Naija Girl Abroad (Part 2): The Struggles of Foreign Living

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


(This is the second part in the 'Naija Girl' series. The preceding part is here)

I was going to make purely light-hearted posts on my adventures in foreign lands, different from where I was raised.

With the heart-wrenching stories that came out of Libya late last year, it hit me that perhaps, ‘abrodians’ have over time, done a huge disservice to the rest of the brethren at home; making life overseas sound like a life of beans and bread, with coconut toppings for breakfast every day.

I know, bad governance occupies the largest seat in the blame trajectory. What with government after government failing to fulfill their respective social contracts with the people and not providing basic living amenities for the citizens, thereby sowing seeds for the need for ‘escape’.

But the rest of us also play our part in this tragedy. We paint this false picture of life in “the Abroad”, making it out to be the perfection that it is not, thereby subconsciously urging others to (literally) do anything to have their slice of perfection; at whatever cost it may entail.

Someone needs to start telling the truth. So I have self-appointed myself the Minister of Truth

(A.k.a party-pooper) 👿

***

Living outside the land of one’s birth – in this case, Nigeria - is not as easy or pretty as Hollywood makes us think.

(Please I am not talking about Togo or Ghana. Those places are as ‘home’ as my Abagana).

It is a mirage that is often perpetuated, moreso in these days of Instagram and Snapchat.

We are all inundated with pictures of the faux fur coats and beautifully decorated houses, with captions of “sitting-at-home-chilling-in-the-pool-with-my-woke-bugatti”.

(*shakes head furiously… wig almost falling off*)

The most of it is false. The parts that are true come at the huge price of hardwork, with tons of personal sacrifices, and absolutely no shortcuts:

Life Abroad as an alien or immigrant is no bed of roses, ‘Abroad’ in this case being ‘obodo-oyinbo’.

Upon relocation, the first thing that hits you is… well, Reality.

For starters, no one is waiting with a red carpet to welcome you to “the land of your dreams”. In fact, no one realises “you have arrived”.

The same way you packed your entire load from Nigeria is the way you will carry it on your head and on your back.

Alone.

You’re like a drop of water in a mighty ocean.

You realise how (super)ordinary everywhere and everyone is. Contrary to the Broadway-esque shows we grew up with on television, Abroad people are not always dancing and singing on the streets, with fountains of free ice-cream flowing at every intersection.

Folks hustle and go about their daily business as much as they can, in other to avoid being broke and hungry.

And just in case you did not know, there are also broke and hungry people abroad.

The next thing that hits you: Culture Shock.

(Prepare for this one)

Things you had taken for granted as a normal part of your daily living is no longer exists.

You know how little kids line up at your door every morning with plates of akara to chant “Uncle Ekaaro… have a nice day”!

Nobody has your time. “Good-morning” is not ‘a thing’ Abroad (making you wonder if it is an Igbo word)

And even when you go out of your way to greet “Goodmorning”, at the most, you could get a ‘short smile’, which really translates to: “I really really want you to think I am nice, but I really do not have the time to wish you a Goodmorning, or ‘Good anything’… and I really do not want you to also think of me as a witch, so collect this facial expression of mine, and let us all go about our day in peace”.

Humans abroad are rather different.

(Sigh.)

No one is available to Help you, or dash you money, or squat you.

You know how you took advantage of Syracuse your gateman, to wash and iron your clothes, clean your car, go to the market for you, mop your floors, and bathe your dog, in return for two meals of Eba and soup (without meat) per day?

Your day of reckoning came the moment you stepped foot into the Abroad; there is no free labour Abroad. If care is not taken… you could even end up becoming Syracuse.

And unless you have blood siblings or awesome cousins who really love you, you are on your own. Which explains why that your Aunty who swore she loved you the last time she visited home, never picked your call again after the first day you called.

There are the eye-opening Personal Experiences to help you understand that no matter how you prepared for life abroad, you are every bit of a JJC as they come.

After you find yourself running helter-skelter like a misplaced rabbit in trying to cross the roads randomly, it is then it will dawn upon you the huge unkindness your government at home did to you all your life growing up in Nigeria, without functional pedestrian lights at the traffic-stops.

Also, that ‘phoneh’ you picked under Tejuosho bridge will not disguise your thick accent, and you will learn to slowly draw the sound “WuhDerrrrrrrrrrrrrrr”, in order to purchase a bottle of Water.

You will also learn to stop getting excited at the mention of oyinbo ‘parties’; common sense will teach you to quietly fill your stomach with a bowl of “ola-ola” pounded yam and Egusi soup – or Nigerian Jollof Rice - , before you go to meet the bowls of grass and jars of coffee waiting for you at the “Party”

There is also Local Experience, waiting to deal with you.

For example, as a medical doctor, nobody is giving you their patient (to kill), if you have not passed the requisite qualifying exams as a doctor.

Irrespective of how many years you had worked at home, or the amount of foreign qualifications you possess, you will be required to obtain a license in your chosen area of expertise… even if your area of expertise is in flashing a smile.

And even if you were well certified in a field as mundane as Looking-in-the-Mirror, recruiters would still want to see your “five years of local experience”.

(*insert ‘Laugh-Out-Loud’ in capital first letters*)

As if you practice witchcraft, and “local experience” is something you can conveniently pluck from your coven, without the need to actually be employed to gain the requisite local experience

Then, there is the biting Cold to deal with.

I am not sure exactly who wrote that song, but when the cold hits you, all you can think of is how to kidnap the person who came up with the idea:

White Christmas.

There is nothing cute about the cold. The cold freezes your brain - like ice-fish in the deep-freezer - and starts to work in reverse motion. Like the sloths of Zootopia.

As you head out in the biting cold to find your daily bread, you find yourself constantly muttering curses on the government of the day in your home country for subjecting you to a life without year-round summer, in the quest for better living.

Above all, you know how your ‘melanin-poppin’ skin colour makes you special, and protects you from skin cancer?

But it also singles you out, and despite the expectedly high-level of development of the new society you find yourself, you are bound to experience first-hand the travails of Racism.

Sometimes it may be overt. Like that co-passenger on the train who simply refuses to budge for you to sit beside them.

Other times, it is more covert. Espoused in subtle racial profiling, blanket prejudice and sheer ignorance.

Have I scared you enough?

If so, that is not the intention.

To scare you, that is.

The idea is not to paint an all out gloomy picture of life abroad…

(Ok, maybe it is. A little bit)

Rather, the essence is to point out the reality that life in the Abroad is not as perfect as it is often potrayed, so that when Baba Qudus comes to meet you to pay two million naira, for a job and a mansion waiting for you abroad, you can tell him you know it is not true.

Even the best of immigrants have had to work their way through; the long hard way, and with a lot of sacrifices. Yes, there is water, electricity, with no fuel queues, and responsible leaders who actually understand they serve the citizens who elected them.

But it is certain that you will pay your dues to have the ‘good life’... as is pretty much the same anywhere.

There is no shortcut to happiness.

In summary, while foreign living may be desirable, it is absolutely not worth the potentially fatal sacrifice of mortgaging your existence for the promise of a “better life”, via shady migration promises.

Nothing is worth your life. Especially not the Abroad.

Paz,


Meg.


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19 comments

  1. Oh wow..this was beautifully written. Living abroad is definitely not a bed of roses. It takes hard work and you learn to be completely independent. It's not as easy as most people believe but then nothing in life is every gotten on a platter of gold. Thanks for sharing!

    www.zinnyfactor.com

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  2. Love your narrative. The infused humour gets me all the time(Lol)

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    Replies
    1. Lol... without a little bit of humour, we'd all be dead already. 😉

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  3. I love this....... laughed all through. But the thing is, even with this "truth" people will still say it's a lie. She doesn't want us to enjoy like her. Obodo oyibo is the land flowing with milk and honey with pounds and dollars on trees. May we all open our eyes to reality and think twice before selling even our unborn children in the quest for travelling abroad. KPOM

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  4. Each time I read your narratives, I feel like I am experiencing it.
    Nice one sis

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  5. Lol! This is really a 'bitter truth' you know... Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Lol! This is really a 'bitter truth' you know... Thanks for sharing.

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  7. You want to scare us. It won't work. I'd rather there than here. If I'm stressing myself there I'd know is for something, not this naija suffering and smiling we are doing here.

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    1. Haha!! Just don't pay Baba Qudus any money. Don't agree to any fishy deals. Do it the proper way.

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  8. Now I know Baba Qudos and i have met one. Pay 1 mill and get accommodation and work in Dubai. Didnt work on me.

    Your write up speaks alot, is that why people abroad are stingy? When They return to Nigeria they get angry. Meg if they dont value greetings there how do you train your children to be respectful

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    1. Lol... the stingy part got me cracked up. Who know go know.

      As for the respect part... the absence of greetings alone by itself does not necessarily convey disrespect. Moreover, training one's child or ward is always a personal affair. ��

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  9. I like this narrative. Maybe we just have to understand that Nigeria, or Africa is not hell after all.

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  10. You couldnt have said it any better.Nice one Meg.

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