Natalya Yisa was born in Izhevsk, Russia, but her love for her husband from Nigeria convinced her to move to his home country. Now, she has a popular blog where she talks about how she loves her big African family and the entire country along with them. Natalya is convinced that you should not believe stereotypes about something before you see it with your own eyes.
Thanks to Natalya, we at 5 Fun Facts also became interested in Africa and want to tell you about some things you probably don’t know about the African culture.
- Sometimes, I feel like there are no children here. Well, there are children who are younger than 2, and then they suddenly turn into adults. Before the age of 2, people play with kids and carry them in their hands. At the age of one, children are sent to school where they learn the alphabet and numbers. They begin their life here much faster than anywhere else.
I read a little bit about some statistics: “In Nigeria, 90% of 2-year-old children can wash themselves, 75% can buy things, and 39% can wash their own dishes.” The main principle here is not to waste a lot of time on child rearing and to be a good role model.
Fashion and Beauty
In Nigeria, there are no such thing as “male” and “female” colors. You will see men here wearing clothes in every shade of pink. Flowers, butterflies, and even clothes with lace and other decorations are worn by men in Nigeria. By the way, these clothes don’t make them any less masculine.
Turbans in Nigeria are a necessity. Reason number one: African women have very “complicated” hair. It is much faster to just hide it, than to try to make it look good. Reason number 2: the dust that gets in their hair from the streets is very hard to wash out.
- Just to give you an idea: the hat is not only very warm but it also has a layer of artificial fur. They also wear vests made of polyester, short puffy jackets, and even wool socks. And a lot of people dress like this, even though the weather is extremely hot. The hats are needed to protect their hair from the dust. And puffy jackets, boots, and other clothes are just trendy here. The more fur you have, the more trendy you are.
- The tradition of scarification of newborns is slowly disappearing. In the past, people did this to show that someone belonged to a certain tribe. Now, people are ashamed of their scars, they use cosmetics to hide them or even get surgery to remove them completely. But this girl, Adetútú, took part in a photo shoot and asked the photographer not to hide her scars. She posted her photos on Instagram and people from all over the world started sharing them. Now, she is a famous Nigerian model and her scars are her “signature.”
- When wearing light clothing, most people usually wear white or light underwear so that nobody can see them. But here, people wear black underwear when they wear white clothes.
- For us, mangos are exotic fruits, but for people in Nigeria, apples are exotic. Apples here are one of the most expensive fruits.
- In many other countries, people want to get tan, but here, people buy soaps, shower gels, oils, and creams that are “whitening.”
- In other countries, people boil small, powder-like grains to make a hot cereal or oatmeal, and here, they boil it in one solid piece. After that, they take it and put it into soup.
- Natural hair may seem to be the best thing for the rest of the world. But for Nigerian women, artificial hair (like wigs and extensions) is the best.
- We are used to our mothers making a tasty breakfast for us in the morning. But in Nigeria, children make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for their mothers.
- When someone offers help to Nigerian people, they don’t refuse, they just accept it.
The questions they don’t ask and don’t know the answers to
- How old are your parents?
Here, they don’t ask about the age of older people, so many people don’t even know the age of their mothers and fathers. In addition to that, many people here don’t have a passport. They often call it an international passport because they only get it if they need to travel abroad. The electricity bill is the most important piece of paper in Nigeria (you can’t even get a bank account without it).
- What is the weather like?
This is a completely useless question. Why does it matter anyway? We know that in December and January, you should wear a sweater in the evening and in the morning, and in August and October, you should have an umbrella with you. That’s basically all the information you need.
- How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
Here, size only matters when they need to buy new clothes.
- What is the distance between points A and B?
The most specific answer I’ve ever heard is, “It’s far.”
I am still amazed at how different their thinking is.
Views from a Nigerian mother
This woman (my Nigerian mother) sometimes says things I just can’t help but write down:
- “Marriage is both the best and the most terrible thing that will ever happen in your life.”
- “Remember, every time you cry, I cry with you. Do you want me to cry?”
- “If I hadn’t sent all my children to Russia to get an education, I would have been able to build a house. But this would not have made me happy. The best investment you can make is an investment in your children!”
- “Your children will solve all of your problems. All you need to do is just take a look at them.”
The adventures of Natalya’s husband in Russia
- When Jacob was on the plane that was headed for Russia, he wanted to run away. He thought he had taken the wrong flight and that he was flying to China. The announcement on board was first made in Russian and he was not warned that in Russia, English was not the official language. Also, he arrived in Russia on February 23 and he didn’t know that there was snow in Russia. He was only wearing shorts and a T-shirt, so he looked very exotic at the airport.
- In the beginning, when Jacob wanted chicken from the supermarket, he had to bend his arms at the elbows to explain what he needed. When a salesperson finally realized what he wanted, she brought out a whole frozen chicken that didn’t have any feathers anymore, Jacob had no idea what it was and asked if the chicken was okay to eat. In Nigeria, chickens are sold alive.
- Once, Jacob told a woman he didn’t know, “Thanks, ma!” and it became an awkward situation because she didn’t understand what that meant. After that, he didn’t say another word to her until he learned her first and last name. In Nigeria, it is considered very polite to address an adult woman as “ma,” and using their name is considered impolite.
Food, traditions, and other things
- I miss bouquets of flowers so much. In Nigeria, they don’t have the tradition of presenting flowers to women. And it’s actually very hard to find flowers there. I remember I wanted to create a bouquet of flowers for our wedding, but all I could find were 2 flowers on a tree. I guess my mom told the decorator about my idea and on the day of our wedding, the decorator told me proudly, “I added flowers…” In reality, there were just a couple of palm trees near where we were going to be married.
- When I cut a watermelon, this is how we share it: I eat the pink part, they eat the rind. Well, I might be exaggerating a little, but they really do eat the rind. They say it has some kind of medicinal quality. When I ask them, “What is this part good for?” that just say that it’s good for the body, whatever that means.
- In Africa, they love sliding, too. But this is not water or dirt, it’s just a rock that was polished by thousands of children. Would you take the risk?
- Meet plantains! They are not bananas! Don’t call them bananas! Plantains are vegetables. They can be eaten while they are still unripe and when they are completely ripe. They use unripe ones to boil into some kind of soup and when they’re ripe, they are just eaten as is.
- I visited a local barbershop with Jacob and I couldn’t take my eyes off the process. The barber dipped the razor in powder and drew the edges of the hairline. The powder serves 2 purposes, it keeps the facial skin safe, and keeps the edges very clear so that everything looks symmetrical. After the haircut is done, the best part starts: the barber uses a hot towel to wash the head, neck, and face, and applies a moisturizer and some perfume. The whole thing costs less than 3 euro.
- There are no regulations on transportation here. They can transport all kinds of things on 2-wheel bikes: 10 live chickens, 6 sheep, a family of 7 people, a fridge. Or these guys with their eggs. And they drove for 3 hours! Just so you know, the roads are not exactly good in Nigeria.
- “Nigerian wife” was something I heard in the immigration office many times. I was there because I was having a document made that is called “Nigerian wife.” And when people around me noticed that I was surprised every time I heard “Nigerian wife,” they laughed and told me, “It’s not for you, we were calling that woman Ninja wife.”
Here, there are people who are named things like:
- They add “Maggi Seasoning Cubes” to almost all the foods here. And also, pepper. A LOT of pepper. Children take noodles to school. Besides, they also give soda and lollipops to children before the age of one.
And in order to keep meat from spoiling (because the electricity here is not stable), it is boiled, and then fried in a lot of oil. These pieces of meat can be kept outside of a fridge for about a week. And they don’t peel sunflower seeds, they eat them as they are. And they don’t have sweets here. No chocolate, no cookies, nothing.
- I consider the cashew my favorite discovery here. This is both a fruit and a nut, 2 in one. The fruit is the yellow part above. It tastes like apple, and it is soft and juicy. Everyone loves it.
And the nut is hidden in the green piece below and covered in poison. You can’t try to remove it with your bare hands. The liquid inside can actually burn you. This is why they are fried first and then peeled one by one. These dangerous nuts are not fried at home. So, even though we have cashews in the garden, we don’t have the nuts at home.
- When I ask my husband to tell me something nice, this is what I get:
“You are a mosquito, and you are the only person who I let bite me. You are the sugar in my tea. You are a Maggi Cube. You are like an air conditioner at 16°C!”
It is great that I live in Nigeria and I understand how every single one of these is truly a compliment (mosquitos transmit diseases, and people try to hide from them by any means possible).
Living conditions and why there is something more important than those
- We haven’t had water for 5 days now. The last time this happened, we didn’t have water for one month. How do we live? We save water in large containers. And when we run out of the water, we buy it. We call a man with these canisters, and if we can, we dig a well.
- There is also a schedule of when we have electricity. The mobile internet connection here is really unstable. Now we enjoy having electricity from 8 am to 2 pm and 8 pm to midnight. In fact, we’ve gotten used to it. This is a great way to discipline yourself. I plan my day in advance. I know when I can charge my phone battery and when I can use the internet connection. In Izhevsk, I would just spend the whole day on my phone and miss entire days of my life.
Before I visited Nigeria for the first time, I didn’t know anything about this country and I didn’t ask my husband any questions. When we were planning to travel here to have our wedding celebration, many people started scaring me with different stereotypes. My husband just watched but said nothing and I can’t even remember what people told me. I couldn’t believe that the place my husband was from could be that bad.
After we lived here for a month, we’d been to a village, to a province, and to the capital, and I saw a very different country. We spent a week in a luxurious 2-story house with a mountain view, a pool, and its own water supply. And we also had days when we didn’t have water and/or electricity and it was scary to go outside without a local.
Nothing has scared me that much. I’ve always had one thought in my mind, “If this country made such a great man, it means that the country itself is great too!” And here I am, living here every day, and I see that Nigeria is very different from what people think. But it is always just our choice. It doesn’t matter where you live, it matters who you live with. Value each other.
Do you think you would follow someone you love to a different continent and learn to live in their culture? What was the most surprising thing for you about the lifestyle in Nigeria?