"To be without a friend is to be poor, indeed." - African proverb
Moving to a new country can be incredibly isolating as you have to build your social network from scratch. If you are moving back to your home nation, then you are likely to have some connections, or maybe you are moving to another African country. Quality is a priority and not quantity. Especially if you moved back to start a business, you need to be very careful about how and where you meet friends. Please also remember there is a difference between acquaintances and friends. Both are important, but recognising the difference will save you some pain and aggravation. Here are a few ways you can build your social network:
Do you have cousins that you kept in contact with whilst abroad? In some scenarios, this may be an excellent place to start. Now, I’m going to say something incredibly controversial, but I’ve never been one to hold back on my words: it’s not every cousin or family member you are meant to be close to. As you are moving back, some will see you as a money tree and unlimited ATM, so you need to be able to deduce whether this may be the case and keep a healthy distance when applicable. The last thing you want to do is bankroll multiple adults whilst trying to find your feet yourself.
2. University friends
We all know home-grown Africans that were international students at university. Typically, these students tend to come from middle-to-upper class backgrounds as they had parents who could afford to send them abroad. It may be worth reaching out to them and spending time with them. They can help you understand the environment you’re moving to, and through them, you will naturally meet like-minded individuals.
3. Friends from the diaspora that moved back before you
I was blessed to have a couple of friends that had moved back before me. They are the ideal source because you have known them for years. Furthermore, they also understand the struggles and joys of moving back that you won’t get with home-grown African friends. They will advise you on what to get sorted out first. They can also advise you on the best vendors to use to get some items that you are looking for. You will also meet other diasporan friends who have moved back through them.
4. Hobbies – Water, Biking etc.
This is the most organic method of meeting friends that do not rely on other individuals. Are you sporty? Are you a water baby? Do you like cycling, painting etc.? Look on Instagram for social clubs and go alone. Africans are just so friendly and sociable that you will meet new people on your first meeting. Apply wisdom and discernment to decide who and who to be close to, but it’s an excellent avenue to find a group to belong to, develop yourself and make friends. If you are in Lagos, I wrote about the CRAWL app that you can download and use to find activities.
5. Spiritual – Church, Mosque etc.
For people that tend to go to houses of worship, finding one to attend is a good idea. These places, by nature, have to be welcoming to new members. Furthermore, you may also find people that have moved back here, and they will take you under their wing. Someone told me to try a church once, and I went there alone. A girl randomly came to sit next to me and say hi. After an introduction, I learned that she had recently left Nigeria to go to London for her Master’s degree and lived 10 mins away from my NW London home! I also made a business connection at that church, all within 2 hours of attending.
If you are moving back to work at an organisation, your fellow colleagues may be a start. I know in Lagos, employees tend to go out together a lot, so you will be able to make friends and connections this way. However, please apply wisdom as becoming too close to your colleagues can lead them to share compromising information about you with other colleagues or senior managers.
Do NOT make friends with your employees. This is a recipe for disaster. Just trust me on this. Be nice to them, and care for them as human beings but do not lose the professional boundary as the overfamiliarity will 100% come back to bite you one day. This advice is critical if your employees are home-grown Africans that have never left the country before and you have recently repatriated and possess a different accent and upbringing to them.
7. Apply the Golden Rule
All methods above are how to meet people, but you need to apply a golden rule to filter who to be close to and spend the most time with. What is the most important requirement for you to be friends with someone? Is it intelligence, athleticism, spirituality, entrepreneurship, or caring? You need your golden rule to screen and filter people you meet. Some people you meet would make great acquaintances, business partners, party partners, employees etc. The more active you are in your screening the less stress and conflict you will have.
I hope that helps. I was blessed to have an extensive network before moving back home, so if you travel back to Africa regularly, start building your connections before you move back to have a softer landing socially. There are many vultures, and having solid friends that care for you is critical for your mental health and social capital.
As I was writing this post someone just messaged me to come out as they wanted to introduce me to some fellow tech people – life!