In Nigeria, I was a “fresh fish,” or JJC – Johnny just come, the affectionate nickname of newly arrived ex-pats. “Wahala” are all the problems you have to deal with, and you often need to complain about wahala or ask for no more wahala. But if you want a cheaper price, you ask to pay “small money.” Annoying people are called “goat“, and everything else bad are “bastads,” but all things good and wonderful are “sweet” or “sweetah.” Everything is said to happen “now now,” and repeating “yes” or “now” or “yes now” at the end of all your sentences is commonplace.
I met a Turkish guy couchsurfing in Lagos, and it turns out he was there to avoid mandatory military service back home. He explained religion like this: “It’s like cheap alcohol – first it makes you blind, then it makes you fight… And then it kills you.”
One of the workers at the German embassy in Lagos said “If I nah fite and I nah tief, then I’m gonna be somebody. And I neva fite and I nah tief so I’m ok.”
There are a lot of other sayings and gestures that have become so natural that it’s hard to think of them as local “-isms”, but then for all the other far-out, unexpected, crazy or chaotic happenings, there’s always “TIA”, This Is Africa, which explains and forgives the rest. In Senegal, they have a similar saying, “Senegalaisement“, or “the Senegalese way”, to explain the silly mistakes or illogical happenings one always seems to encounter in Dakar.
A friend of mine was asking a lot of questions about traveling in Africa, how it was, the cost of things, and the hassles I encountered. I responded to his questions and questioned back how it was to live in Africa, and he said “Life in Africa is easy, and it gets easier if people like you. Life in Africa is cheap too, but it’s even cheaper if people like you.” And that pretty much sums it up right – same story goes for traveling in Africa.