A while ago, this question wouldn’t have bothered me because it didn’t affect me, but now I have been asked the question a couple of times and I have found out that a lot of parents share this fear as well. Some say that children bred in foreign lands lose the African culture of respect, orderliness, togetherness, communal living etc.
Another even told me that they had been advised, not to send their kids outside the walls of Nigeria for their higher education, because they would not come back the same.
I find this very funny because you can try to cage a child but when the time comes the child would be set free, fly and never return.
Much as I love my African culture I do not believe everything must be imbibed, things like boys are prohibited from the kitchen, males are more important than females etc.
The Yorubas believe that one must curtsy to greet an elder; this is a big thing for them and you are seen as rude and uncultured if you do not adhere by these rules. Well I am not Yoruba and I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be respectful of my elders but not curtsy all the time. Do I feel children who greet me without curtsying are rude or lack home training? No I don’t, others may, I don’t.
Do I think children lose their strong African heritage in a foreign land? Yes, sometimes they do. Maybe, because it is so difficult to imbibe that in them when you are seemingly the only person bringing up your child, a certain way. Or maybe because you are in a far away land, working day and night you may not just have the time to make sure they observe the Africa culture.
When it comes to food, it could also be hard to find the Nigerian food out there, so you make do with what you have.
For me I find that it is a 50/50 chance. Here where I live it’s a bit easy to find a few things, like okra, mint leaf, spinach (green), which can be used for eforiro. You also find vegetables that are similar to the vegetables back at home and then you can substitute with it. Even though I am not keen on a lot of African traditions, I try.
Let me leave you with a few tips of my own:
Teach your kids your language: a kid can learn as many as five to ten languages fluently. It gets harder when they turn 7. So if your kids haven’t turned 7 yet, make sure you start communicating to them in your dialect. Let me warn you this is the hardest thing ever. I do not know how to speak my dialect but I know how to speak French, so I have started communicating with my daughter in French. This is so exhausting It is unbelievable. I would tell her to do something in French a million times before she would understand what I have said. This is not the same with English as she grasps that fast. So whatever your dialect is be it Ibani, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik speak it to your kids all the time, after a few months they would begin to understand it. Forget about English in the house, they will learn that everywhere else.
Cook a Nigerian meal once a week. Now this can be stressful especially when mummy has to work all day and daddy has to work all night, but somehow we can figure it out. I do not like cooking so this isn’t my forte. I just look for the easiest food ever, that’s why I like my friend Chidinma Okpara’s blog www.nigerianlazychef.com. You should check it out. It has a lot of recipes: cooking time 30 minutes or less and you are done. On my kid’s menu they have okro soup once or twice a week. I can change the soup or something, I try jollof rice as well, and the almighty tomato stew comes in handy. But they love swallow; at least they know what it is and they can eat it very well, even though they would prefer using cutlery. You sha know, your native food.
I am not a fan of Nigerian movies because of the low quality story line but when you live in a foreign land you want your kids to at least know where you come from. Let them watch a few of them, make sure it isn’t watched unsupervised. I just heard you can find Nigerian movies on Netflix not sure, check that out. Check out Iroko tv, YouTube and then you can find some African cartoons as well.
Lastly I will say this; talk to them about Nigeria. Tell them stories about your childhood. Tell them about their grand parents and their uncles and aunties. Tell them about boarding school life if you did go. Let them know that Nigerians do not live with lions, and they didn’t walk all the way from Nigeria to America. Let them not sound ignorant insisting that Africa is a country, this is one of my pet peeves.