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Nigeria: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Africa, Nigeria

woman at nigerian market 


map of nigeriaLocation: Western Africa, bounded by Niger in the North, Cameroon in the East, Benin in the West, and the Gulf of Guinea in the South.

Capital: Abuja.

Climate: Nigeria experiences tropical weather with some aridity in the North and equatorial weather in the South.

Population: 149,229,090 as per July 2009 estimates. About 70% of the population live below poverty line while unemployment rate hovers at 4.9%. Nigerian economy is solely dependant on its rich yet underutilised oil reserves. Political instability and corruption have led to inadequate management of resources. In recent times the Nigerian government has begun to focus on infrastructure in a bid to bring about economic reforms. Other than oil Nigeria has resources such as coal, tin, palm oil, peanuts, cotton, rubber, cement, chemicals, and a successful shipping industry.

traditional nigerian drummersEthnic Make-up: Main ethnic groups from about 250 are Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%

Religions: Islam 50%, Christianity 40%, and other native religions. The Constitution guarantees freedom to practice all faiths.

Language: The official language is English, but about 500 different languages are spoken in Nigeria. Some important native tongues are Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, and Kanuri.

Government: Federal Republic

Travel Issues: Travel to Nigeria requires a valid passport, a Nigerian visa, and a return ticket. A visa application has to be accompanied by 3 recent passport size photographs, visa fees, an onward ticket, and a letter of invitation/reason for wanting to visit Nigeria. Visas cannot be obtained on entry or at the border. Extensions can be obtained from the Immigration Department of the Federal Secretariat.

Health & Safety: Yellow Fever vaccination is mandatory for all travellers to Nigeria. Other recommended immunisations include Tetanus, Hepatitis A & B, Polio, Typhoid, Malaria and Meningitis.

motorcycles in lagos 


kids in nigeriaThe People

Nigeria is home to about 250 ethnic groups, each with their own languages and customs. People are very traditional when it comes to marriage and family life. Christians are allowed only one wife while Muslims may have as much as four. Extended families are the norm and often wives in a polygamist set-up work together in farms.

nigerian manThe Religion

Main religions practiced in Nigeria are Islam and Christianity. Christians occupy the Eastern and Southern States of the country while Muslims are to be found in the North.

Role of Family

In rural Nigeria, the onus for earning an income, as well as taking care of the family, often falls on women. Women tend to farms as well as make and sell homemade products to feed and clothe their children. Men are very patriarchal in their attitudes to women; however, mothers and sisters have more say in family matters than wives do. Having a number of offspring is a matter of pride for a man.  


A belief in animism prompts a strong faith that appeasing ancestral spirits brings good fortune and prosperity to the tribes. Therefore, ancestors are propitiated with a number of rituals including animal sacrifice and juju ceremonies with animal skulls and bones to ensure their blessings. Even some Christians share these beliefs and incorporate these rituals in their mode of worship. Elaborate masks made of bronze, wood, or terracotta, are worn at funerals to appease the dead soul. 

peppers in nigerian marketRecreational Activities

Football, aka soccer, is a popular recreational activity. Big cities such as Lagos have all sorts of modern recreational outlets including sports venues and computer games. Cricket, polo, and wrestling are considered pastimes of the affluent. 

Anything else important for this culture

Inter-ethnic fighting is a source of great instability in the social fabric. Similarly, religion forms the basis for quite a few conflicts. These are compounded by poverty and a terrible divide between the rich and the poor. Elders in Nigerian communities, both male and female, are accorded a great deal of respect. They are greeted by kneeling down before them as old age is believed to be a divine gift bestowed only on a worthy few. Nigerians set great store by education and therefore, like to be addressed by any title they may possess.

 nigerian market


Meetings & Greetings

Meetings between Nigerians involve a handshake followed by rather lengthy well-wishes bestowing good health and prosperity for everyone including family members. This holds true for old friends as well as someone introduced for the first time. Often business meetings commence only after such elaborate greetings on both sides. Muslim Nigerians may not shake the hands or touch the opposite gender in any way while greeting them.

3 nigerian ladiesCourtesy

Always show respect for elders. It is considered bad manners to use your left hand to pass things or pick up anything. Avoid discussing politics and issues such as religion, corruption or civil unrest with strangers or casual acquaintances.

Gift Giving

If invited to visit a Nigerian home it is good to bring along a token gift in the form of chocolates, pastries, or fruit. Gifts should be handed over and received with both hands and never with the left hand alone. Gifts are not opened as soon as they are received.

nigerian soccerDress Code

A definite hierarchy exists in Nigerian society and you need to dress according to the level you are moving in. If meeting with someone from the affluent circles, a formal suit or jacket would be necessary. Women need to be dressed conservatively and may accessorize generously. While in other circles,dressing calls for tact, and care has to be taken to not look overdressed. Casual to smart clothing minus accessories would be considered appropriate. It is always wise to avoid expensive jewellery and flashy clothes when traveling in strange places.

Dining Etiquette

Etiquette requires you to wash your hands before and after a meal. Nigerians are very hospitable people and ensure that guests have eaten before they themselves sit down to a meal. This is especially so in rural areas.

children in nigeriaVisiting a home

Leave your footwear outside before entering a home. While seated ensure your foot is not pointed outwards at anyone or at the food. Tea will be offered in three rounds with increased sweetness to signify the flowering of the relationship between the host and the guest. Never refuse these rounds of tea even if all you imbibe is a sip. Fruit juices may also be served. Food and drink should not be taken at the same time. never pour your own drink or refill; always wait for the host to do so.

Communication Style

Nigerians open up only after they have established a relationship. Thus the initial stages of a business meeting may well be spent on chit chat that might appear meaningless. Direct eye contact may appear an affront in conservative societies or when speaking with older people, and so, the gaze should be directed to the forehead or shoulders when speaking with them.

nigerian town

Dos and Don’ts

Do not rush directly to matters at hand but rather spend ample time on greeting and introductions however pressed for time you may be. Do not rush to a first name basis unless invited to do so. If greeting a woman take the cue from her on whether to shake her hand or merely bow gently in greeting. If offering gifts to a woman, men have to mention that it is conveyed from their mother, wife or sister. Women, as a rule, do not travel alone and may face problems if they attempt to do so, especially after dark. Do not order pork or alcohol if dining with Muslims.


Motorcycles, market lady and peppers by satanoid
Town and drummers by
Barefoot In Florida
3 ladies and 4 kids by
Soccer by
Man in market by
Man walking by

Lessons Learned from Christians in Cameroon

by Melissa Chang |

Africa, Cameroon, Jesus Film, Stories from the Field

jesus film in africaDear Melissa,

I can’t explain why – maybe it’s because it’s Africa and there are no spare parts and no Best Buys around the corner, but every film showing comes extremely close to never happening. I remember this from when I spent 3 months in Kenya doing this also.

So tonight, our group lost an adapter so that the generator was African voltage and the projector was American voltage – so they didn’t connect. Finally, one of the Cameroon team members cut the chord in half, stripped it and rewired it. Someone forgot the stakes to stake the screen into the ground so we found some government building to show the film on. Then, there was no audio chord to the speakers, so we had to take turns holding the mic next to the computer audio for the whole movie. Then they realized they had forgotten the gas for the generator, so a kindly African volunteer hopped on his moped to go find some. His motorcycle broke down on the way, so some other volunteer took over from there while he got help.

Eventually, and miraculously, with lots of prayer, it almost always seems to work out. Really I think it is because these Cameroon Christians just never give up no matter how long it takes. They believe there is a solution and they don’t quit until they find it. Also, it shows how important this film showing is to them.

When we asked our Cameroon leader what we were going to do after he had cut and stripped that chord in case we needed that chord tomorrow, he said “But we need to deal with today.” Then he quoted us this scripture “Don’t worry about tomorrow for today has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

I have a lot to learn from these guys.

Stories of Missionaries and Faith in Haiti

by Melissa Chang |

Stories from the Field

pray for haitiThe staff of MissionsLaunch would like to offer our sincerest sympathies and prayers to all of those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. If you would like to donate to help the efforts, CNN has a great list of Haiti relief organizations.

When watching the coverage online, we have decided to give you a brief overview of some of the stories involving missionaries and or faith for you to read. Here are some of those stories:

Missionaries: We’ll go back to Haiti

Lone missionary stays at Haiti orphanage

Faith shines through destruction in Haiti

Savannah missionaries in midst of Haiti quake

Conover family in Haiti, father urges action

Newlywed missionaries from Dallas area blog about Haiti suffering

Many Haitians’ religious faith unshaken by earthquake

Highland Park United Methodist missionaries experience heroism, loss in Haiti

Martinez missionary couple: Haiti aftermath ‘horrific’

Quake changed missionary’s life

Prayer and praise to God rise from Haiti’s ruins

Photo by *~Dawn~*

Stories from the Field: I’m Here!

by Melissa Chang |

Cameroon, Stories from the Field

cameroon arrival
Dear Melissa,

Since I don’t journal, I thought that I might try to write you a letter or 2. That way, I can keep you informed.

1st of all – the plane ride and jet lag almost killed me. I thought I might not be able to wake up in time for the trip. I prayed and prayed, and thank God today is Friday, and I finally woke up feeling more myself. I really, really WANTED to be here because I WANT to be here and be at the top of my game.

So, day 4 and we are still traveling. Travel the Road was a very good name for a missionary reality show because that is like a huge part of missions – getting there. Then you are so depleted and are at your worst, but you have to suck it up and find it within you to be your best again because now you have to go and enter the culture.

So, this kind of will tell you how I feel. We got off the plane, got our luggage, took a van through the city to our hotel. Bam! We entered the culture. Mopeds everywhere, shacks and storefronts jammed together and on top of each other with not one inch of space. Trash in the streets, vendors selling bananas, homemade furniture, mangos, roasted corn, clothing, women dressed in full African colored fabric from head to toe and young boys in tattered clothes selling 100’s of bags of peanuts which they carry on their heads.

The smell was the 1st thing that hit me. It is the unique smell of Africa; smoke from burning coal and trash, people who are very hot, and various meats being grilled over open fires – even in the city. I breathed it in and smiled. I looked around at all of the sights and honking mopeds swerving in & out of traffic, and I thought to myself “you know if this doesn’t kill me, it’s going to be awesome.”

Since then, we have just been having orientation and trying to get enough to eat, which has been difficult. Sweat is literally dripping off of us at all times. Tonight, a 4 hour van ride to our last and final destination far into the northern villages. And then, tonight it begins! We are showing the 1st film show in Gizega tonight!

Photo by Elin B

Yemen: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |



 pool in yemen

Location: Middle East, with Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east, the Gulf of Aden to the south, and the Red Sea to the west.

yemen mapCapital: Sanaa

Climate: Hot and humid climate along the west coast, temperate in the mountainous west, and harsh, hot desert climate in the east.

Population: 23,822,783 as of July 2009. About 45% of the population live below poverty line and the unemployment rate hovers at 35%. Yemen is one of the poorest nations in the Middle East and their economy is based on dwindling oil resources, agriculture, cotton and leather industries, food processing, aluminium and cement. 

yemeni girlEthnic Make-up: Arab including Afro-Arab, South Asians, Europeans.

Religions: Sunni Muslim 70%, Shi’a Muslim 30%, Others such as Christians number about 3000, Jews about 500, and Hindus about 40. Islam is the state religion, but the Yemeni constitution guarantees freedom to practice all faiths. The entire population regardless of religion is subject to the Shari’a law. Proselytising and conversion are prohibited by the Government. Christian missionaries are restricted to working in charity, medical and educational services.

Language: Arabic

Government: Republic

yemen squareTravel Issues: Travel to Yemen requires a passport that is valid for at least six months, a valid visa to enter Yemen, travel documents showing return or onward travel, and an International Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate if you’re arriving from an infected area within the previous five days. Some countries are eligible to be granted visa on arrival and you have to check with your local embassy to ascertain your status. 

Health & Safety: Most countries place Yemen on a status of high risk due to frequent terrorist activities and an unstable political situation. Foreign nationals are advised to stay within the city limits of Sanaa and not congregate in large numbers in hotels and restaurants as groups of expatriates and tourists may invite attacks. Local authorities place restrictions on visiting certain areas that may be dangerous for foreigners and this has to be adhered to at all cost. Sailing or yachting along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden poses yet another security risk in the form of pirates operating in these waters.

 spices in yemen


yemen familyThe People

Yemen used to be the site of ancient civilization but is now one of the poorest nations in the Arab world. The Yemeni people are simple unassuming folk who are entrenched in their age-old traditional way of life.

The Religion

Yemeni people are all Muslims and belong either to the Sunni or Shia faction. Their lives are governed by the Islamic Sharia law that dictates daily routine, food, clothing, and life styles. Great importance is given to the practice of religion by every man, woman and child. Religious observances such as festivals and fasting are undertaken with great zeal.

boy in yemenRole of Family

The Yemeni family is hierarchical with the oldest male member being the most important member. Extended families are the norm. Even within families there is a tangible segregation between male and female roles. Men take care of business which could be anything from agriculture, herding and trading in animals or working in some industry, while women take care of the home and children. Women are rarely seen outside their homes.


yemen swordsmanThe Yemeni people show a great deal of respect for their ancestors. Tombs are revered, even if the occupant is not a relative. In fact, unknown mausoleums are accorded the same respects as family tombs. The Yemeni people bury their dead within walls of mosques and in cemeteries with elaborate rituals and prayers for the departed. They believe in the afterlife.

Recreational Activities

The Yemeni people are extremely friendly and cheerful people who love to congregate as a community and enjoy the company. However, this will be done in segregated groups where women and men do not meet in mixed company. Men enjoy card games and watching sports on television, while women gather indoors to sing songs, apply mending designs on their hands, and catch up with each other.

Anything else important for this culture

The Yemeni are a very conservative people and it will certainly offend their sensibilities if confronted with an unabridged version of western culture. It would be advisable to dress conservatively, no matter how hot the weather. Refrain from alcohol and pork products. Women should not travel alone or even with just other women without a male chaperone.

yemen roof 


Meetings & Greetings

yemen man and daughter

Yemeni men greet each other with a soft handshake that may linger depending on the relationship shared. Women may greet each other similarly or hug and kiss each other on alternate cheeks if they share a very close bond and are seeing each other after a long time. Men and women do not touch or even make eye contact on meeting. If greeting people in a group always greet the older members first. If you shake one person by the hand, make sure you do the same with everyone in the group. If in a large group, it would be more appropriate to offer a general nod at one and all.


It is considered rude to make eye contact or stare at the members of the opposite gender. Women are expected to keep their gaze lowered when in the presence of strange men. Always show respect to older and superior people.

yemen city










Gift Giving

soldiers in yemenThere is no culture of gift-giving as such, but if invited to a home a simple gift would be a fine token of appreciation. Gift giving is only between really close friends and relatives and not acceptable between new acquaintances. So only consider giving a gift to someone with whom you’ve established a deep bond.  Do not make a direct offer of gift to someone of the opposite gender.  Do not gift alcohol or cheap souvenir items. Gift options among Yemenis include handmade carpets, silver handicrafts, and luxurious local perfumes and may just stop short of an expensive car.

Dress Code

Formal suits are acceptable for business and first meetings. Formal casual wear are also considered fine. Women need to dress conservatively and keep well-covered from shoulders to ankles. Local women wear the hijab or tunic that covers them completely. While foreigners are not expected to wear this, a head scarf would be a good idea.

Dining Etiquette

yemen supperDining may take place seated on the floor on lush carpets supported by comfortable cushions or on modern furniture depending on where you are. Food is almost always eaten off a communal bowl. Always wait to be seated. You have to wash your hands and be clean before sitting down to dine. Commence eating only after the eldest member has begun. Eat only with your right hand. Your plate will be refilled till you have tasted everything on the table; so go prepared. Your refusal will be taken as a sign of politeness on your behalf and you will be pressed to eat more. Guests are expected to have three cups of tea. Gently wobbling the cup side to side is an indication that you do not want more.  Do not smoke while at the table.

Visiting a home

If invited to a Yemeni home, it is a sign of your being accepted. It is a rare honour and you should show your appreciation. Dress neatly and conservatively to show respect for your host. Leave your footwear outside the entrance. Carry a token gift that you should offer discreetly to the children or leave behind unobtrusively. Never offer money or very expensive gifts.

Communication Style

Yemeni people will never come out with an outright negation and say No. they have the urgent need to save face—theirs as well as yours. So, it would be wise to take a hint and recognise a Yes which could in fact mean a polite No. They value respect and good manners and this will place you in their good books making future communication a piece of cake.

  yemen agriculture

Dos and Don’ts

The Islamic law or Sharia has extreme penalties for law breakers. Ignorance is not an excuse for breaking the law and this will entail the same penalty as a criminal offender. Long prison sentences and heavy fines are the breaks even for what you might consider minor offences. Yemeni society is highly patriarchal and so men tend to dominate women in all fields. Even foreign women may not be spared a taste of this attitude. However, though considered inferior, women are treated with a good deal of respect and dignity. Do not take photographs of military installations, local women, and mosques without permission.

swordsman by mavilimon
pool by Arab in far east
boy by kevincure
all others by Ai@ce

David Brainerd: Providing foundations for future missionaries

by Athelda Ensley |

Famous Missionaries

journal writing

David Brainerd was born in 1718 and was considered for a time as an American missionary to Native Americans. Brainerd enrolled at Yale after turning 21, but was later expelled over a comment about a college tutor. (He remains the only expelled student to have a building on Yale’s campus named after him). This little bump in the road, however, did not throw Brainerd off course. He continued to prepare for the work of ministry.

David Brainerd worked at an Indian settlement near Stockbridge, Massachusetts and then went on to minister to the Delaware Indians of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His focus was on both the physical and spiritual needs of these people, which set him apart from some missionaries of that day.

In Brainerd’s lifetime he was not responsible for many conversions. But, due to his writings, such as his Diary and Other Private Writings, future missionaries gained guidance in approaching the high call of missions.

For those who will venture out as new missionaries soon, remember that you will gain helpful information for those who follow, just like you have received helpful information from those who went on ahead of you. Someone, someday will follow in your footsteps also. Therefore it’s important to talk about the journey, jot down your feelings and ideas so that perhaps God can use it to encourage a new generation of missionaries. Technology has allowed today’s missionaries to instantly chronicle their trips for future reference. Wouldn’t it be awesome to provide a foundation for others like David Brainerd did?

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