If you show up to a wedding in jeans and a t-shirt, and expect your fiancé to agree to spend the rest of her life with you, you may be facing some disappointment in the next few moments. You are expected to put on a suit and tie, stand awkwardly till she arrives, and look deeply into her eyes while people gasp and gawk as she saunters down the aisle to the tune of the wedding march.
Why do we follow customs that we barely understand, why should we be put through the excruciating pain of watching money fly out of your wallet faster than a homing pigeon on the final stretch, all to feed cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents who have yet to meet your bride and who will never meet your wife again.
Tradition is implanted in us in like breathing or eating. We cannot explain why we follow these traditions or have to face the pain of it all but we just do it instinctively. The traditions are rooted deeply within our family’s livelihood and breaking these traditions is deemed taboo.
Africa is deep in tradition. As western civilisation entered Africa, the native people were taught how to dress, act, eat and even who to pray to. They were shown the ways of the modern world and adapted these traditions. You can walk around most major African cities and see that westernised influence and the way in which it has shaped the growth of countries. No longer do Africans hunt for their food or brew their own beer; no longer are they limited to huts made of clay and straw or limited communication. Many countries in Africa are former French colonies so the many African languages that prevented communication and understanding are now conglomerating people through a western language.
These native traditions have never been lost in the minds of the Africans, although they possess new, modern ways of life, they are still deeply traditional, believing in the stories of their ancestors and the traditional ways of their culture. Many cultures still have initiation ceremonies for the youth, many of which lead to death of young children.
It is important to understand and respect the cultures in Africa and the expectations that may arise when dealing with the locals. Ensure that your actions do not disrespect any of these traditions and that, even though Africans may live in a modern lifestyle, Africans will always be set in their traditional ways, some may not be understood but all should be respected.