The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows this better than our articles on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
Today’s topic of living abroad had a culture shock when she went to the UK and found the people weren’t as nice as she expected. After staying there for seven years and getting used to living like this, she returned to Nigeria, only to be shocked that the people were so nice and funny.
When did you first decide to go abroad?
I didn’t decide on my own. I had just finished secondary school at 16, and my parents decided they wanted my twin sister and I to go to the UK to study. This was in 2013. I had been to the UK for vacation several times before, and to the US once, also for vacation.
Expectation vs reality: UK edition.
Whenever I’ve been to the UK before, we’ve stayed with my family in London. This time we went to a school in Buckingham. I thought, “Hm, Buckingham must be big and grand and bustling because that’s where the Queen lives. Like in Buckingham Palace. You see, it’s a quiet little town which is the opposite of what I thought. Apparently Buckingham Palace is in London.
Installation was difficult. There aren’t many Nigerians in Buckingham so I had to socialize with people who didn’t understand my accent, jokes and culture. To make matters worse, I came from an all girls secondary school in Nigeria to a coeducational university in the UK. The last time I was around boys was in primary school. Now I was classmates with… with men.
How was it?
I was afraid. I didn’t know what I could tell them or the limits I could cross. It was as I settled in that I made male friends and learned to interact with men.
I wanted to get into a romantic relationship but couldn’t because I couldn’t find anyone I really loved. And even relationships that could have gone somewhere always ended because they wanted to have sex. As a Christian, I cannot have sex before marriage.
Have things improved?
I started to see that even though the Brits got straight to the point, they used a lot of endearing terms like ‘sweetie’ or ‘darling’. It made me feel a little more comfortable. Even though they were mean, they still called you honey.
On the other hand, they weren’t joking much. Everyone was so serious. Fortunately, I had my twin sister and we did almost everything together. We lived together at school and changed apartments twice together.
Wait, how long were you in the UK?
Seven years. We followed a four-year course, then a two-year master’s degree. The extra year we took was due to the death of our father.
We returned home in 2017 to find our father had passed away. We had arrived in Nigeria on the 21st of this month. He died on the 15th. When we tried to call him before arriving in Nigeria and his number did not go through, my mother told us that he had been to a place where there was no network.
Imagine coming home for the holidays to find that your father is no longer alive. He promised to take us to different fun places during the holidays, and he just left. It hurt like hell. We had to stay for the funeral and then stay with our mother too.
One thing I learned from my father’s death is that people from different backgrounds approach death differently.
In Nigeria, people showed they cared by saying things like “Be strong” and “It’s better to lose your father than your mother, so be grateful.” It didn’t really sit well with me, especially when I compared it with all the posts when I got back to the UK. All the “We love you” and “So sorry for your loss”. It was just different and better.
Tell me your favorite part of the UK.
Accessibility to a wider range of things. Things like gluten-free food, same-day deliveries, good roads, and electricity. You can’t beat that.
And what do you like least?
The UK is brutally expensive. I say “brutally” because no one cares if you can’t afford something. They will bring the police to you. For example, if you owe a month’s rent, you should be scared because they may bring the police to arrest you. There is no “take this discount because you are my customer”. No. Everything is very official. At first I thought they were the bad guys, but I just realized that business is business.
In 2020 I completed my Masters and returned to Nigeria.
How was it?
Imagine having a culture shock in your own country. I hadn’t lived in Nigeria as an adult so it was difficult to settle down again. First of all, I had to get used to the fact that Nigerians joke a lot – a reality I was not used to in the UK. Someone said something and I got mad before I realized it was a joke. Or a “cruise”. I had to learn all the terms like ‘japa’ and ‘sapa’. The people were also much nicer. Even strangers.
It took me over a year, but now I’m used to being here.
Do you plan to stay?
I will probably come back for my masters this year. This time in the United States. I haven’t told anyone because I haven’t gotten my admission and visa yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Hi! My name is David and I am the author of Abroad Life. If you are Nigerian and live or have lived abroad, I would like to tell you about what that experience is like and introduce you on Abroad Life. Just fill out this short form and I will contact you.