3 things I wish I knew before moving to Nigeria


3 things I wish I knew before moving to Nigeria

Until you finally settle in a new country, there are some things that you won't have been able to foresee. I moved from London to Lagos in the summer

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Until you finally settle in a new country, there are some things that you won’t have been able to foresee. I moved from London to Lagos in the summer of 2021. I’m still not fully settled yet, but here are three things, that I wish I was more aware of before I made the move:

1. Things aren’t actually that much cheaper

I really thought that I was Robinhood dashing money to anyone I believed was in some form of poverty. Doing that in a city of 20m+ people is a personal recipe for disaster but, we move. What really was putting a dent into my pocket wasn’t even the giving. I track my expenses manually (preferred method) with an app called Wallet. I highly recommend it as the statistical analysis you get is better than I have had on other similar apps. Wallet was showing me that I was spending more on almost everything, including food.

Now before I explain, I need to add a disclaimer. I am living on Lagos Island and only going out and spending within Lekki, VI and Ikoyi, so naturally, these being the most expensive parts of Nigeria, higher prices than the rest of the country are to be expected. Restaurant food is definitely, London prices and more. I understand it, importing etc. However, Nigeria’s inflation is currently 15% per month and it is certainly felt when you go to restaurants. In fact, in the past month, I have been to 2 restaurants in which we found out when paying the bill that the menu was out-of-date and prices of items had increased by at least 10% from what was on there.

Cosmetics have a premium on them also. Property is not cheap either. When I was looking for an office space that didn’t look like the building would collapse on my head, I was being quoted around N500,000 per month for a room that could hold 4 people. An average 2 bedroom flat in Lekki Phase 1 of decent quality is now going for N9m per annum and this does not include the exorbitant fees you will pay for electricity. Many are now turning to Solar energy to manage this, however, the installation will still come at a significant cost.

The only thing that is significantly cheaper is Bolt/Uber. Though, one must consider that the average Lagos Islander is never driving a distance more than 3 miles. Nonetheless, the highest I ever paid for an uber was £4.96 which was from VI to Ikeja (including the 2 hours of traffic).

Another disclaimer is the naira is still on a continuous decline. Converting Nigerian items from Pounds to Naira gives you a very different result at 620 when I first came and 780 which is what I’m changing it at right now. I’m sure over time, prices will continue to inflate to match this reality. If you’re planning to move to Lagos then you need to financially model your expenses for the first 2 years accurately, otherwise how expensive it is might shock you. You can hire me to help you do this.

2. People are REALLY going to frustrate you

I’ve written about how there are red flags to look for when doing business here. If you have a temper, then moving to Nigeria may be tough for you initially. People here either move too slow, too shady or too entitled. It gets really draining when everyone sees you as a walking ATM. You can’t walk outside your compound without someone begging you for money. Locals or newly found family members will just message you one day asking to “borrow” money. Whatever timeline someone promises you, always expect to be disappointed.

It’s gotten to the point now where I don’t trust anyone aside from my friends here that moved back too or I knew already (Have known them all over 10 years). Anyone aside from this is guilty until proven innocent. Moving back whilst single might be tough if you’re looking to date. I find myself happiest when I am inside for extended periods of time or chilling with my diasporan friends. Also, however long you think it will take you to start your business, times that time by two. There are too many obstacles along your journey. There is a reason why Nigeria is ranked 131/190 for Ease of Doing business in the world.

3. Your body may not adjust to the environment quickly

The keyword is ‘may’. I cannot speak for everyone so I will just speak for myself.

In my first 2 months in Nigeria, I developed full-blown asthma. My friend was always joking that where I was staying and the life I was living was ‘Beverly Hills’ and ‘Central London’ in Nigeria. So, I woke up one morning and said I want to go to a market on the mainland. I managed to find an uber to take me to Tejuosho Market. Within 30 mins, I felt nauseous and couldn’t stand up. I tried to call Ubers but was being rejected time and time again as no one wanted to sit in traffic on the way back to the island. In the end, I miraculously bumped into a friend from my Master’s degree days, who then took me back home. It took us 2 hours and 30 minutes to get from Yaba to Victoria Island (15 minutes journey with no traffic). That evening, I could not breathe AT ALL. I was on the nebulizer mask for the whole of the next day with adult-onset asthma.

Fast forward a month from then, I have ALWAYS got mosquito bites in Lagos. The only places I never got mosquito bites were in Cairo and Abuja. For some reason, the mosquito bites attacked my body on New years day, but this time it was different. My whole arm, leg, back or anywhere that was bitten would swell up and be extremely painful with each bite and I was now getting 10+ bites every single day, no joke at all. If you want to see pictures, google “Skeeter syndrome swelling” to get an idea. I had essentially developed an allergic reaction to mosquito bites and this has continued till today. I bought a load of Incognito mosquito repellent and spray it every 30 minutes whenever I’m out, but even with mosquito repellent, they still bite me. I’ve had two other female friends that came from London experience the same thing.

This was my experience, some people will adjust better. However, if you have a history of sensitive skin and bodily functions, be prepared for the African climate to show you pepper!