The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional, and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.
Today’s subject on Abroad Life has always wanted to explore life outside Nigeria — but not permanently. He talks about moving to Scotland because of the nice people, his plans for getting a UK citizenship, and the reasons he wants to move back to Nigeria.
When did you decide you wanted to leave Nigeria?
I always wanted to know what it felt like to live in other countries, but I never wanted to leave permanently. Nigeria is home to me, and just like a lot of people who leave, I will return.
What was growing up like?
When I was in primary school, my dad was getting his ICAN certification, and my mum was in school or nursing. Growing up was tough, but it got easier with time.
My parents had me, then my two sisters. We lived in a face-me-I-face-you apartment. As time went on, we all moved to a one-room apartment, and after some time, we moved into the house my parents were building. It was an incomplete building, but they decided it was more financially prudent to spend whatever money they had on finishing their house instead of rent.
What phase of life were you in at this point?
I was rounding up secondary school and about to get into university.
When I decided to go to university to study electrical engineering, my mum decided she wanted to get her BSc in nursing too. They weren’t giving BScs to nursing school graduates at the time, and she realised that to climb up in her career, a BSc would do her a lot of good.
So you went to the same school with your mum.
It first felt strange getting home and seeing her study for exams and tests. After a few semesters, I saw her results, and they were even better than mine so I decided to sit up and use her as my motivation to study harder and do better. It was fun.
What happened after university?
In university, I got interested in digital and social media marketing, and so immediately after I graduated in 2016, I got a job as a social media manager. I left after eight months because I didn’t like the job — they didn’t pay well, I wasn’t growing in my career, and the employer-employee relationship was terrible.
So what did you do next?
Freelance in digital marketing and web development. After some time, I realised I had some excess money and I asked my dad for advice on what to do with it. He told me to buy a plot of land and start a farm, which I did. On the farm, I mainly grew cassava.
Business moved fast because I had a friend who was a major supplier of cassava to multiple organisations. They never had enough cassava so they would buy from anyone that was willing to supply. I never had to worry about selling out everything my farm produced.
Were you already considering moving abroad in this period?
I was strongly considering moving to Australia. I did a lot of research and found out that Australia was a great place to move to as a foreigner. The people are nice, the country is big and there are more job opportunities than there are workers. The process of moving there is also similar to Canada’s point-based system, but much easier.
In addition to research, I had proof — my uncle went to Australia years ago for his master’s and two years after he was done, he had his own established business that was receiving government contracts. I found it amazing that in such a short period, a foreigner with no connections could be so established.
One more thing that made Australia perfect was that it’s huge; I would have a lot of places to visit. I really like travelling, you see. When I was in Nigeria, I would wake up one day and decide that I wanted to know what some state in the north looked like, pack a bag, tell my family they wouldn’t see me for weeks, and just drive. I visited a lot of states in Nigeria that way.
So why aren’t you in Australia right now?
Omo, it’s expensive to get a master’s there. I started trying to go there in 2018 and after I got admitted into some schools, the fees sent me running. For a lot of the schools I tried to go to, I needed about ₦8 million up-front and over ₦30 million in total. Of course, I didn’t have that type of money, so I decided to look into other options.
What were the options?
First of all, the US was out of the list because I’m very scared of racism. The niceness of the people in the country I’m moving to is always super important for me. I’m dark-skinned — my friends used to call me “Black mamba”, and I’ve gotten my fair share of jabs even in Nigeria because of my colour. After being online and seeing all of the violent racism that happens in the US, it became an actual fear that if I went to the US, some white person would wake up one morning, decide they didn’t like my skin colour and proceed to shoot me.
The next option was the UK. I have friends and family all over the UK, and they were all putting pressure on me to show up. I decided to do my research again. Of the four countries in the UK, I decided to move to Scotland. I read online that the Scottish are super nice people. I found a school in Glasgow that offered a master’s in marketing, and after paying the £3,500 deposit fee, I moved here.
I’m curious, how much was the total fee?
£12,000. I’ve lived here for 10 months and spent about ₦15 million in total.
Are you done paying your fees?
Completely. I paid it all in about four months working here. My first job here was at a factory but I stayed there for only one month because I didn’t like the way I was treated by the owners who were Polish. The Polish own a lot of the factory-type businesses here and they’re super racist people. Every racist experience I’ve had has come from a Polish person.
The next job I got was as a caregiver to the aged and the sick. On this job, I interacted with more Scottish people and they were all so nice.
I can’t work for 40 hours like a regular citizen because my student visa only allows me to work for 20, but I have paid all my fees.
Nice. What’s it like living in Glasgow?
Before I moved here, I stayed in Leicester in England for a month with my uncle just to get a feel of what England is like and also to quarantine. I think it’s overhyped. Scotland is much better. The people are nicer, it’s more peaceful and calmer, the quality of life is better and the minimum wage is higher. The English minimum wage is £8.91 per hour, but here it’s £9 per hour. Nurses in Scotland earn about £5 per hour more than the ones in England.
Is that a big difference?
Omo, it was here I learnt that every penny counts. If I earn just 50 pence extra per hour, I would make an extra £10 every week. With £10, I can buy chicken and pepper to make food for two weeks. So, someone earning an extra £5 and working at least 20 hours a week is making an extra £100. That’s vacation money.
LMAO, thanks for the explainer. What’s school like?
It’s so much more intense and the teaching is really intentional and practical. I don’t just sit in class to learn; I work on actual, real-life marketing campaigns. I’m really enjoying school. It’s a 16-month course.
What are you doing when you’re done?
I’m staying until I get my citizenship.
How do you intend to do that?
I have three options: get married to someone from the UK, naturalise after staying for 10 years or get a job to sponsor my visa and then apply for citizenship after five years.
Which one are you doing?
My uncle who lives here advised me to target the hardest option so that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I tried the easiest option and it didn’t work. The hardest option is naturalisation because it means you have to stay here for 10 years, and the easiest is marriage. I was never considering marriage because I’m not that desperate. Women here are even afraid of being in relationships with Nigerians because many Nigerians here are either using them for the UK passport or using them as “pickers” for fraud.
When I finish my master’s, I’ll get a job that can change my visa from a student visa to a work visa. If I can stay at the job for years and prove that I have added value to the job and the country, I’ll get my citizenship.
All of this sounds nice. Why do you want to return to Nigeria afterwards?
I’m getting the extra citizenship because of my children. I want to give them a better option for their future. It’s not like this is 100% the best place to live. The taxes here are crazy. My friend got a mail recently asking him to pay £154 just for council tax. This is different from the bills he pays and the normal tax from his salary. It’s money you occasionally pay for living and working here. Citizens pay it too. At some point, you’ll realise that you’re just working and giving the government all the money back.
I want to be able to return to Nigeria, work, have excess money and go for owambes on the weekends. That’s the Nigerian lifestyle I’m used to and the one I want.
What’s your favourite part of living in Scotland?
It’s the people, their food and their culture. They’re nice people, they have good food, and they have a rich culture.
Hey there! My name is Sheriff and I’m the writer of Abroad Life. If you’re a Nigerian and you live or have lived abroad, I would love to talk to you about what that experience feels like and feature you on Abroad Life. All you need to do is fill out this short form, and I’ll be in contact.