No hospitality like Nigerian hospitality

Shortly after immigrating to Canada, my parents became friends with a Yoruba couple who were a few years younger than them. They had no children when we first met them but within a few years, they had a couple of boys. Then we moved across the country, or maybe they moved first. Anyway, we ended up about 8-10 hours drive from one another.

Every once a while in the summer, we’d drive over to visit each other, and our parents kept in touch through the year by phone.

In 2001, our friends called us to say that their friends in Lagos (another couple) would be coming to our city to take a course and they (our friends) wanted to know if we could host their friends. The Lagos couple didn’t know that they would be unable commute from our friend’s place to their course daily since the two locations are 8-10 drive apart (in one direction). My parents of course agreed to have this couple stay with us. These people were strangers to my parents, but any friend of their friends is welcome, and that is how Nigerians operate. We readied one of our rooms for them (mine I think) and my parents let them use our house as needed.

My mom and sister were leaving for Nigeria during the time these people would be staying with us, and promises were made to try and meet up when the couple returned to Nigeria, since my mom and sister would still be there. Our guests stayed with us for some time and after my mom and sister left for Nigeria, my dad made sure their needs were met.

My mom, sister and these new friends managed to meet up while they were all in Nigeria. The wife’s sister is a judge so my sister said she got to go to court and see the judge preside and enjoyed that. Our new friends were very helpful in making the trip back smooth for my mom and sister. My parents were in Nigeria in 2006, and I don’t think these friends were around when they were there, so they didn’t meet up. Fast forward to our trip in 2008 and these people were a Godsend: they came and picked us up from the airport and we stayed with them in a room that was prepared for us (we don’t have any family in Lagos). On our way back the husband made checking in at the airport go as smoothly as possible. The trip back home was actually terrible, especially the hours spent in the airport, and I really meant to document it sooner but now most of the details are gone from my memory. Let’s just say that there was a stage where both husband and wife were telling the officials (and by telling I mean yelling at) that “these kids”, pointing to my sister and I, haven’t been to Nigeria for years and these officials that are giving us such a hard time are not giving us a good impression of the potential of Nigeria. They really fought for us and it was much appreciated.

When we returned, I kept in contact with the couple mostly by email and since then, the husband has been in North America a couple of times. The most recent time was last week, when he sent me an email to let me know he was in our part of the world and although he couldn’t meet up with us, he would like to talk on the phone. He and my parents talked, and then I talked to him, and he was happy to hear that my mom, sister and I are hoping to come to Nigeria again in the next year. He asked about the time we were thinking of coming, and he said he and his wife wouldn’t be around at that time, but he was going leave us their house and a driver, and make sure we were picked up at the airport!

I was humbled by their generosity. You see, when I was younger (and when I was not so young), I often criticized my mom especially for her hospitality. She has always been a warn and overly generous person in my opinion, and we were constantly having to tidy the house an extra bit to prepare for someone she had invited over on very short notice. She once heard a couple in the store she works at speaking in Yoruba and went up to them, found out they were visiting their son in our city and invited them over for dinner! When she came home and told us, my response was “You don’t know these people and you’re inviting them over? I don’t understand!” and the truth of the matter is that I am unfortunately “Canadianized” when it comes to hospitality. It’s something I have been trying to work on. I’m not yet at the stage of working on being more welcoming to strangers; I just want to feel comfortable throwing my home open to friends and acquaintances more often.

My parents are not wealthy, their home is furnished with some second and third hand items in addition to some new pieces that are now over a dozen years old. The food she provides is excellent since she’s a fantastic cook, but she’s not serving luxury food items. But every guest that leaves their house goes home with a huge smile on their face, having enjoyed true friendship and warmth. This sort of things comes effortlessly to my parents.

I truly believe that our lives and our belongings are better shared. We’re on this earth for such a short time and when we are gone, we will be remembered by what we did for others. If our life is all about accumulating stuff, being comfortable and not stretching our necks out sometimes for our fellow man or woman, our deaths will not fill many with sorrow or true mourning. I’m not saying you should start being generous and welcoming because you want a huge turnout at your funeral, but just think about how much fuller your life is after you have shared it with someone.

There are a lot of bad things that have been said about Nigerians collectively, but I would like to add this positive to the mix: there is no hospitality like Nigerian hospitality. Even those who don’t have much will happily leave it at your disposal. I am thankful for the many examples of this hospitality that has touched my life and I continually aspire to be like this.

22 thoughts on “No hospitality like Nigerian hospitality

  1. Lovely Post about Nigeria and Nigerians, Good People, Great Nation.

    Nigerian hospitality is truly a great one.

    Lovely couple and your family too showed a great sense of hospitality.

    its true that we are here for a short time and the lives that we touch is what really matters not what we have, but what we have to give

  2. True talk! Even though it seems we're the most selfish pple @ times we still look out for each other and have 'my people' bond. This post just reminded me of the importance of hospitality, thanks.

  3. GNG, to say I like this post would be an understatement.

    I was touched by this, "I truly believe that our lives and our belongings are better shared. We’re on this earth for such a short time and when we are gone, we will be remembered by what we did for others." Your parents are an example of this.

    You should tweet this paragraph…lovely!

  4. that is an awesome thing both they and ur parents did. That fortunately is an integral part of Nigerian way of life. Its one of those things Im thankful for. We have a lot of problems but generosity is not one of them. Love ur post

  5. I LOVE THIS!!!! U r so right about Nigerian hospitality. My mom is like that too. I learned to accept it a long while ago and i think i might have caught the bug too. It's good to be nice to people.

  6. Personally, I'm working on that hospitality thing oo. That 'canadanization' is catching up even in Naija. I don't understand how our parents found it so easy to be open to kit and kin and strangers. God bless em! nowadays maybe cos of increase in crime and maybe having your fingers burnt by the so called friends[my sis' friend came for the weekend and sis jewelry walked away with her] we tend to be leery about how we open our arms/homes. May God give us open hearts to love like Him!

  7. Our parents generation was very good about hospitality towards fellow Nigerians and I hope our generation can be like that too!

  8. awesome post GNG…yes, Nigerians truly r some of the most hospitable people on earth…I'm touched by the relationship that your's and the other 2 Nigerian families in this story had/have…it's simply beautiful to be able to help one another like that…

    PS; Where did u buy ur domain name pls?

  9. You know, I agree with you. These countries do sth to our openness and hospitality.

    It is truly a blessing these days when you meet an open honest person, that will go out of their way for you no strings attached.

    (Its also a good way to bribe God for blessings.) Loool

  10. This is an awesome post and strikes so many chords with me. You and your parents did good and so many Nigerians continue to do the same. That was one of the many things I missed when I moved to the UK and continue to remember with nostalgia. In a lot of cases, we're like one big happy family.

  11. very rarely nowadays do you get a chance to hear some thing straight forwardly and honestly positive about Nigerians (sad, but true). However, this is one thing that I have always known and hope will never change. Nigerians are naturally generaous and hospitable. … I really hope the condition of the country gets back to the point where this fact is readily visible again. Nicely blogged!

  12. I guess I have always taken this Nigerian hospitality for granted 'cos while growing up, hosting friends of friends was a normal occurrence at our house plus we always had to accommodate relatives even those whose only connection to us was by marriage and not necessarily blood.

    I think people are much less willing to throw open their doors as widely as they once did but the spirit of hospitality is still there.

  13. This was a very good read GNG. Nigerians are very hospitable! Sometimes I wonder about my parents and how nice they are, But I guess its a Nigerian thing!

  14. Word! My home has been open to so many people, a few times i have grumbled but most times, it has been willingly and i believe my husband and i have been blessed for it.

    What is life if not shared?

  15. Your mum reminds me of my mum. When she came over when Princes was born, as soon as the health visitor or midwife came to examine Princess at home,my mum was already in the kitchen making tea and serving biscuits. Both times, these oyinbo women were shocked and impressed and kept saying thank u. My mum believes you shouldn't ask your visitors if they want a drink or food. Offer them food/drink frist and see if they won't take it. My mum and your mum amaze me because I also don't see myself as that hospitable especially to strangers. I need that spirit because even our lord commands us to be kind to strangers.

  16. GNG this is such a great post.

    There is something about Nigerian hospitality that can't be rivalled. No matter where you go in the world, you are always treated as if you're family. My mum has the heart of hospitality and I hope I can develop it too in my new home. Rather than feel put out by it, actually be honoured to open up your home to people.

    As writefreak said – 'What is life if not shared?'

  17. The bible tells us to be hospitable as some have entertained angels unawares! I love our hospitality, in my mums area its an insult to actually ask if visitors want something to drink, like they say if you ask you do not want to serve them anything:)

    Hospitality should come without prompting but I know it does not come easy especially if you cant treat your visitors like Kings or Queen's. My philosophy is to be a gracious host. I love to be warmly welcomed and so I strive to do the same!

  18. Well said GNG…it makes me full of pride..alas! why didn't the BBC documentary pick on this also huh? This is ONE thing they lack in abroad, hence,we were tagged the most 2nd happiest people in the world abi? AM THANKFUL TO GOD AM A NIGERIAN! *grinning from ear to ear!*

  19. Yes oh! It wasn't until a time that I spent a night with some American friends that I truly realized how hospitable Nigerians are…..Imagine, I stayed the night, woke up in the morning, and the girl didn't offer any of us any kind of food whatsoever. We had to go out and buy our own. Na wa oh! That's unheard of in a Nigerian house. It really made me see the difference between Nigerians and Americans (Canadians, abi?) Lol.

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