A culture shock is described as an overwhelming feeling that one gets after experiencing an extremely different culture from the one they are used to. It can occur anywhere, anytime and especially during the most unexpected places or situations. Jovago.com, Africa’s leading online hotel platform that promotes thousands of hotel options across the continent and beyond, highlights some of the culture shocks to expect when travelling to West Africa.
There is no privacy in Togo’s shared taxis
Togo is popular for shared taxis which are a common means of transportation across the West African country. In most countries, people use taxis for privacy purposes especially when avoiding crowded public transport systems. Even the shared taxis are among friends, families or people familiar to each other. In Togo, privacy is a far-fetched concept. The taxis are usually excessively packed with strangers who are forced to squeeze in the small vehicles. More interestingly, as one would expect strangers not to indulge each other, you should expect to answer all manner of questions; including those considered private. The passengers flatter while others quarrel. Some complain and others take the chance to know those seated next to them. Though it may seem so absurd, you might end up enjoying the shared taxi rides as you get to learn more of Togo’s culture
Beninese will favor you more if they consider you of a higher status
Perhaps in your country you follow in line either in banks, restaurants, bus stops, hospitals etc. No matter whom you are or where you came from, you patiently wait for your turn to be served. Well in Benin, you are likely to walk into an institution and be served before others who have been waiting for long; only because you are a foreigner. At first you might try to turn down the favor as it is ‘prejudice’ against the Beninese people, until you realize that it’s customary towards foreigners. So feel comfortable and enjoy the special treat; before heading back home to making queues.
Greetings are customary in Mali and Burping is a compliment
With advanced technology and communication apps across the world, human beings have almost become numb, and only speak through their gadgets. We sit next to each other in public buses and not look at each other leave alone saying ‘Hello’. If this describes you, beware to change before travelling to West Africa’s Mali. Here, greetings are considered part of human nature and values. Malians greet each other in rather long ways and as a foreigner, this might seem pointless. But you have come to meet and greet when you visit Mali. You want to ask for directions, greet first; you wish to order a meal, greet first; because in Mali, greetings are customary.
Moreover, another culture shock you are likely to experience is when people burp. In many instances, we consider this as mischief, while Malians burp as a sign that they have eaten their fill and that they compliment the person who prepared the meal. However, passing gas or what we commonly call farting in public is taboo in Mali.
The art of bargaining in Ghana
When travelling to Ghana, one thing you need to master is how to bargain. Ghanaians bargain for almost everything from food products in markets to taxi fare. Usually, the seller gives a higher price for an item or service. The buyer complains that it’s expensive and that its value is worth a lesser amount, then the customer suggests a price less than half the originally offered price. The bargaining goes on and on until the parties agree on a price that they are both satisfied with. With a common perception in Africa that foreigners are generally rich, you need to know the standard price of items before making the purchase. This way, you are aware when vendors charge you extremely higher than the normal price of the item. Smile, be friendly and enjoy the haggle.
Cameroon’s toll booths
There are toll booths all over Cameroon and all road users are expected to go through them. You will spot people standing in big barrels in the center lane, whose job is to collect the flat rate. The surprising thing is the number of hawkers and vendors eagerly waiting to make a sale whenever a car stops by the booths. A bunch of them chase the cars holding their goods and when they finally get hold of it, they all try to convince you to buy from them. Problem is they all talk at the same time explaining what they are selling, for how much and why you should buy; creating such a buzz. Good thing is you can always find anything from those vendors from drinks, fruits and other refreshments to have for the rest of your journey.
Culture shock is considered a normal part of one’s experience in a foreign country. The best way to overcome culture shock in West Africa and in any other part of the world is by learning how to adapt to those cultures. Recognize your shocks in the early stages of the travel to help you get over it quickly. Adjusting may take a while but the faster you overcome, the better your stay will be.