So the sun is finally out, the school year will soon be over and the holidays will be upon us. Some people are gearing up to take their kids out of school, out of Nigeria and to a foreign land to seek greener pastures. You can’t blame these people, because on top of all their struggles they are still labelled as lazy by the one(s) who should know better.
However, before such a move is made, here are a few points that people need to consider before taking the plunge:
When you arrive in the UK as a Nigerian immigrant it is natural for you to assume you will have no language problems in the UK, right? WRONG! There are regional accents that turn the English that you and I understand into a sing-song version with many odd regional dialects thrown in. I had no problems when I lived in London. London is very multi-cultural and very few people talked with the traditional cockney accent so it was not a problem. As most tourists visit London, people don’t realise that many Britons speak very differently from the average Londoner. My challenge came when I lived in Cardiff, Wales. To buy fruits in the open market became a sign-language lesson as I could not understand the traders’ accent and dialect, and they weren’t speaking welsh o!.
Test yourself: what do these phrases mean? 1. “Aa winnet say nowt” ( Liverpool area) 2. “Moysen a bit” ( South East) 3. “That wee girl’s a melter” ( Northern Ireland) 4. “Who’s mashing?” (Midlands) 5. “Awmylor” (South West) 6. “Ah dinnae ken” (Scotland) 7. “Shandivang” (Wales) . Answers below.
Think carefully before you choose to relocate to the north of England or even Scotland. The accent and dialect can be very hard to grasp. It is important to be able to communicate with people around you instead of shouting ‘pardon?’ every time someone speaks to you.
What about work?
If you are able to speak clearly and be understood and you can understand regional accents; the next thing to concern yourself with is employment. Getting a job can prove very difficult in the UK, especially if you seek a professional role. Many professions are regulated by professional bodies with strict requirements for qualifications that must be met before you can work in that particular industry/field. You may find that despite all your experience you may have to start at the bottom of the ladder in your area of expertise, and this can be quite demoralizing. It is also highly unlikely that any employer will overlook an existing employee for promotion in favor of an untested immigrant, so be ready to prove your worth by starting from the bottom and working your way to where you should be. The dubious and fraud-prone reputation that Nigerians now have doesn’t help but it is possible to make a breakthrough. It is worth researching all relevant professional bodies and their requirements before embarking on a life-changing move to the UK.
Where to live?
For those who haven’t visited the UK before, houses here are tiny compared to houses in some parts of the USA and even Nigeria. Houses are also relatively more expensive as land is sold at a premium. If you relocate to the UK it is worth remembering that God doesn’t only live in London. Accommodation costs a fortune in London and the South East but you can rent a 3 bed house with a garden in some parts of the UK for a quarter of what it will cost you to rent a room in some parts of London. Find out about local schools as inner city schools tend to be rough and under-achieving. And no, a council flat is not automatically available to immigrants. There is always a waiting list with criteria which you are unlikely to meet as an economic migrant. Make sure that you sort out where you will live for the foreseeable future before making the move.
What about public services?
One of the lures of a country like the UK is the different types of top quality public services available to legal residents. It is imperative that you register with a GP as soon as you arrive and that you supply them with your medical history. This makes it possible for your doctor to treat you adequately if you fall ill. Yes, the NHS is free at the point of treatment for lawful residents, but if you are an illegal immigrant you may be asked to pay for your care, if caught. You may be asked by your GP to show your passport when registering for the first time. Social services are also helpful and vigilant in ensuring that children are well cared for. They are always willing to take children away from parents who discipline with a heavy hand. Also, the police are your friend, truly! If you are law-abiding, you are not going to be targeted by the police. This links in with living in a decent area (above). If you don’t research, you may end up renting property in a crime/ vice street. Under such circumstances you will quickly find that the police will stop being your friend and you will be targeted/ monitored and searched at every given opportunity. You cannot claim any benefits like free school meals, housing support or income support until you have the right papers.
As a new immigrant, the most accessible form of transportation is likely to be the bus/train or tube (underground). You must be able to read maps, and it is advisable to download the local bus and train apps on to your phone so that you are able to connect journeys seamlessly. There is no ‘African time’ so you must be able to access these on time. Employers also trust employees to turn up to work on time, so you can’t blame traffic or a late bus for being late all the time. If you decide to purchase and drive a car, you must sit your 2 part driver’s test and pass both. You must also pay insurance for the car and road tax to the government. You may also have to pay for resident parking, depending on where you live. It might not be reasonable to have a car if you work/live in central London or big cities where there is little parking, excellent public transportation and a lot of traffic.
My culture is better than yours
While many immigrants find that they are prepared for every eventuality when they arrive, many don’t consider the effect that cultural differences may have on them. Some parts of the UK are very culturally diverse but there are also areas that are not. If you move to a remote village in Scotland because you find a job as a doctor, you must be ready to be the only black person in the village with your kids being the only black children in their schools. Along with this come different attitudes to race, religion and gender. If the community is not particularly welcoming of strangers, it could quickly lead to feeling isolated.
If you find yourself in a culturally diverse city like Bolton, you will quickly have to learn the cultural preferences of the people there, as they are predominantly Asian. Little things that can get you in trouble will include calling all Asians ‘Indians’, just like we hate it when someone says ‘Are you from Africa?’ as if Africa is one country. Do not use words like ‘ mullato or half caste’, ‘paki’, ‘chinko’ ‘ireke’ or call a man Al-Qaida because he wears a headscarf. They are all very offensive racist terms and you cannot excuse using such terms by saying ‘ it doesn’t mean anything bad in my country (Nigeria). Also respect people’s religious views and don’t criticize their choices. This can be viewed as religious intolerance and you can get a visit from the Police on the matter.
What about the kids?
Thankfully, children tend to adapt quite quickly to a new culture, language and weather faster than their parents. Sometimes it is so fast that it seems that they shed their own culture in a bid to fit in. One way to reduce culture abandonment is to teach your children to respect your own cultural standards and values but still allow them to integrate. The UK will be their new home and if you migrated to give your children a chance of a better life you’ll have to accept a level of integration from them. Don’t force practices on them that, while they may be okay in Nigeria, will cause them to be ridiculed at school. For example, don’t tell their friends off and discipline them if they do something unacceptable. There’s no collective parenting in the UK. Just nicely ask the friends to leave and tell your kids you never want to see the friends again! Also pay particular interest to their school work and attend school events with them, when possible.
You are black, so what?
Racism is a sad feature of the immigrant experience across the world. Some people are not going to like you because of the colour of your skin. Don’t take it personally. These occurrences are few and far between but the appropriate ‘put-down’ usually shuts such people up. I think the era of walking away from rudeness, racism and prejudice has passed. Sometimes you have to give as good as you get and put such people straight. Funny enough, it is usually the uneducated that tend to verbalize their prejudice.
I remember the story of a nasty woman who told an immigrant to go back to where she came from. The immigrant, a nurse, quipped: “ If you had managed to finish school and learnt something decent, I wouldn’t have come from my country to help out in your hospital. Besides, I bet we will be seeing you in hospital soon, with that cigarette in your mouth!” I always imagine that she nurse ended her outburst with prolonged teeth sucking (mschweeeeeeeew!!!!!)
When all is said and done, no one knows tomorrow. Home or abroad, happiness is what matters most!
Answers to the quiz:
1: Aa winnet say nowt = I won’t tell anyone.
2.Moysen a bit – drizzly rain
- That wee girl’s a melter – she gets on my nerves.
- Who’s mashing? – who is making a cup of tea?
- Awmylor – Bless my soul.
- Ah dinnae ken – I don’t know
- Shandivang – in a dreadful mess.
Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on everything.