Have you ever been asked in a foreign land ‘why are Nigerians loudly on their mobile phones?’ Have you ever wondered yourself or, have you been embarrassed when fellow Nigerians talk on the pinnacle of their voices in the train, bus, shopping malls or at any other public places while away, overseas? But, wait, is it only Nigerians that love to swagger and yell whenever they use their mobile phones, or is this an unfair generalization?
In the last six months, I brought it upon myself to carry out a rather informal research in Dubai, being a host for over 250 nationalities. Dubai, the pride of place in the United Arab Emirates, is the most appropriate place for such an undertaking. Yes, many Indians too like to be heard during their phone conversations; they speak aloud the more the number of people around them, but Nigerians ‘never carry last’ on this.
If you are in the North or East Africa, I remember when I was in Kigali, they accused West Africans of being too noisy, when you visit Senegal or Niger in West Africa, and they will narrow it down to Nigerians. Yes, Nigerians are uncommon people: they laugh away even in bad situations.
And so again, I don’t think this seemingly irritating phone etiquette is specific to just Nigeria or people from Africa. Nigerians just do it best.
For me, being a Nigerian, I don’t have to ask 7 out of 10 blacks I encountered in the UAE which part of Africa they come from; if they are already on the phone, it’s already clear to me. Hence, why Nigerians are loud, I asked a teacher of journalism, with a PhD in Sociology at the University of Maiduguri, Dr Abubakar Mu’azu, to bear his mind on this subject:
“It is not all Nigerians that are loud, it’s certain sections of the country that are. For instance, if you live in a place like Lagos, you discover that the whole culture of Lagos is noisy and the people are noisy and loud too. If you get to the north, they don’t shout as much as you see in the South West and in the South East. Once more, if you look at people from the South South particularly Cross River, they are generally not loud. People from Akwa Ibom are not generally noisy, but most people of Edo and Delta area are very outgoing.”
Then, why do some people get irritated by what excites another person, and sometimes the very person that is irritated by someone else’s noisy phone habits, irritates the noisy person in question, by let’s say, biting his or her own fingernails. No matter how well-mannered you think you are, there are things you do that will not go down well with others, and so, while you are tolerant, try to keep your etiquette strictly within your space in public arenas.
According to Dr. Amee Shah, director of the speech acoustics and perception laboratory at Cleveland State University, “There are four different elements; a biological component, a pathological component, a personality component and a cultural component.”
“It can be mechanical, everybody is born with a different size larynx and vocal cords.., some may have smaller lungs and not enough airflow to cause a louder voice.”
Still, as it is evident from Abubakar’s interpretations, “even culture can affect how loudly (or softly) we talk,” says Shah.
Certain cultures prevent or inhibit loud talking, especially if you’re a woman,” she states. “There are practical reasons why someone may not make direct eye contact and not project their voice loud enough.”
In Nigeria it is noteworthy that the majority of loud phone users are men?
As to whether loud talking is genetic, Shah says it’s more about the environment.
“At the family level, it’s more of a mental influence,” she states. “If it’s a big family, everybody learns that to be heard, you have to speak up. It’s more sociological.”
Simply growing up around a bunch of loud talkers can influence most people, so could this be responsible for why Lagosians and generally many southerners in Nigeria are loud and noisy? Alas, yet people from Kano, unlike most northerners in Nigeria are loud too. A Kano man likes to brag, the louder he speaks, the more he attracts the attention of others, when discussing his business or plans.
Many people I was courageous enough to ask why they are too garish and loud on the phone blamed the poor service provided by the telecommunications companies in Nigeria. Sometime you hear that the voice of the person at the other end is very faint, they too will complain they can’t hear you, hence the two speakers find themselves shouting, more so, even when the service is good, they just shout because they have become used to it.
In Nigeria it is very usual to find people around generator sets, in baffling parks, open markets, in ceremonies or in tenement system commonly known as ‘face me, I face you,’ with people buying and servicing competing generator sets. So people shout, if you don’t, there is the tendency you will not be heard and these are some of the baggage Nigerians carry to other parts of the world.
Trust Nigerians, we possess a high sense of exertion, what people consider as noise may just be the usual swank by an average Nigerian who can hardly be suppressed, and is highly extroverted. Nigerians are generally expressive, they are hardly despondent, the kind of jokes Nigerians will crack when their landlords give them a quick notice, after a bomb blast (that claims many lives of fellow citizens) or when they receive meagre salaries that can hardly pay for their basic needs is baffling. A Nigerian will laugh out, joke and say, “tomorrow go better.”
But loud phone talkers aren’t the only irritants today, even older people have joined the stream of youths using their phones at public functions, taking selfies, browsing or texting, sometimes laugh loud when they read or see something funny on their screens, thanks to the proliferation of the cell phones.
More of Salkida’s writings can be found in salkida.com