1- The Dot
In Africa, If a man wants to marry a woman, he must give a down payment to the family of the woman, depending off how much the father wants to give the hand of his daughter. But of course, the woman has to agree with the mariage first. Then, the father of the future husband meet with the father of the future wife, and they negociate for the price. This processus has multiple names, like "Lobola" in South Africa, or Maal in arabic Chad language.
2- The Respect for Elders
In Africa, as in many other cultures, we have a deep sense of respect for our elders. Whether they are parents, grandparents, or guardians, or chiefs. This notion is very important. For example, in some tribes in Nigeria, people even bow down to greet the elders. And in a culture where history and knowledge is mostly passed on by word of mouth, the elders have a tremendous amount of knowledge, which gives us invaluable life lessons.
And as far as parents and grandparents are concerned, they are the people who made sure that we are alive today. So it has nothing to do with how good they are or how bad they are, their love or their wealth, their mission has been to come together and bring us into this world. Mission accomplished for them, and because they did it, we have to respect them. It's super important. We can disagree with them, but that doesn't justify having the right to shout at them, attack them, or insult them. We have to respect the elders, especially the parents.
3- The Definition of Family
In African culture, we often have large families, for several reasons. The first is the notion of cousins/aunts. In some cultures, the cousin is only a first cousin, i.e. the son of the parent's brother. In our culture, a cousin is a person who has a close or distant family connection with us. For example, if a woman is my grandmother's cousin who had grandchildren of her own, then that woman is also my grandmother, and her grandchildren are my cousins.
I will even go further and say that in African culture, every person close to the family is a member of the family. We don't limit ourselves to blood ties to determine whether someone is a family member or not. For example, close friends of my parents I call them uncle and auntie.
This idea is a little bit in line with the values of respect for elders. It is common in African culture to call people who are older than us mom, dad, uncle or auntie when they are strangers.
4- The Tontine
Principle born in France in 1653, and also present in other cultures, the tontine is widely used in African culture.
The tontine is a savings plan where a group of people get together and put some money in a common fund, in order to give the earnings to one of the people in the group.
Let's say I'm in a tontine of 20 people that operates every 3 months for 5 years. The investment amount is 250 euros per person. And that my turn of earnings is today. Well today I will earn 250x20, or 5000 euros. And three months later, it will be the turn of another person.
It's a principle that allows you to save in order to have in the short term a large capital to finance a project. And because the more members there are in a tontine, the bigger the gains will be. In the African culture where we commonly have very large families, tontines are efficient.
5- The Language
In Europe and America, very often the native language of the country is spoken (French, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German). And a second language that we learn at school, and a third language that we often forget. So basically, we speak only one language, two if we are good at school or if our parents have transmitted us their native language, and three if we often watch TV series in VO on Netflix.
Well hang in there my friend. Africa contains more than 300 different languages! So it is common to see in African culture someone speaking several languages.
In Nigeria, for example, most Nigerians will speak basic English, but they will also speak Hausa, Yoruba, Pidgin and/or Igbo. A basic Nigerian may therefore be fluent in 2 to 5 different languages. And if he also Netflix in VO, it can go up to 6 or 7!
Ghana alone has 50 languages, 11 of which are taught at school.
In North Africa, Arabic is the main language, but Arabic is a big word! There is Moroccan Arabic, Egyptian, Algerian, Fessi, Hassaniyya, and other regional dialects such as Tuareg. However, most of them will also be fluent in French.
What do you think of these traditions? Did you recognize some of them? Or did some of them surprise you? Feel free to let me know what you think of this.
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And remember: Different folks, same strokes.