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.