While driving through the Abuja streets the other week, there was a big discussion in the car about a new Kidnapper on the hunt who lured male victims to her car with her beauty (insert cliche movie scene here). The men chatting away in my car were surprised that a woman of such beauty who held a Bachelors degree would do such a despicable thing. I proceeded to ask whether her actions would be more acceptable if she were a male or better yet an unattractive uneducated female?
They paused for a minute, exchanged confused expressions and burst out laughing like I had said something so outlandish (thanks for the word Shets).
There are so many overt and covert double standards (like the example above) that face women no matter which country you go to and travelling alone as a young woman isn’t always easy because of these undeniable inequalities. Before heading overseas / leaving the house, I usually have to prep myself up a few times repeating to myself in song; “Who’s world is this? It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine!!” (See Nas, Illmatic 1994).
In all seriousness, it can be daunting - but entertaining the idea of what negativity may possibly come is time consuming and tiring. When I travel, I try to be as alert, realistic and present in my surroundings every time. I also try to implement bits of advice, like some given to me by my old man; “...talk less and listen more until I get used to the ebb and flow of things.” or “...Don’t smile too much.” - Cheers dad, I've chosen to stick to a 20% smile quota per day just to be safe.
Anyway, aside from that, the last few days have been filled with meetings, sourcing with suppliers and lots and lots of eating. In the midst of it all, I’ve been able to soak up a few tips and tricks handed over to me by concerned friends and family as they pass through. Thought I would share a handful of them in case you’re a female (or male) ever feeling like a Nigerian sabbatical;
- Look a minimum of 12 times both ways before crossing roads. The Okada's (motorbikes) here are ruthless
- The first price is never the real price. You will need to barter a few times and maybe walk away before you get the “last price” (even at some hotels and restaurants). There might be a little bit of arguing in the mix, but by the end of the transaction, you will be like old college friends laughing over a bottle of Star beer.
- Get to learn your traders, security guards, drivers and how to greet them. Everyone wants to be a chief in life, so whether it be Oga, Alahaji, or Mallam - give him some top dog label and share the respect.
- Tip, tip and tip - and I don’t just mean waitresses (even the receptionist wants a cut if they’ve made your day easier) - your kindness is good, but your Naira is better.
- If you’re white, mixed race, Asian - or smell like a foreigner in any way - prices will double or triple. Return to step 2 and don’t get all offended. I’d try to rip me off too if I weren’t me.
- Ladies, if you’ve arranged an uber (yes they are fully functioning here and saving lives), be aware that your driver might just save your number and invite you for lunch the following day.
- Finally, if you’re a female planning on entering the kidnapping business, just make sure you aren’t too attractive or intelligent. There’s nothing a Nigerian hates more than a wasted degree or a pretty face gone astray.
Till next time when I head to Aba, the commercial hub of Nigeria - to immerse myself in market maddness. Apparently they can create anything from scratch there, including a new wife for a lonely man.