Are You Ok?

By Anthony Chuka Konwea, PhD, PE
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Be careful of socio-cultural differences when you interact with or make friends with people from a different culture.

So, a Facebook friend from a different country who had been sending me messages which I had not yet been able to reply asked me just now.

Friend: Are you ok?
Having interacted with many people from many different cultures, I knew what the friend actually meant was "how are things with you? or "how are you doing, I hope everything is ok?" I was in a good mood and wanted to be mischievous. So, the Nigerian in me replied.

Me: Ha ha ha. how do you mean please?
Friend: Nothing Sir, just checking out on you
Me: I am doing good actually. In Nigeria when you ask somebody 'are you ok?' the assumption is that you are asking him if he is still with his senses. I know it is different elsewhere.

Friend: Ok Sir. Sorry for that ok? I don't mean that.

Me: I know of course. The Nigerian in me just wanted to be sure. Just be careful when you say that to unexposed Nigerians. They may take offense. Ha ha ha.

Friend: Ok. Thanks Sir. Ok sir then.
Me: In Nigeria our ways are mostly twisted. Upside down.

Friend: Thanks for everything including your time and correction. Ok thanks.

Me: I hope you don't mind if I use this encounter on Facebook just to educate my country men and women who are ignorant of little cultural differences. I will not reveal your identity of course.

Friend: Please no Sir, sorry, Forgive.
Me: No. I don't mean in a bad way, because I know you did not mean bad. Americans ask the same question when they are just trying to show friendliness.

Friend: Ok. But please forgive me and forget.
Me: It is simply to educate Nigerians not to be offended when they are asked this question.

Friend: Ok. Thanks. Are you ok is like 'how are you doing?

Me: I know. But many unexposed Nigerians will not know. It is important to educate them. Ha ha ha.

Now if a fellow Nigerian had asked me that question, it is possible I may have taken offence. You see in Nigeria, fights often start like this.

Nigerian A: Are you ok?
Nigerian B: Me? You must be mad to ask me such a stupid question.

Nigerian A: Are you really sure you are ok?
Nigerian B: Your father is mad?
Nigeria A: You are abusing my father? You must be crazy. Your father and mother are both mad.

Before you can say Jack, both have come to blows.
So, foreigners beware. Kindly think twice before you ask a Nigerian 'are you ok?' He may first get mad with you before he gets sober, because we have got it all twisted.

Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.

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