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Mallam O. Asks For Directions Around the World — See What He’s Told


Mallam O.

My previous job outside Sierra Leone gave me the opportunity to explore various countries across the world, always eager to immerse myself in different cultures and landscapes.

However, my journeys took humorous turns as I encountered the unique ways people give directions in Tanzania, India, Germany, Italy, South Africa, USA, Senegal, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

Tanzania: In Dar es Salaam I asked a local for directions to a nearby market. With a warm smile, he assured me, “It’s very close, just keep going straight until you see a big tree, then turn left at the second goat.” I thanked him and set off. After a while, I realized that “very close” in Tanzania might mean an hour’s walk, especially when you start counting goats and trees without clear landmarks.

India: Next, I found myself in the bustling streets of Mumbai. I asked a passerby how to get to a famous temple. He enthusiastically replied, “Go straight, then left, then right, then another left, pass the chaiwala, then right again. It’s easy!” His rapid-fire directions left me more confused than ever. As I attempted to follow them, I encountered several chaiwalas and took so many turns that I ended up right back where I started. Directions in India often come with such enthusiasm and detail that they can be more of a puzzle than a guide.

Germany: In Berlin, I hoped for precision and clarity. I asked a gentleman for directions to a museum. He pulled out his phone, consulted a map, and gave me a detailed rundown of the route, including the exact number of meters between each turn and the specific U-Bahn lines to take. German efficiency at its best! However, his precision was so overwhelming that I found myself double-checking every step, afraid to miss a meter or a minute.

Italy: In Rome, I asked for directions to a trattoria. An elderly man gestured wildly with his hands, exclaiming, “Go straight until you see the big fountain, then turn right by the café with the best espresso, not the second one, the first one!” Italian directions often come with passionate recommendations for food and sights, turning a simple request into a delightful culinary and cultural tour.

South Africa: Cape Town greeted me with a friendly local who told me, “Just go down the road, past the big baobab tree, then left at the intersection with the zebra crossing.” I soon learned that in South Africa, landmarks are crucial, and natural features often serve as the best navigation aids. I did eventually find my way, enjoying the scenic detours along the way.

Senegal: My adventure continued in Dakar, where I asked for directions to the Pink Lake. A friendly local told me, “Just go straight, you’ll see a big baobab tree, then ask someone there.” Senegalese directions often involve a community effort, where you’re directed from one helpful person to another, each adding a piece to the puzzle.

New York: In the Big Apple, I approached a busy New Yorker. “How do I get to Central Park?” I asked. “Take the subway, any train, get off at 59th Street, and walk north. You can’t miss it.” In New York, directions are fast, precise, and assume you know the subway system well. Efficiency is key, but sometimes the brevity can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the city.

Nigeria: In Lagos, I asked how to get to the National Museum. A helpful passerby told me, “Go straight till you see the big mango tree, then turn right. Keep going until you hear the music.” Nigerian directions often include vibrant local details and sounds, making the journey as interesting as the destination.

Ivory Coast: In Abidjan, I asked for the way to the zoo. A local said, “It’s just around the corner,” which turned out to be a long walk through several neighborhoods. In Ivory Coast, “around the corner” can mean quite a distance, but the walk is filled with colorful scenes and friendly interactions.

Throughout my journey, I learned that asking for directions is a delightful way to connect with people and experience the local culture, turning each step into a memorable adventure. I realized that asking for directions is about finding your way but also an opportunity to engage with people and experience the quirks and charms of different cultures. Each encounter left me with a story to tell and a deeper appreciation for the world’s diversity.

Enjoy your weekend without having to ask for directions.

Mallam O.


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