I’ve now been to Sierra Leone two times since leaving 2 months after I was born. There are many things that surprised me about what things worked here. Here are 5 things I’ve learned.
If you’re a Sierra Leonean that lives abroad “J.C” is something you’ll hear and be called often. J.C stands for “Just Coming” meaning someone that lives abroad and just arrived in the country. Somehow the locals can generally tell you’re from abroad without you having to say. It’s an amazing skill I still can’t comprehend.
The Customer Isn’t Always Right
As someone that’s worked in the hospitality industry for multiple years, catering to the customers every need and treating them like royalty is standard. Here you get treated however the seller feels like for that day.
This is not to say that people go out of their way to be rude to their customers; instead, you get no special treatment or forced smiles and if you happen to be a troublesome customer, there’s no hesitation in straighten you out. As somebody with anxiety, I personally really like this system because there’s no small talk necessary; just business.
As with most African countries, there’s generally no fixed price for most things and you’ll have to bargain. Especially if they can tell you’re from overseas; then prices will increase depending on what you’re buying. Generally, the trick is to start off lower than you actually intend to pay and work your way up to your final amount.
It’s Easy to Make Friends
It’s super easy to make friends here. Back in 2014, a group of schoolgirls walked up to me and straight away said that they wanted me as a friend; and that’s how we became friends. Africans, in general, are very welcoming. All you have to do is ask. Having a good sense of humor is definitely a good skill to also have.
This may seem obvious, but telling somebody hello and asking how they are isn’t something most of us overseas tend to do when only planning to ask a stranger for directions or walking past where they’re sitting. A simple “excuse me” and politeness tends to do the trick. In Sierra Leone, if you don’t tell somebody good morning/afternoon/evening you risk not getting an answer at all or a rude reply. I’m speaking from experience here.
One day you might ask someone for assistance and they’ll bring up the fact that you didn’t greet them that one time.
Just from not greeting, people will begin to think you’re cocky and rude when that may not be the case. So for your own peace of mind, greet people before saying anything else!
There are plenty of other things I’ve learned since coming to Sierra Leone that I couldn’t possibly type up; so come and experience it yourself!