Why Acknowledgement is Important
For westerners who live/ travel abroad it is very common to simply ignore one another. Often times if we hear a similar accents we might be inclined to walk in a different direction. Consider how many times you’ve walked passed a fellow foreigner and barely glimpsed at them let alone said hello or shook their hand?
This rudeness is considered socially acceptable, after all you don’t know them and there are so many foreigners that you can’t possibly acknowledge everyone. Really, what purpose would it have? You’ll never see that person again.
As Sanni & I were walking along Riverside the other night we observed some Africans sitting and talking among themselves up ahead. I wondered to myself if Sanni knew them and as we approached Sanni stopped and said in Pidgin English various greetings as he shook their hands.
Questioning him about this he told me that as a fellow African it was respectful to acknowledge one another because you were each out of your own country. By acknowledging the others existence you’re saying, ‘I show you kindness because in this foreign city we’re a part of a small community; one day our paths may cross again.’ Sanni explained the importance of first impressions and how you never know what your future interactions may be. Ensuring he has acknowledged them was a sure-fire way to leave a good impression, one of diplomacy and the greatest respect.
In the eyes of his kinsmen, had he ignored them and kept walking with me he would’ve sent a very strong message that he didn’t need his countrymen because he had a western girlfriend. This message would’ve been relayed among the community and it would’ve only tarnished his reputation and further strengthened the negative stereotype that Africans date western women for their social status.
Westerns may look at this custom as exhausting, especially given the ratio of westerners to Africans is much higher but I think we could learn from adopting a greater sense of community that this interaction implies.
As a traveller we look at social interactions abroad differently to those of Africans. We don’t need each other the same way Africans need each other. The common trait of an African is that they’re not abroad to travel but to gain experience they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten in their home countries. This creates a bond and patriotism among them, and one that westerners could not possibly duplicate because of the vast differences between our countries.
When you are next out side your country and you see someone who looks like you, talks like you and shares the same culture say hello, offer assistance or simply show kindness. Not only are you helping to build a good reputation for your culture but you are also sending out a very clear message that you’re a great person; trust me, word travels.