10 Things Nigerians and The Irish Have in Common

Earlier this week I noticed the following update on a friend's Facebook Wall:
I wanna know how cabbage at Kroger goes on sale on Sunday for $0.37 and is all sold out by Monday?!? Seriously, sold out... How are these women on the ball like that? I need to step up my game!"

My response:
St Patty's Day is Thursday girl! You know us Irish folk don't play when it comes to our cornbeef and cabbage! You probably got punked by a gang of Irish grandmas!

Now I must admit, before marrying my husband, the extent of my Saint Patrick's Day celebration was digging out a green accessory to avoid serial pinching on the school bus.  Since marrying into a large, Irish family, I've grown a greater appreciation for the holiday because I see how much pride my husband's family takes in celebrating its ethnic heritage (particularly on Saint Patrick's).  Although most dialogue around interracial relationships focuses on differences, in the spirit of Saint Patty's Day, I thought I'd reflect on some of the quirky commonalities between our families of origin that we've noticed over the years.

10.  Lots of People Have the Same Name
Meeting my husband's extended family for the first time was like the "meet the parents'' scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding without the tiki torches, music, and whole baby lamb roasting over a spit in the backyard.  In the movie, the bride's father begins to introduce his siblings, their children (all named Anita, Diane, and Nick) and rounds out the introductions with “Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nicky, and Gus."  The Irish version is Jim, Jim, Jim, Jimmy, Jim, and James and the Nigerian version would include at least three or four of guys nicknamed "Tunde" or "Olu."

9.  A "Complicated" Relationship With Great Britain
Considering the history of the "modern" World, who doesn't have a complicated relationship with Great Britain?    During our last large family gathering one of my uncles-in-law made a joke about the family really being British and my grandparents-in-law were not amused.

8.  Racial and Ethnic Discrimination
Aside from slaves and indentured servants, most Irish and Nigerian families in the United States have the common bond of immigration.  My husband's ancestors came to America due to a potato famine while my parents came to secure educational opportunity for themselves and their children.  Although life in the America proved to be a vast improvement over conditions back home, my husband and I know stories from our respective families about the discrimination they faced like being called "N---er" for the first time and seeing "Irish Need Not Apply" signs in front of businesses that were hiring.

7.  The Color Green
Nigerians love the color green.  The Nigerian flag is, after all, green-white-green.  Ireland is also known as "The Emerald Isle," shamrocks are green, the uniforms for the Boston Celtics are green, and the Notre Dame mascot wears some green too!

6.  Guinness
Except for Heineken, you'd be hard pressed to find any other beer at a Nigerian party besides Guinness. And if my husband and I are in an Irish pub, I think technically its sacrilegious for him to order anything else.  Guinness has been brewed in Nigeria since the 1960s and allegedly, Nigeria drinks more Guinness than Ireland!
5.  Soccer
This probably ties back to #9.  Outside of the World Cup, there are only two places I watch soccer: 1) A Nigerian Party or 2) An Irish Pub.

4.  Catholicism
A few weeks ago I was listening to a North Carolina Public Radio interview with Enuma Okoro, author of Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community (a great read which I highly recommend) who spent part of her childhood in Nigeria.  During the interview, the host mistakenly referred to Nigeria as "a Muslim country."  While I sucked my teeth and rolled my eyes at what I perceived as a lack of diligent preparation on the part of the interviewer, Enuma graciously clarified that Nigeria is a country of diverse faiths largely (though not entirely) divided among geographic and tribal lines: the Muslim Hausa in the North, the Christian/Anglican Yoruba in the Southwest, and the Christian/Catholic Igbo in the Southeast.

3.  Patron Saints
Piggybacking off of Number 3, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and Nigeria.  Clearly the connection between the two countries is on a deep, spiritual level.

2.  We Roll Deep
Nigerians call them "tribes."  The Irish call them "clans."  Whatever label you use, what matters is that you never walk alone.

1.  Mating With Each Other
The summer before my husband and I were engaged, I was living at home with my parents while interning in Washington, DC and my husband (then boyfriend) was interning in Northwest Virginia.  He would spend the weekends with me and my family, experiencing the fullness of "Party Season" among Nigerians in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area.  The season runs from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend and my parents' social calendar stays jam-packed with graduation ceremonies, engagement ceremonies, weddings, cook-outs, Yoruba festivals, anniversary celebrations, and birthday parties.  That summer most of our outings were wedding related, and we began running into more and more interracial couples.  About a year later we were planning our own wedding and knew three or four other couples that consisted of Nigerian-American girls marrying Irish guys from the East Coast.  At one point it got so creepy that my mom confronted me in the kitchen (in a very loving, motherly way of course), asking me to explain this "phenomenon among you young people."  I assured her that I was much too busy planning a wedding and studying for the Bar Exam to execute a large-scale, national, interracial hook-up conspiracy.

To all of you who are celebrating, Happy Saint Patrick's Day!  And if you make it to the Southie (South Boston) Parade on Sunday, I'll be the Black lady wearing the "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" button.


  1. St. Patrick is Nigeria's patron saint? Wow- I learn new things every day. Great post - funny and well-written.

  2. @Rachel
    Yuppers. Actually a woman from Southie was the first person who shared that little fact with me.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Found your blog through racialicious. I think it's possible we might be the same person, lol. I'm also Yoruba and Nigerian-American, in an interracial marriage with a white America, living in Boston. My family is from the DC/MD Area. Small world! I just followed you on twitter - my handle starts with a D, ends in L, has my name on it. Hope you follow back - my tweets are protected.

  4. What a cool post!

    I'm wearing my green today (for multiple reasons -- some related to basketball) and my husband and I are going out for corned beef and cabbage. He's 100% German though, so I'm joking that my African-American self is more Irish than he is!

  5. Love the post-- I actually had a conversation with my parents recently about how alike Scots and some Native Americans were (this was prompted by me asking my folks how they handled their relationship, and they just started listing similarities that I'd known, but never really *thought* about before).

  6. @C.S.
    Yes, I firmly believe that everyone has a twin somewhere in the world and you just might be one of mine. In fact I wouldn't surprised if our parents know each other and possibly party together, lol.

  7. @Bunny77
    Yum. Sounds like a fun way to celebrate. I managed to dig out my Super Eagle soccer jersey (Nigeria's National Football Team). And yes, I think you've got your German husband beat.

  8. @S.B.
    Thanks. That's really interesting to hear about your parents!

  9. How funny. As a Asian American married to a Caucasian husband, I love hearing other perspectives on mixed-race marriages. And my husband just learned he has Irish heritage, too, so this is especially appropriate!

  10. Great post- I'm an Irish American woman with a Filipino American husband, and am frequently surprised by the similarities between our families. One that definitely doesn't apply to us though is the names- out of all the guests we invited to our wedding, only TWO of his relatives shared a name, whereas I have more Jim's/James's/Jimmy's to possibly count (not to mention all of the Mary's)! Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

  11. I am not Nigerian, but I am a black woman who is engaged to an Irish-American guy. His family came from Ireland three generations ago. I also find it very strange how many black women in the United States end up with Irish or Irish-American men.

    What is it with that, anyway? Are they more open to the sisters? Are they braver than other white men when it comes to interracial relationships? Do our physical characteristics speak to them in some DNA/primal way?

    Or, on the other side of the coin, is there something about them that we like, something we can't even identify ourselves? Is it their pheromones or something? Their looks?

    I know there are a lot of Irish-Americans in this country, but the amount of pairings Irish and Irish-American men have with black women is WAY out of proportion to their percentage of the population, it seems to be far more than the numbers would suggest on a normal basis.

    Anecodtally, my two BW friends that are with white men are also with Irish-American guys.

    So, I wonder, just what the heck is going on with that?

  12. Irish were EVERYWHERE!! I'M BLACK and have irish on both sides of my family my husband only has Irish on one side (his fathers, and he isn't black)also the term MAMMY although derogatory for black women is MOMMY IN GAELIC

  13. This was so funny. I hear you on the Heineken or Guinness beer. My father would only put "the good stuff" out for his parties and though he's never been much of a drinker, he still has a couple of bottles of each for when guests arrive. You are so totally on point with that. Also, my Yoruba grandmother is actually Catholic and my grandfather was Methodist. Next time you come down to the D.C. area, look me up. I love a good party.

  14. P.S. I went the Eastern European route. My husbands family is mostly from Poland (DH is fourth generation in this country). My father is from like I said Nigeria from Abeokuta, and my mother is AA from upstate N.Y. I've noticed that a lot of daughters of African immigrants marrying European Americans including myself. Do you think you could post on this someday?

  15. This is very interesting. Interracial marriage is increasing in numbers nowadays and there's a good reason for it. Thanks for sharing your story.


    Would you consider an interview and feature for my blog Offbeat Marriage?

    A Couple Profile will look these:
    American-Sri Lankan interracial and intercultural marriage
    Filipina-Italian interracial and interfaith marriage


  16. I don't know why men of Irish extraction are down with the sisters, but I have noticed it too, and my man is Irish-American.

    Mine's a tough guy, he doesn't care what other people think, he's going to do whatever he thinks is right. He's not tough, like being a jerk, and starting fights, he doesn'r swagger. He's just really tough inside.

  17. @Grace
    Yes, all the similarities even tripped my husband out a bit!

  18. @Julie!!!
    Wow. That's pretty impressive...

  19. @Anonymous
    I have no idea. You AND my mom want to know what's going on.

  20. @Anonymous
    Interesting. That would be one Gaelic I'd have to let my kids discover when they're older and just stick to Momma.

  21. @Browncow
    Thanks for sharing and for the invite!
    I'm sure the topic will definitely get woven in soon!

  22. @Gleen
    So sorry I'm behind on email, but I WILL be in touch soon. Thanks for thinking of me!

  23. @Margie
    Welcome to the club!
    To have some hard data would be great, but I know trying to track something with so much specificity would be hard absent an independent study/survey.

  24. LOVE this post! It's awesome to point out the things we have in common, because so many just see the differences. I think I'm going to have to follow up with some comparisons of heritage in my own interracial relationship! =)

  25. @Chantilly
    Thank you! Yeah, I'm not even quite sure how I figured out some of these. I think most have them surfaced while we've hung out with our respective extended families and caught on to some of the similarities in additin to the differences.

  26. Love your blog, I'm London-Irish and about to celebrate my first wedding anniversary with a Yoruba girl from the Old Kent Road. Coming from a clan, it was great to marry into a tribe. The common ground is sometimes downright spooky!
    But I think you forgot (or were perhaps too modest) to mention that other thing that the Irish and Nigerians have in common: we remain at all times utterly convinced that we are the greatest countries in the world and no evidence to the contrary will ever convince us otherwise.

  27. @Deptford
    Thank you! Congrats on your upcoming anniversary.
    And yes, I think that addition is pretty accurate. I'm sure I forgot. Now way I could keep that much ethnic pride to myself.

  28. re the Guinness connection:

    The second-largest Guinness brewery in the whole world is in...Ibadan, Nigeria. Only the brewery in Dublin is larger.

  29. @Eddie
    Very cool! And quite fitting since both of my dad is from Ibadan. We did get to see one of the Guinness breweries while we were in Nigeria but no tour unfortunately :(

  30. I'm a bit late but just saw this now. Great post. I'm an Irish man living in Nigeria. I have to admit...that bit on Irish/Irish-Americans having a thing for African women or women of African descent is true! I have only ever dated black women. No idea why! Lol!

    1. You're never too late! After all, St. Patty's Day comes every year (although for some people every day is St. Patty's Day).
      Thank you for yet again proving my mother's theory correct. She really does think there is something in the water...