Johnson Babalola
August 16, 2023

Excessive Appreciation: A Clash of Cultures?

A friend I will refer to as BB narrated a story to me about his first few days in the United States some years back and till date, I find the story both funny and educative.

Some years ago, he moved to the United States after many years of unsuccessful efforts to find gainful employment in Nigeria. As it is with many new immigrants, he found his first few years in the US challenging. He had no immigration status and had to make do with employment as a factory worker despite his degree in Architecture. At the factory, he worked with individuals from different parts of the world including Americans.

On a particular day, he closed late at work and one of his colleagues, an American we would call KC for the purpose of this article gave him a ride. BB is Yoruba. In the culture of the Yorubas as with many other African cultures, when someone has been of assistance to you, it is expected that you will appreciate the individual. Often a Yoruba person will thank a benefactor multiple times, sometimes for several months following an assistance rendered to him or her. Many Yoruba parents would remind their kids several months after someone had rendered an assistance or gave a gift to thank the individual whenever their paths cross with the person:

“Dele, have you thanked uncle for helping you with your homework last year?”

“Yes mom”

“Go and thank him again.”

“But mom ….”

“Don’t mom me. I raised you to be thankful for every assistance. Go and thank him again before I open my eyes.”

So, after the ride, BB thanked KC for the assistance. “That’s ok.” Replied KC. The next day at work, BB went to KC where he was having a cup of coffee and thanked him again. “Thank you for giving me a ride yesterday.” He said to him. “No worries bro.” KC responded.

Then on the seventh day, KC passed by BB in the hallway and said good morning to him. In response, BB said “good morning to you too KC and thanks for the ride a few days ago.” At this time, KC turned to him and said in an angry tone “Hey men, quit thanking me for what I did days ago. What’s wrong with you? You never received any assistance from anyone? You need to move on.” BB felt embarrassed and later that day, discussed the incident with his Nigerian friend who had been in the US for a longer period. His friend, CD laughed at the story but assured him that he meant well and that possibly, it was a clash of cultures. “You did well by thanking him for his assistance to you. However, repeatedly thanking him for the assistance, made the appreciation to have lost its value with the guy. Others might not see it that way. In my opinion, limit your appreciation for a particular gift or assistance to a maximum of twice. Like the guy said though, move on.”

Johnson Babalola, a Canada and Nigeria based lawyer, leadership consultant, storyteller and corporate emcee, is a public affairs analyst. Follow him for discussions on real life issues that affect us all.

You can obtain a copy of his newly released book, REJECTED on Amazon, FriesenPress, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Apple Books, Nook Store etc.