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 struggled settling in Germany after moving there in 2021 because he realised he was scared of white people. He also tried to date a white person. It didn’t end well.
When did you first decide you wanted to leave Nigeria?
Until I got my job here, I didn’t think I was ever going to leave Nigeria. To me, the major ways people left Nigeria were through education and employment, and I didn’t see either working for me.
I spent eight years studying engineering at a federal university in Nigeria. Two of those were extra years. When I eventually got out in 2018, it was with a third class. First of all, a master’s abroad was out of the question. I figured I’d be wasting my time applying with my academic history. Secondly, I didn’t even think I was going to get a job in Nigeria, talkless of abroad.
So how did it happen?
I started writing full-time for a tech reporting company I started writing for in school. That was the only job I thought I could get at that point, so even though they didn’t pay me well, I stayed. That same year, I found tons of free resources online and started learning how to code, and that’s what changed my life.
Tell me about it.
I stuck with my writing job and did programming on the side until 2019 when I got my first gig as an Android developer. Getting the job gave me a boost, and I kept on learning. In 2020, I got a better job as a software developer, and at that point, my confidence had grown so much, I started applying for jobs abroad.
I love it.
For months and months, I got rejected by big companies like Netflix, but I didn’t stop applying until one day in 2020, I got a mail from a company in Germany saying I qualified to move to their interview stage.
The interviews and tests took about a month, and by the time we were done, they told me a requirement for taking the job was that I had to move to Germany. I had no problems with that.
What did moving feel like?
For someone who didn’t think they could make it abroad, it was surreal. I’m big on the idea of moving to places that are infrastructurally better than wherever I currently am. I grew up in South-Eastern Nigeria and got tired of how underdeveloped it was, so I moved to Lagos. Germany was a huge step up from Lagos.
Expectation vs Reality: Germany Edition.
I moved here in January 2021, and for every expectation I had of Germany, my mind was blown because I saw that it was better. I expected the regular stuff I’d seen online, but the cities are finer, the transport system is easier to use than I thought, and the general quality of life is actual quality. The only thing that stresses me out is the internet. The internet quality sucks.
Was it easy settling though?
Because I didn’t know anyone, it was difficult. My diet for the first few weeks was bread and peanut butter, and pizza because I had no clue where to get food from. Germany was on lockdown for the first few months of 2021, so integrating into society wasn’t so smooth. I also had to learn to use the transport system by myself during the first few weeks because when you get to Germany, you have to register yourself into the system like a university fresher, taking files from place to place. Doing all of that alone was stressful as hell, and it didn’t help that I was scared of going out.
I was terrified of white people. Everything I’d heard on the internet about being black in a “white man’s country” gave me the impression that I was unsafe. If I was passing a group of white people and they said something or laughed, I’d get agitated and think they were talking about me. Whenever I was out, I felt like something bad was going to happen to me just because of my skin colour.
Damn. Did you experience any actual racism?
Not really, no. The closest I experienced to discrimination was when I went to a public office and the old man at the front desk refused to attend to me because I couldn’t speak German. It caused a scene, but people eventually intervened and someone else attended to me.
How did you overcome this problem?
When I realised it was becoming too much of an issue, I decided to be intentional about the type of content I consumed. I stopped reading news about white on black crime and taking in any content that would make me more scared of white people. At the time, I was watching “Dear White People”, so I stopped that.
Another thing that helped was going to my work office. Because of the lockdown, I worked from home for the first six months of my arrival. When we were finally able to go to the office, working with white people helped me realise they were just people like me and there was nothing to be afraid of.
Oh, and I also tried to date a white person.
I downloaded a dating app, coincidentally connected with a white person, and after talking for some time, we decided to go on a date. It wasn’t a date per se, we just strolled around the park and looked at ducks.
How did it go?
It went well at the early stages, but at some point, I started to feel a bit awkward. I hadn’t fully recovered from my fear of white people, and here I was on a date with one. I think my awkwardness was obvious and they noticed, so they left.
Ouch. Did you guys talk after?
They texted me on the dating app again, but I ghosted them. It would have been too awkward.
I’m still on the dating app looking for partners, and if I find another white person, I’m willing to give it a shot. It’s been seven months since the last incident, and I think I might be better now.
What’s your favourite part about living in Germany?
I feel safe. I can go out whenever I want and be sure I won’t get hurt. You can’t get that in Lagos. I’ve also made a lot of good friends here — mostly Nigerians — and because we’re all German residents, we’ve travelled together a couple of times.
Where did you go?
Spain, France and Austria.
Tell me about these places.
We went to Spain and France in the summer. Spain was hot and rowdy like Lagon on some days. Barcelona was teeming with tourists. I’m pretty sure Barcelona residents hate the summer because there are so many tourists, they almost can’t have a normal life.
Paris was dirty. The popular tourist attractions were nice, but generally, the place was dirty. I also saw a lot more black people than I imagined I’d see.
Austria was unremarkable because we couldn’t do anything or see any places. We went in the winter, so it was super cold. Maybe I’ll go another time.
What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know if I want to become a permanent resident here. I think I want to move to London where the language isn’t a barrier, but that’s a decision for much later in the future. For now, I’ll stay here, get better jobs and earn more money.
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.