In love with the do it yourself culture

Culture shock can happen two ways. Very often it is a term used to describe foreigners visiting other nations and the shock that greets them at encountering ways so unfamiliar. I have had my own culture shock experiences. Once visiting in Thailand I found almost every building has an image of Budha encircled with food supplements. The faithful wake up to feed a range of statues. And oh, by the way, one day while stepping on to a bus in Paris, I saw a male couple lost in a long and tight kiss, which made me pause, stumble before I hastened on my way.

Those who have lived away from home for a while can return to their nations and find ways they were once accustomed to as unfamiliar too. For instance, having got accustomed to strict timekeeping, some would be shocked to find that setting an appointment for 2 pm means actually somewhere after 3 pm, going on to up to 5 pm! To wade in these new waters and find the peace they must adjust quickly.

Like any, I went through motions of a culture shock having been away for a while. For one, I had gotten used to living in concrete cities where the dust hardly settled on your shoes. But back in “kafufu” city, it was a bit of a shock to see so much red dust, almost everywhere I went. Some shock to the system.

When I visited my Bazeeyi ( parents) it came to me as a shock to find there was a live- in helper. I had sort of forgotten our city home had always had one. Staying out of the country, I had long gotten used to life without one. In fact, as I found, in America it is rare to find a home with a live-in helper. Even the elderly struggle to have live-in nursing assistants. Most, if their condition has deteriorated, would simply be moved to a full nursing facility. Price had to do much to do with it. Every pair of hands you hired came with a price and who could afford it.

To get on in America, I, as most people, did my laundry, cooked my food, vacuumed my abode and when I drove my car to the petrol station, I would fill in the petrol myself, before heading to the pay register. It was a life of “do-it- yourself, or DIY!” And I liked it. Perhaps the only time you asked for help was when you had to ask for someone to help you jump start your car on a freezing morning. But folks just went about life pleasantly doing things by themselves.Once I set up my house and started a family I struggled with the part of getting a helper.“But I can do all these things by myself,” I argued with my wife. “We don’t need someone watching over us!” But then with babies and a demanding job, it was a lost cause trying to sustain my view.

Now the children are teenagers. It’s hard to make a case for a maid when they can do lots of stuff by themselves – house mop or cook food. We still have an outside helper, who comes in once a while to help us get by, which is all right. But not as a live-in member of the household. Now I know some people would think of me as mean. “After all there is so much cheap labour around,” a friend once shared why he sticks to half a dozen pair of hands looking after him. “You are creating employment whenever you hire these people.”

One of the distinctions between the developed countries and developing ones is an abundance of cheap labor in the latter. We have heard of expatriates who when their terms of service ended hesitated to head back home because they would lose all these helpers and gardeners, which they could not afford back home. It’s a culture shock when people here see Prime Ministers, especially of Nordic countries, riding to work. Here big officials are driven with a coterie of guards! It is called creating employment.

Yet sometimes I wonder how long such a world of plenty of cheap labour will last? How long will there be someone to lift those grocery bags from the car to the house? You see, as any nation develops the price of labor is bound to increase, and hiring extra help would become more costly. The reason why kindergartens have exploded, of late, was not much for knowledge but more to act as daycare facilities, since folks are busy away at their jobs. Helpers are becoming too costly, and if they come, don’t last, anyway. After all they can offer their labor elsewhere for a higher price, including going to the Middle East.

This is why I like the DIY culture. Why not fix things and do those small jobs which are in my power! And perhaps even if I didn’t like it, soon, the way things are going, I won’t have much choice anyway.