Your trip to Nigeria should be very pleasant and engaging if you prepare ahead of time, and set out with an open mind.Visit Nigerian websites, like Nigerian newspapers, government sites, diplomatic/consular web sites etc. Travel sites like bttravel.com have proven quite competent in providing competitive fares and excellent customer services for flights to Nigeria. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office website www.fco.gov.uk has fairly current and useful information on Nigeria. Most other foreign web sites have notoriously outdated or stereotypical and unreliable information. You need a balanced view. If possible, talk to an American who has visited Nigeria, or a Nigerian living in the United States. You should be able to discern that visiting a mega-city like Lagos – a kind of Nigerian New York – never gives the true picture of any country. Plan to visit smaller towns and more traditional locations.
Nigeria is a multi-national state. Approximately 250 nationalities of different sizes with a broad spectrum of languages, culture, and aspirations live in Nigeria. However, four ethnic groups together account for over 60% of the country’s total population: the Fulani and Hausa an array of smaller nation groups live in the north; the Igbo predominate in the east and the Yoruba in the southwest. The Edo, Ibibio and Efik Kanuri, Nupe, Tiv, Chamba, Ekoi and Ijaw are smaller but still important groups. Other groups are quite small. Nigerian people, although from a great variety of sub-national backgrounds – with their different language and cultures – are unified by their warmth and hospitality, translated into the sometimes overwhelming love its people reserve for visitors, be they local or international. Practically any family in any corner of Nigeria will surrender to a visitor their meal, their time, even their car and sleeping place. The Nigerian home is not his castle. Appointments are not expected for visits to most Nigerian families. It is common for guests to arrive from afar at midnight to a warm and cheerful reception. Most families play constant host to a retinue of relatives and friends. Nigerians hardly ever split the bill in a bar or restaurant. The practice is seen as a symbol of extreme stinginess. This is one major difference between the West and Africa.
Another is the practice of tipping. In most bars and restaurant tips are not expected. But if tips were given, the recipient would show extreme, and sometimes colourful, gratitude. Nigerians love to learn about the life of people outside their territory and are known to direct acerbic jokes at themselves and their country sometimes. Nigerians themselves tell the sharpest practical jokes about Nigerians. Nigerians are a very colourful people, from the way they dress, the way they dance, the way they “spray” dancers with money, the way they walk, and talk, the way they live. Age is a major index for respect. These days, social standing has become a competing factor. Chiefs and elders are greeted with deep and sometimes dramatic respect. In most parts of the west (Yorubaland) younger people prostrate before their elders, including their parents, when they come in contact with them. In most part of the north, a curtsy or a deep bow would suffice. In the east, it is all right to hug and shake hands with older people. With age comes responsibility. The older person must be well behaved and exude wisdom. More importantly, the older person or the better-placed person is expected to pick up the bill at the restaurant, in the bus or taxi or in the pub.
Nigerian life is powered by a sense of trust and inherent honesty. While the bar tender in the United States will insist on pre-payment, Nigerians do not get asked for payment until they indicate their readiness to leave – even if they had been in the bar or restaurant for 12 hours. The reception and trust of visitors and other Nigerians is another pointer to this attribute.