5 unavoidable differences between the UK and Nigeria

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5 unavoidable differences between the UK and Nigeria

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations" - Dr. Mae C. Jemison (First black woman to travel to space)

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London is all I’ve ever known, home to over two eventful decades of my life. When you’re born abroad, you know you’re black, you’re Nigerian, and you’re a foreigner. But, until you immerse yourself in the environment that your parents or grandparents came from, you will never really get it.

The diaspora connects with their home culture through music, food, movies, holidays back home, and language. For some lucky ones, if you are blessed enough to tap into your culture through these means regularly, then great! However, we still don’t get the complete picture of what it is like for our peers/cousins/siblings who were born and/or raised back home. No amount of Detty Decembers will give you that! Despite travelling to Nigeria every year for about six years, I still had a few cultural shocks that I needed to accept and digest.

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1. You can’t be nice to people you work with

Anyone that has moved back will understand this one. You want to be humane in your relations with staff that you hire, but you soon quickly learn the hard way that overfamiliarity and niceness can kill your business. Unfortunately, to get things done to the standard and with the time you want it done, you can’t just “trust the system”, as there is really is no system. Instead you have to be very firm and assertive and approach any hiring situation with a lack of trust.

This could be as simple as someone trying to fix your AC or actual staff in your business, but you have to create an element of “fear” and “respect” otherwise it’s a countdown till they mess up what you want them to do or just don’t do it at all.

2. The number of graduates with a diverse range of courses looking for work

This one bothers me the most. I met many geniuses that were probably 5-10 years older than me—still trying to make ends meet after graduating. I met a Bolt driver who studied Geology; his knowledge of the minerals and natural resources within Nigeria and Africa was supernormal. I met a 28-year-old bartender working three jobs whilst also preparing for his exam to study to be a surgeon in Indonesia.

Amazon would not have enough cloud storage to store all the stories of African youth with tenacity and higher education trying to attain jobs that afford a living wage. This is where the diaspora steps in. I’m not saying it’s easy in the West; we face our trials. Most Africans that live and grow up in Africa don’t have to deal with racism in their day-t0-day, but poor access to healthcare, poverty and extreme wealth inequality is the reality for millions. For those that God has blessed with various resources, find one person you trust and sponsor something they need. I always gave money away blindly; I tipped every taxi driver for about three months and gave it to all the cute children begging on the roads, but this is not effective (and in some cases, it’s damaging). Finding and investing in one person, then another person, then a group of people is how we can help pull each other up. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out with one; another person is there who will appreciate it and take that investment further than you imagined. Oh, and it’s never too early to start.

3. Things move slower

I’m convinced it’s the heat. That’s the excuse I will give for my people. Also, London is on steroids, so comparing many cities to London will make them all appear slower.

But things really do move slower here. Restaurant service, delivery times and your friends have BMT (Black Man’s Timing) x 100 here. You can’t even complain because the traffic is horrendous at times.

This is not a negative observation, and in fact, this has been the only thing in my life that has helped me become a more patient person. When I want something, I want it NOW – no ifs or buts. Yeah, that mentality can get thrown away because there will always be someone making things veeeeeery slow for you.

If you want things done faster, e.g. you’re at the bank, airport, etc., you will need to pay (off-the-record duh). I know many Africans face cognitive dissonance in this area. You hate the corruption of the government and want it to end this very instance. But, at the same time, you’re at the airport at the back of the queue of 100 other Africans with overweight baggage and no intention of removing or paying extra for their load. So, what do you do? You pay someone. They help you handle the whole process as smoothly as you would have in Heathrow Airport. You have jumped ahead of all those people and can breathe a sigh of relief that that madness is behind you. The problem is, you have just done the very same thing these corrupt leaders do? Yes, you are helping that person because they probably are not paid anything significant, but you still contribute to the cycle of corruption.

4. Taxi drivers will make you laugh and frustrate you

I met some fantastic taxi drivers, both in Abuja and in Lagos. We banter share dreams for the country, and if I like one, I may even get him some lunch. They are charming, charismatic people. However, some things about taking Ubers/Bolt’s in Nigeria rub me up the wrong way. This was especially bad since the onset of the pandemic.

After putting in your address and having the driver ring you almost immediately to ask, “Where are you going to?”was the first thing that annoyed me. This happens over 70% of the time, and it is incredibly annoying. One driver told me it’s because they can not see it until they pick up the driver, which is strange. Another thing is when they ring you to ask, “Where are you?”. “Mother*****, I’m at the address I put on the map!!!”, again exercising patience is essential because apparently, many people input wrong addresses.

This is not the fault of drivers, but one thing that’s annoying for impatient people like me is when you are in a compound with a gate. I despise the whole process of calling the gate and t

he driver and sometimes giving directions to the same house. Bolt has excellent geolocation tracking, so most times, it is best to use the ‘Current Location’ feature so that it will be the address of the same house you are in and not the address of the gate.

One time, I was going to my friend’s house at 11 pm (I don’t even know why I agreed to this when the curfew was at midnight), but a Bolt driver picked me up. As we are driving from VI to Oniru, just outside Sheraton, the car starts making some erroneous noses and then grinds to a halt. This guy turns around and says, “Sorry ma, I have run out of petrol”. Do you see that emoji with two hands on the head like a dramatic African Aunty? That’s what I was thinking. Since curfew was around the corner, I had to try my best to see if I could get another one to pick me up. As I wanted to open the door, he said, “Oh sorry, let me come and open that for you”, bruh. There was no door handle inside!

Another time, I wanted to go to The Palms for some ‘retail therapy. I called a driver and just sat in the car with my earphones. Suddenly, we are at a roundabout and reversing back from a dual carriageway with people banging on the boot. I throw out my earphones, and I’m like, WTF? What’s going on. I looked at his phone; it said: “46 mins away”. I was like, “Mogbe!!”. If I had continued with my blind foolishness, I might have been transported to Ogun State within the hour! I gave him my phone with the correct address, which was 16 minutes away and never sat in a taxi without my Google Maps on again.

5. How good for the mind it is to live near water

Now not everyone can relate as many countries and cities are landlocked. But, for those blessed to be coastline or have rivers and lagoons running through the land, the beauty and opportunity of the water cannot be understated. I could write a full-blown essay on this.

Water within a city brings mental, economic and spiritual advantages to its inhabitants. First of all, no matter the colour of the water, it’s still beautiful to look at from the skylines. It’s also lovely to have as the backdrop to bars, restaurants, apartment blocks and businesses. If you enjoy being on or in the water, there are a plethora of activities and sports that you can do. Fishing and jet-skiing are not known activities for London youths. I can speak for everyone in that no one can or even wants to do that on the murky River Thames. Whilst, you may have boat cruises, the crowd and the vibe are not the same. You can interact with water daily in some areas of Africa, which is excellent. Something I try to do as often as possible as there is a spiritual calmness that comes from blowing down a lagoon at 60mph on a jet ski (yes, I mean it) or walking by the sea.

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