just suddenly realised is, it’s not that my body is tired, it’s just the environment that is not very conducive.
In London you tend to walk a lot, from your house to the station – usually 5-15 minutes, from the station to your destination and then back again. Visiting this summer I’m pretty sure I did a 2-hour walk every day without complaints. From visiting friends, to shopping, to going out to eat. The environment, the shops on the street, the smell of coffee, the weather, the breath of fresh air, all these motivates you. Your brain is stimulated, so you don’t get tired easily.
In Nigeria the system is organized in a way where you don’t walk a lot, and even when you make the conscious effort to do, the heat, noisy cars will not let you do for so long.
Also on my trip I noticed how paranoid and alert I was while someone was walking so close behind me, or when I heard a really loud sound or some dodgy movements. These are things I’ve picked up from living in Nigeria, survival skills because anything can happen at anytime so you have to be extremely alert.
When I visited Istanbul, it was quite short, but was very eventful. It was a lot to take in actually. Right from the airport, I started to notice how people looked at me differently, the men most especially. An airport staff who was supposed to help me in getting my visa, kept trying to get me to smoke with him.
His English was pretty bad, so I could barely hear what he was saying. Next thing I knew, I was in a hallway that reeked of weed! The horror.
On getting to my hotel, the stares continued and made me so uncomfortable. At first I was scared because of the fact it’s a predominantly muslim country, but then I realised these stares weren’t about prejudice but pure lust. These men were looking at me like a snack. The hotel staff who was trying to help me sort out the wifi for my room started to ask for my number and asked if he could book a room, so I could come over. I mean as unprofessional as Nigerians could be, I had never experienced this in Nigeria.
I decided to walk around and this is where it got interesting, Literally every driver would stare and look at me like I was just thrown into a lion’s den. Some would stop, and start speaking to me in Turkish, and some would just tap their friends to look. Some would stop their cars and offer to drop me at my desired destination.
I mean I’m a beautiful girl but even I knew it wasn’t about that. I later realized that they have a very strong fetish for blacks. The darker you are the more infatuated they became. They literally treat blacks like celebrities in some parts. This was such a breath of fresh air, because it goes against the narrative of racism. I had never felt so exotic, so desirable and all because of my dark skin color. It was an empowering feeling because the attention and love was overwhelming.
This is probably one of the reasons I love to travel and explore other countries and cultures: the fact that there is a lot to soak in and experience. So if you’re a black girl/guy and you like your snowflakes then Turkey is definitely the country for you… they love us out there.
Now, all these were my experiences, the beautiful people I met, amazing places I went all play a huge factor in this, I could go back next year and experience different situations altogether.. Every country has its culture, and although I believe we can all learn something from the other, this doesn’t make any better than the next.. we’re just all different due to different histories.. and I look forward to exploring a lot more of the world with you guys.