Shopping in Lagos, Part 1

“Do you want something heyerrre?” the mildly hostile, less than average height man snarled. He was arranging the fruits and vegetables in a rather slow, or should I more politely say, careful manner.

“I want a cabbage. No! No! The small one,”  replied, in my more direct and surly way of speaking that I use while in Nigeria.

Once you’re lucky enough to travel outside of the States, you find that people aren’t as nice as Americans. I don’t mean that in a way that is derogatory of other folks. I don’t mean that in either a derogatory or praising way of Americans. To put it simply, American culture is to be painstakingly polite, in public, when interacting with others. American culture is strongly built around perceived niceness and oftentimes forced niceties. Although, MY GOD do I miss the politeness, whether genuine or not, of my fellow Americans, I have learned to see the value in the frank and unbothered way with which the Nigerians speak to each other and me.

I stood near the other neatly arranged cabbages and green lemons (don’t ask because I don’t know why the local lemons are green like limes) and awaited for the shop employee to return with my weighed vegetables. I remembered to not even think about cracking a smile. The Nigerians don’t just stand about smiling, offering up toothy grins to anyone who saunters by, like Americans do. Even when greeted with a very warm “Good morning, ma’dam”, I do not always receive a smile to go with it. I’ve learned to follow suit and return whatever level of tooth I am shown.

In the grocery stores here, there are workers posted near the fruits and vegetables sections. You make your choices, then go and stand in line to have them weighed and tagged right there in that section. In the States, you pick what you want and the cashier at the checkout register weighs the food there.

I cannot call the Nigerian system more personable; to a misanthrope in a foreign land, I call the Nigerian system more cumbersome. Goodness, you mean I have to interact with yet ANOTHER human meat bag person just to buy this small cabbage? My God, kill me now.

As of the last few weeks, I have a new driver. My new driver does not accompany me into the store. My last driver did, and his presence always made me feel rushed and a little judged, although I am sure that he paid attention to me just as much as he paid attention to the dust on the shelves. But, I just FELT like he was urging me to hurry up and get on with the shopping because he is, well, a man.

So, without someone there to manage me and my time, I had a little taste of freedom. And what is my favorite thing to do with freedom? Anything RANDOM and somewhat useless.

Today, after checking off the aforementioned cabbage and other necessities from my list, I decided to wander about a bit and see what kind of other strange food stuffs littered the aisles of the “expat” grocery store. I have found some curious things during my time in Lagos and today was no exception.



So, this is something called Bourn Vita. No clue what that means, but I am a guessing woman, and therefore I am absolutely sure that it means something like “Possess the Strength, Energy, and Endurance of a Small, Annoying Child”…or something.

In the States, I am only familiar with Cadbury making those delicious, chocolate Easter eggs. Here, they also make this tasty looking product, that was next to the Ovaltine (with which I am familiar). Basically, it is like a chocolate drink that is for some reason touted to have health benefits. While I was standing near this stuff, the electricity went out for about 4 minutes. Embarrassed to move about the store in very limited light, I just stood in front of this stuff, taking pictures of it, and attempting to read the ingredients label. I’m pretty sure the first ingredient was SUGAR. I didn’t buy any.

Also check out this MILK:


What do you notice about this milk? Do you notice anything a bit strange? DING DING DING, that’s right boys and girls, y’all win the Captain Obvious prize because you noticed that this milk is SHELF MILK.

What in the tar nation is shelf milk? Well, it is milk that is UHT (ultra high temperature) pasteurized, which makes it safe to just leave about, out on the shelf, for months, with no ill effects on the product or the consumer. There’s also a lot of powdered milk consumed here in Nigeria. It is heavily marketed in the media and it is also marketed as being healthy.

Listen here, Nigerians. Take it from an American who has been systematically lied to by food manufacturers for my entire life: RUN! If it’s processed in any way, it’s probably not healthy. I only use milk in cooking; I do not just sit around and drink it because I’m lactose intolerant. But as for the Cadbury chocolate sugar powder, I call flat out bullshit on that stuff having any health benefits.

That’s the end of my soap box speech…

Other than those curious products, my trip to the market was uneventful. It was a good day.

See y’all tomorrow for more Lagos adventures.

DO you have a question about the products available in Lagos? Shoot me a line and I’ll try to find the answer for you, if I don’t already know it.


One thought on “Shopping in Lagos, Part 1

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  1. When we lived in Germany (in the 80s) we used shelf milk a lot. There are some benefits to not having to refrigerate everything. It’s also nice for cooking with, especially if you are heating it up for a recipe. I don’t think it’s that terrible, and I even buy the almond shelf milk to ensure I always have a supply.


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