I was sitting in a bush taxi waiting for it to fill up when the driver came up to me with a jovial smile on his face and asked me in English if I was going to give him my cell phone. I just looked at him thinking maybe I heard him wrong. He repeated his demand again, ‘You are going to give me your cell phone?’


I told him that was a stupid question and that I was not going to give it to him. He said it wasn’t a stupid question at all, and said it again, but this time I understood that he wanted the cell phone when I leave back to the US.


And so I learned 2 valuable cultural lessons. One, Camerouneans have no shame and will ask you for whatever they want. If they see something they like, instead of saying, ‘Oh, that’s nice’, they will say ‘give that to me, yes?’ Second, because of how you ask a question in French doesn’t translate well directly into English, things come out a bit different when they say it. For example, in English you would ask, ‘Will you give me that?’, but in French you can form a question just by the intonation in your words, so they would ask, ‘Give it to me’ but with a question mark on the end to form it as a question.


These little differences have been very vexing in my time here. People you don’t know or have met only once will come up to you and seem to demand ridiculous things from you. I’ve learned that saying no is in fact not rude, but actually much better than agreeing to some of those ridiculous demands.