The one about Minding Your Business

As I was driving home from work today, I was thinking about this and the more I thought about it, I concluded that this deserved more than a Facebook status update so here we are.lol.

I think in general, we can all agree that minding your business is a good thing. There are all sorts of wise sayings and quotes about the merits of minding your business. It is claimed that this is a sure fire way to ‘stay out of trouble’ and ‘avoid drama’. So yes, I think most people would agree that it is a good quality to embrace.

The amusing thing to me, though, is that minding your business could mean different things in different parts of the world! Mind blowing stuff. It wasn’t till I moved to the U.S. and spent a few years here before I started to really understand this [cultural] difference.

Growing up in Nigeria, this was one of my first introductions to minding my business: if you see a group of people together talking about something, you would think twice about going over to ask what was going on. You run the risk of them yelling at you to ‘mind your business’ and/or being called an amebor (or much worse names). Sometimes whatever it is is not even a secret! The point was, it was none of your business. If it were, you would have been included in said group in the first place! LOL.

Even something as simple as if you saw someone reading a book and asked what they were reading or asked what someone was drinking because their cup wasn’t see-through, or what someone was planning to order at the restaurant, when someone was going to travel overseas, how long they would spend there, you get the drift- the response could very easily be ‘mind your business’, even if you were asking someone you knew fairly well as opposed to a complete stranger. Basically, nosiness was not encouraged.

So add being an introvert to this upbringing/culture and you may be able to understand why it is difficult for me to ask people, especially those who are not buddies of mine, what they did last weekend. For one, I’m not that interested. I don’t need the information. I won’t do anything with it. I don’t mind if someone tells me what they did over the weekend though; I might even enjoy the tale and be entertained by the tale. I might laugh. But it is difficult for me to ask because I have been taught to mind my business. Unfortunately, [success in] Corporate America doesn’t quite work that way so I am working on this ‘skill’.

In the U.S. though, people are always in your business and it is not considered nosy. Complete strangers, who I was unlikely to ever see again hence didn’t need to know all this information about me, would ask me how old I was, where I was from, what school I went to, what class standing I was, what I wanted to be in future, what work my parents did, where I lived, why I came to the US, why I chose Indiana, if and when I would be going back to Nigeria, and much more … all in the first 5 minutes of meeting me for the first time! It used to annoy me in the old days but now I’m more used to it.

Americans are also generally very willing to (over)share though, so it’s not a one-way street. Sometimes they even volunteer so much personal information without you asking them. It’s unbelievable! People talk about their diseases, their children’s academic struggles, their debt, their unsuccessful romantic relationships, and much more … to complete strangers!! That is the part that gets me. Maybe I’m weird.

This is not where the difference ends though. So even though, in my experience, Nigerians are more private and on the minding of business side when it comes to dealing with strangers, they are more likely to be in your business when you actually need some help, even if you are somewhat of a stranger. If someone you barely know or even a complete stranger is having trouble with their car for example, or is having an argument with the NEPA guy (Nigerians know too well about this) or is visibly distressed because they are searching for something, an average Nigerian [in Nigeria] is more likely to come to their rescue to ask what the issue is and try to help than if it happens in the U.S. In Nigeria, minding your business does not apply to those situations.

Here in the U.S., your next door neighbor can walk past you and pretend they don’t see what’s going on if they see you talking to the police at your front door or if they see you being harassed (for not completing a payment for example) or if you are unjustifiable getting yelled at [in public]. Because they ‘don’t want to pry’; they want to ‘mind their business’. If they are a bit more on the nosier side, they might ask you next week what it was all about. Of course, not every American is like this but generally that’s been my experience- especially if you have a different skin color from said neighbor.

However, if they had met/seen you the day before or they saw you the next day, they wouldn’t hesitate to tell you all about how they [almost] gave birth to their first born in the car on the way to the hospital, or details about their recent divorce- or worse still, ask you about yours. They are not being mean. They are just ‘minding their business’, a quality we all strive to emulate :).

Now, I will get off my soap box.

How do you see it? What does ‘minding your business’ mean to you? Let me know in the comments section. xoxo.

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6 comments

  1. Omorin · August 18, 2016

    Very very spot-on!!!
    Interesting the difference culture/background makes, isn’t it?
    Lol.
    I would prolly say the British are more like the Americans than the Nigerians in this regard. I’ve always been amazed at the way the neighbour would describe accurately to a policeman an altercation/robbery but would have been nowhere to be found (talk less of come to your aid)when the event in question was going on!!!! SMH

    Liked by 1 person

    • omobtomtom · August 18, 2016

      hahaha … I guessed the British were similar to Americans in that regard but I don’t know about (over)sharing. I would guess they are not the (over)sharing type though. Thanks for the input!

      Like

  2. HCIM · August 21, 2016

    I am more of a mind-your-own-business type of girl. I don’t ask strangers questions, or generally approach them at all unless there’s a good reason to, and I think it’s kind of odd/slightly invasive when some random person on the bus asks me what i’m reading or tries to start up a conversation. I think it’s easier to be this way in the UK than in the US, where people are much more forward and approaching. When I lived in the US and met somebody new, I often had to remind myself to ask a string of questions I didn’t care about knowing the answer to because it is considered “normal conversation”. My default would otherwise just be to answer politely when asked things, and then go back to whatever I was doing, forgetting to reciprocate an interest in their life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • omobtomtom · August 21, 2016

      omg!! the best!! So true. sometimes when people/strangers ask me “normal”questions and i eventually get through answering them and heave a sigh of relief after they leave …that is when i suddenly realize in horror that I didn’t ask them anything in return and start to worry about if I was being rude, if they were expecting me to ask back, etc. unnecessary stress in my life. hahaha.

      The times I break from this pattern, though, is usually when I am on holiday alone and trying to continue with the theme of being outside my comfort zone. Then I occasionally (over)share and ask strangers things.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Like

  3. vinneve · September 8, 2016

    I have read something that it is easier for a person to talk about personal matter freely to a stranger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • omobtomtom · September 8, 2016

      I would agree with that, especially if I don’t think I will ever see the person again or see them on a regular basis in future 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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