Thursday, March 26, 2015
My Experience Series:"Living Abroad; My Unsavoury Experience With Nigerians In Diaspora"
This week on "my experience series",I've got an interesting story from a fellow nigerian who has been privileged to travel outside the shores of the country to some countries in europe including aberdeen in scotland,and he discovered to his chagrin that the nigerians in diaspora are not as warm and embracing as the ones he's used to back home. He shares his story but would like his identity hidden,enjoy his story as I serve it to you hot as always,lol
There is this idea most of us have about people abroad,wherever, even if in a third world country,so far it is beyond the shores of
Nigeria. They are often very highly regarded (unnecessarily most
times) especially by those who haven’t seen beyond the Nigerian shores except in movies or through any other media.
I have not really been the must-travel type but somehow, I have been to a few places outside Nigeria. Great experiences, I must confess,but it is always very difficult for me to imagine myself settling down to live in these places. Yeah, nice environment, working systems,impressive structures and infrastructures… but something beyond all these always makes me yearn for home; something keeps telling me,
“Home will always be home, nowhere can ever be like home.”
However, there is something very amazing and very interesting,a
mystery not too hard to unravel, about life abroad. Life abroad is a
leveller! It is amazing how the seemingly very important people here at home become just ordinary people abroad. It is a good thing and I wish it could be the reality here at home. However, there is yet another mystery I find not very interesting about Nigerians abroad…
It was some few minutes after 7 o’clock in the morning. I sat there
alone trying to pass time in the Aberdeen International Airport,
Dyce,separated from the freezing unfriendly outside by just the glass automatic exit door. That was my first time in the UK and it was a very different experience from my previous travels outside Nigeria for the major reason that I was altogether on my own. I had no one to welcome me, no one to pick me up, no particular place to go as I lost my reserved accommodation like some weeks before my arrival simply because I had issues with my passport that led to the delay of my travel,and since the accommodation could not wait,it had to go. I could not also make calls as I did not have much call credit on my phone and I hadn’t gotten a UK sim card yet. Worst of all, I had just about 120pounds cash on me since my cash card was to be loaded in a
few days; meaning I had to be very careful with spending at least for the first one or two days.
I know some would be asking“How could you be so unprepared for a
journey like that?" Well,that was poor planning I know,but I shall save the details for another time.
So,I sat there at the low traffic airport thinking of what steps to
take next. OK, I could actually make some contacts! I brought out my notebook,connected to the airport’s free Wi-Fi and got online without delay. I quickly sent an email to my contact in Aberdeen and sent Facebook messages to some relevant people in Nigeria because I needed some real time responses,which I fortunately got; bless God for technology!
I was to head for the city centre, Union Street precisely. The airport
door opened on its own accord as I progressed towards it. I stepped
out only to be greeted by a gust of cold,chilled drift like an unexpected blow intended for a knock-out on my face. But for that, I was a little bit prepared. I knew I was going to the UK at the
beginning of winter and I had an idea of what to expect;at least my
trip to Germany had taught me a little lesson about winter in Europe.I got on the bus to the city centre. “I need to get to Union Street”,I told the bus driver. “Two pounds eighty” he responded. I paid and took my seat. Not knowing exactly where to alight on Union Street. Luckily for me, I caught a glimpse of the city’s information centre on Union Street when the bus got there, so I had to get off the bus at the next stop and had to walk some steps back to the information centre hoping to get some basic information.
I wasn’t disappointed much; at least I knew where I could buy sim card and also where I could get more information on getting accommodation. But was I really expecting to get accommodation that same day? I really didn’t know what was going on in my head; all I just knew was that somehow, something would happen. At last,I got a UK sim card and started making calls. I called loads of people, Nigerians in Aberdeen
that I was told to call and even those I have been in contact with
before my arrival in Aberdeen. I got all sorts of responses but after making the calls,I began to painfully realize, as reality started to dawn on me,that I was on my own.
“Didn’t these people understand that I am new around here? Did they ever understand that I need help? Did they even care a bit that I haven’t had even a good meal since like two days ago?” Well, probably I was expecting too much from Nigerians living in the UK or probably it was a not-too-good day for all the people I called. I was actually expecting this kind of African warmness; you know, people rallying around you,at least as a first timer,to make you feel comfortable or to help you settle down or get what you want, even if it was for the first day or at least offer some exciting or enthusiastic words. But I didn’t even get any of that. Everybody seemed distant. The best I got was an aloof response like,“look around for a B&B. it should cost like 35 to
50pounds per night and there is one on…” Geez, 35-50 pounds per night! How on earth would I afford that? Now I had like 100pounds!
It was like 2pm. I still haven’t got a clue on what exactly I’m to do.
Tired, sleepy, thirsty, hungry, pressed, depressed and disappointed, I was getting a little apprehensive, dragging my travel bag (thank God I travelled light) behind me just going in circles. Then I spotted a KFC outlet. I pulled myself and my bag in, settled first at a table then
requested to use the toilet. After that I ordered for two pieces of
juicy roasted chicken and one portion of fries. I was really revived
afterwards. At about 2.30pm, still haven’t got my bearing yet, I put a
call through to a colleague in Nigeria. It was at that point that my fortune changed. He advised that since I was in the UK for a research in a higher institution, I could use the school’s guest house.
So I picked up my luggage again and headed for the school. With a
little introduction of myself to the white lady at the desk in RGU and
showing the relevant documents to prove my claims, in no time, she gave me my staff identity card,called the guest house to know if there was a spare room (fortunately, there was) and directed me to the Woolmanhill Flats. With the help of a South American, I located the place and I was giving a room for like 30pounds per night. Although I
told them I would be staying there for 5 nights, I hadn’t enough money to pay as I was supposed to make all the payment before moving in. However, I paid part of the money and promised I would balance up before the end of the five days and they obliged me.
Getting into the room that day was a big relief for me
For me Aberdeen is just unreasonably expensive to live in. They say it is the oil capital of Europe and that is why the cost of living is relatively high, but for me this is not a good enough justification. Most expensive aspect of living in Aberdeen is accommodation-the accommodation is not even readily available.
For close to two weeks,I was living in a youth hostel – after I'd spent like 1 week in a B&B – and it was not really pocket friendly for
me – imagine, hostel cost like 30pounds per night! This is like N9k every night; wow! 9k for just a bed in like a 6-man room! Na wa o!
Anyways, I became very desperate to get an accommodation. Many turn downs, many unsuccessful searches, but I kept on searching. At last, I got a place; sorry,I got two actually and both were from Nigerians. One for the first two months – as the room was only available for two months – and the other for the remaining months(my research work was to last for 5 months). I wish I hadn’t done this really,but because of my experience with securing accommodation and also the fear of going through another accommodation ordeal, I had to.
More to this, my second landlord exploited my ignorance and naivety especially because he knew I was new in town. He fuelled my fear of not getting another accommodation should I lose his offer. He tried to make me feel that he was only doing me a favour. I on the other hand was forced to trust him based on my unpalatable experience with
accommodation. Anyways, he caught me in the web of his trick. He ensured I paid at least a month’s rent with another one month’s rent as deposit immediately. By this, I was stuck.
After some months in Aberdeen, when I have become much acquainted with and better understood the system, I discovered I had only been played.
I could actually get something better for much cheaper. But it was too late. I couldn’t ask for my money back because he was not even in town. I really felt bad. Also, when I finally moved into the
apartment, I discovered there were some very important facilities he
promised which were lacking and because he was not there,I just had to live with it that way. No internet facility,I could not bring a friend home and some other funny stern rules…in a shared apartment that cost me 430pounds a month!
Eventually, when I was to leave the apartment, paying back my deposit started becoming an issue. Anyways, I got my deposit back but it was less than the actual sum without reasons and since he was not in town,there was no one to hold.
This whole experience created in me an impression about Nigerians in
diaspora. I had always believed Nigerians are hospitable, warm, and
helpful, especially to their kit and kin or brother in foreign lands.
Sadly, I was wrong and really disappointed! Most Nigerians in diaspora are not ready to help you and even most of those who pretend they want to help actually are looking for ways to exploit you. Most of them
make it look like they are doing you a favour when actually they are
after how to exploit you.
This impression was confirmed on my several encounters with Nigerians
in Aberdeen,for example in getting accommodation and also in getting a
complementary job. Is this our nature or is it the harsh environment of faraway lands that had conditioned or programmed Nigerians in diaspora to be like this? I saw them on the streets. I saw them in the neighbourhood. I
saw them at workplaces.I have tried to dig out various reasons for this attitude – maybe it is because of the unfriendly weather condition,maybe it is because of loneliness, maybe it is because most Nigerians in diaspora are actually there basically to survive hence are desperate, maybe it is because of poor self-esteem, maybe it is because of this, maybe it is because of that, or maybe it’s just who
we are. Whatever the reason, I think it reflects a deep fact about Nigerians.
I think one important lesson for me is that one should not expect much from Nigerians in diaspora - expect the worst so that you won't be diasappointed