A week after i arrived, my husband’s family decided everyone should meet in a restaurant. We all gathered at an Italian restaurant. I hate meeting people. I am very shy with people i do not know and as a result i often come across as quite stiff. This wasn’t any different. I knew my in-laws but there were spouses i hadn’t met. The gathering was a bit formal seeing as we all had to sit at a table. I totally felt like a fish out of water. We were a total of 4 couples in all. My husband parents included. I needn’t worry about being shy. The culture shock i soon experienced provided adequate distraction.
A member of the family announced a pregnancy. I had never attended a pregnancy announcement before. I had no idea such things even happened at all. In Nigeria, in most cases, we all just await a bulging tummy or sickness as proof of pregnancy. No one expects to be told. If you decide to tell or not, no one cares. So i was later to realize-from personal experience- that in this new society, people expect pregnancy should be announced. In fact, they take offence if they are not informed.
We finished eating and the bill was brought. I was shocked to see it passed round and a small math was done to figure out how much each person had to pay. I couldn’t believe my eyes as i saw all the men gathered round digging into their pockets to produce their share of the bill. Now, any Nigerian reading this would understand how much different this is from our culture back home where someone foots all the bill. I can only imagine a son-in-law in Nigeria going to a restaurant with his wife’s parents/siblings and then splitting the bill with his father-in-law. They all acted normally (even my father-in-law), brought forward their shares and paid the total and we left the restaurant.
Now many years later, i still struggle with splitting bills with people but i have become accustomed to this way of life. I even understand it. Why should one person have to bear the cost of a get together? Besides even back home i remember some people who never took a turn to pay for others. Takers. I just learn to switch when i am with my Nigerian friends and we take turns paying when we go out.