You’re not in Kansas anymore

Congratulations to you, you did it!! You went overseas and got your degree. Now you’re done, so what next? Ok, so you decide to return to the land of milk and honey, a hero. Well, enjoy your moment cause it just may not last. Not surprising if you have settled into the culture, but I’m afraid to tell you that you’re in for a rude awakening cause things are not quite the same here as they are over there. Here’s some advice from one returnee to the other:

  1. Be ready for a whole bunch of unsolicited, “well-meaning” advice. People would either let you know if they approve or disapprove of every little thing you do. Here are some scenarios you may be found wanting and words you may hear:
  • Ring on your marriage finger – “Are you mad??? Don’t you know you may chase away your future husband???”

  • A sliver of your bra strap pops out of your dress – Gasps “we know you have breasts, but why must you confirm that you support it with anything?”

  • That body art or piercing – “You have spoilt finish in obodo oyibo oh”

  • That tank top (spaghetti hand) unaccompanied by a jacket in the blistering 30°c sun – “You are a naughty clubbing girl disgracing your respectable family name”

  • Wearing Nike trainers on a casual day – “Ah! Don’t you know you’re a woman? Won’t you make yourself look more mature?”

  1. Do not forget your greetings. You don’t want to be branded “the boy/girl with no home training” on your first day back. While you’re at it, dust off your default honorifics – “aunty” and “uncle”, since everyone is your parents’ siblings…in the Lord, of course. On the flip side, get ready to hear the younger kids use the same title on you. I still haven’t gotten used to hearing that. My natural reaction is this forced, pained smile that I’m sure gives the kids nightmares.

    Pained smile
    Yup…I smile just like this…see, nightmare inducing smile |”Smile Like You’re Dead Inside: T-Bob Bodin” by Kevin McShane is licenced under CC BY-NC 2.0
  2. You are urged to be your own person but heavens forbid that person you are, deviates from the pre-ordained game plan. What you should remember, is that before you even knew yourself, you have been carefully crafted and moulded; and steps may be taken to get you to be that person, even if it means slowly chipping away at the person you think you are until all you’re left with is an existential crisis at age 30. To avoid this, you need to make out time for yourself to get centred and to constantly remind yourself of who you are, or you may find that you lose the very thing that makes you, YOU.
  3. Ever heard that saying that it is rude to discuss religion on the dinner table or in public? Well, that may work “in the abroad” but fat chance it works here. You will find on your return, that Nigeria is a deeply religious society and this may either shock you or not.  You’d find that religion dictates everything here and you must be faced with it in every single moment of every single day. It is how people here rationalised the fuckery and hopelessness we call life.
  4. You will most definitely need to readjust the standards you cling to – for me, it was shocking seeing the average everyday Nigerian. Not the “posh” ones that live behind the huge gates and jet off abroad every other month, but the average Amakas and Emekas. It was startling for me there’s nothing quite like it that I’ve ever seen.
  5. The entitlement – you can’t let them, people feel entitled to your time, space, friendship and most especially, phone number. Learn how to rebuff them or you may find yourself miserable. What I learnt is that every and any guy shoots his shot. If I wasn’t so put off by the brazen, almost irritating “flirtation”, I may have commended them on their confidence. But alas, irritation prevails.
  6. Also, heavens forbid you’re a “modern day” woman who managed to unlearn all those roles you were indoctrinated into growing up in Nigeria, coming back can be a huge shock. You may have been “woke” while you were away, but Nigeria may appear to still be “asleep”.
  7. So you’ve returned from the abroad and you’re what, 24? A woman? Well, what are you waiting for? Everyone welcomes you home, “Oh you’ve come back ehn, you’ve done us proud” “Are you back for good?” “Oh, we thank God oh”. Obviously, the next logical step from this interaction is, “so marriage next shebi, *silly grin* I want to come and eat wedding rice oh”. Like in that moment, while uncomfortably laughing, all I can think about is how a destination wedding in the International Space Centre sounds perfect, but if it were unavailable, how I’d settle for a chilly Antarctican nuptial; just bae and I. Thinking about this, I can’t wait to see what I write about it when the time comes.
  8. The relationship playing field –  you hear terms like “Yoruba demon”, or “he’s a Rivers man after all”. What has become clear to me, is that infidelity is a way of life in most Nigerian relationships (old and young). Men with families, go out clubbing and return at odd hours of the night to the dutiful wife who has prepared him a post-clubbing feast. He comes home; booze-soaked and proudly recounts his escapades at the club. Men with wives hitting on you and telling you in one breath how “they just want to get to know you better” and in the other, telling you how much they love and respect their wives, going as far as calling them “their chairman”.
  9. You know how they say information is power? That could not be truer from my experience. It’s almost like we live in a version of the cold war USSR, where information is classified up to your eyeballs and prying intel out of a person may involve using the same enhanced interrogation methods employed by the CIA; like they’ve taken an oath to guard this piece of information with their lives. I guess my question is why bother having a website or customer service?
  10. A smile really goes a long way. Whether you meet a super friendly shop assistant or the grumpiest till operator, just being non-threatening, almost a little ditzy with the warmest smile, can make your transaction a whole lot smoother. They may give you attitude (for many reasons I won’t even go into), but at least, it would be better than what you could have been.
  11. In every transaction, you are invited to negotiate prices. Never assume the offered price is final, there’s always room for some manoeuvring unless you’re at a supermarket and the price is clearly printed on the product.
  12. There is no Spotify in Nigeria. I repeat, “THERE IS NO SPOTIFY IN NIGERIA”, so you better wise up and get premium, otherwise best dust off your old CD collections.
  13. Adjust your taste buds cause there ain’t no Sushi and all those “mede-mede” where you’re coming to. Become creative and find alternatives. One thing Nigeria is blessed with is food so I’m sure you can find something. So don’t fret, it is possible to continue your healthy organic diet here, I’ve seen people do it, just may take a bit more effort and money.
  14. Lastly, vex money is a must. Whenever you’re leaving your house, always carry some cash, cause you can’t rely on plastic here.

Surely, we must not have had the same experiences moving back home,  what has yours  been like?


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