(Singing the “Expat Blues” was written by a long-time expat, for prospective expats)
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” said Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. And indeed, you’ve just opened your eyes and found yourself in Nigeria. You will see and experience things you never thought you’d see in your lifetime, and you’ll do things you’d never thought you’d be able to. You’ll grow as a human being, and you’ll open up a new and exciting world for you and your children (if you have them). If you will be working, you will have enough to do with the new job and learning your way around. But if you are a partner or spouse, you might find yourself at a loss, especially if this is your first overseas posting. You will always experience some degree of culture shock, and this usually means depression when you first arrive. The best thing you can do is to expect it, and realize that it is all part of the “process” of adjusting to any new environment. No one likes change, and you’ve just stepped into one of the biggest changes of your life. Have a survival strategy set out you can follow, and do it! One of the worst things you can do is isolate and feel sorry for yourself, so getting out and about, going to the mall, meeting friends for coffee—anything that is interesting to you which will get you out of your house or apartment will be a form of “therapy,” even if it’s just to the supermarket to pick up ingredients for something different to cook.
Before you go
- Check out Facebook for “Expats in…..” groups. This is a great way to ask questions about your new environment, and also to start networking for when you arrive. This is also a good place to find out what sort of things you should bring with you that are not locally available.
- http://www.expatexchange.com/nigeria/liveinnigeria.html. This is an international exchange for expats to ask questions and exchange ideas. It is another good way to start to learn about the practicalities of living in the country. If you can’t find your answers on the Nigeria board, check other African expat community forums for non-specific country questions.
- Have your country-of-origin friends and family set up Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype accounts for internet calling, rather than paying through the nose for regular long-distance phone calls. If you get homesick, you can go online and “call home.” You might want to make test calls to make sure non-tech savvy parents, relatives and friends know how to use the system.The internet is your best friend when you want to learn about a new place and conditions.
- https://www.britannica.com/place/Nigeria. From history to culture to government to food, you’ll find everything about Nigeria here.
- http://www.allnigerianrecipes.com/ also talks a lot about Nigerian food and ingredients.
Things that help
- Keep an open mind—Expect the good, and conversely, expect some negatives, and deal with things as they come. Don’t dwell on the “what if’s.” Perceived “worst case scenarios” rarely happen.
- Once you arrive in Nigeria, continue to build your social network—people you can call for advice, help, or a shoulder to cry on. Your family is thousands of miles away, and the expat community will become your new “family.”
- Be flexible—As they say: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”
- Try to learn something new about your surroundings each day.
- Stick to your routines; modify them to meet local conditions.
- One of the worst things you can do is dwell on your last residence. Focus on the similarities and not the differences. Abuja isn’t Swansea or Peoria, but it is unique and full of life and amazing things. Go find them!
- Travel—Plan trips, either day trips, or over-the-weekenders. Did we mention the game reserves and all the animals you can see in their natural habitat? … not in a zoo!
- Take up a new hobby or find an internet college course to continue your education. Learn local cooking. Take a language course. Enrich your life even more.
- Teach—Are you a yoga or aerobics instructor, or have a skill or hobby you can teach others? Find like-minded people in the community and set up activities. Give back to the community you live in.
- Keep reminding yourself that this is another adventure in life and you will be much richer for having had it.
- … oh yes, once again, be flexible.
Welcome to the expat world!
To read and also download our e-book – A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE FOR EXPATS COMING TO LIVE IN NIGERIA, click here.
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