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.
This week’s #AbroadLife subject spent nine years in Canada, returned to Nigeria for nine years, and moved back to Canada in 2021. After all her tears, she’s settled in Canada again. And she has a lot to say about the dating scene there.
When did you first move to Canada?
The first time I came was in 2001 because my family had gotten Canadian permanent residence (PR).
But I moved for university when I was 17 in 2003. I had to first do one year of secondary school because I was too young.
Moving to another country at 17 sounds scary
Yeah. I was still a child. Thankfully, I had a soft landing. Because I came in as a PR, I didn’t have to worry about a student visa or pay international student school fees. I had healthcare, went to a private boarding school and got a $250 monthly allowance which, somehow, I finished every month.
Even though I knew my parents were rich, I still felt like the poorest in my school because of the type of people there. For example, I had a friend whose dad was an ambassador. She’d randomly invite her friends to stay with her at expensive hotels. Of course, I said yes every time. Another time, her dad was having a party outside the country, and a private jet came to pick her and five of her friends. I couldn’t go because I hadn’t become a citizen and gotten my passport yet.
When did you become a citizen?
I became eligible in 2005 or 2006, but I didn’t apply for citizenship until 2007. I got it in 2009.
What was uni like?
My course was a four-year programme. I started in 2004 and graduated in 2011.
LMAO. First of all, I never wanted to go to university. I just wanted to make furniture. That was my passion. But as someone with Nigerian parents, is skipping university even an option?
In my first year, I failed so bad, they advised me to take the next two semesters off. Because if I failed those too, they’d have to expel me. So for the summer semester of 2005, I was in Nigeria. After that, I returned to Canada. The next semester was the fall semester, and even though I wasn’t attending classes, I decided to write and help students do their research for money. I even told my dad not to give me an allowance so I could fend for myself. He still paid rent sha.
In January 2006, I resumed and changed my major from psychology to social development and women’s studies. I was doing pretty well until I got pregnant in September the same year.
My dad disowned me. Then he changed his mind. But he made me promise I wouldn’t drop out. I tried my best, but sometime in 2007 when I was heavily pregnant, I dropped out.
What’s it like having a baby in Canada?
Oh, it was pretty great. I had my baby in a private room, with a great doctor and a jacuzzi, and I didn’t pay a dime.
My Ontario Health Insurance Plan covered it.
There’s an incident I can never forget. After I had my baby, I returned to school. I was pushing my baby in a stroller, struggling to hold my books at the same time, and a white girl walked up to help me. As we strolled, she began to complain about the prime minister taking away welfare, especially for a black single mother like me who must struggle to pay student loans. I was speechless. Why did she just assume all that? I was coming from a five-bedroom house my dad bought after I had my baby, in a brand new car my dad bought, to a school where all my fees had been paid.
Is that racism I hear?
LMAO, Canada can be very racist. I’ve experienced profiling here, but a lot of the time, I don’t know how to react. I’ve even been called the ‘n’ word while eggs were hurled at me from a moving car. This probably has nothing to do with my race sha, but white boys on skateboards robbed me of my purse with my phone and wallet when I was heavily pregnant.
In 2008, I decided to return to Nigeria, where I worked for a bit before returning to Canada to finish school in 2009. Between 2010 and 2012 when I returned to Nigeria, I did a couple of menial jobs.
First of all, I sold vacuum cleaners from door to door. While doing that, I learnt one of my biggest lessons living in Canada.
I’ll tell you three, so people who want to move to Canada can know. First, don’t fill out forms that ask for social insurance numbers if they’re not directly from your bank. Even then, be careful. At my vacuum sales job, I gave them my social insurance number because I thought they needed it for payment purposes. Nope. Just like they can use it to pay, they can also use it to charge you. I was charged $3k for the demo vacuum even though I used it for their work.
The second is, before you move, get a letter from FRSC stating you can drive, so you don’t have to wait a year to get a license. Trust me, life is much easier here when you can drive around.
Third thing: Don’t open accounts for anyone. I once opened a phone account for someone, and they ran up a phone bill and didn’t pay. Never again.
After the sales job, I worked as a telemarketer. I could only do it for two months because, really, you can only get told, “Never call this house again, “n-word”” so many times. It was brutal, and I hated it.
Then I got a sales rep job at a store, where something happened that made me return to Nigeria in 2012.
The major reason why I returned is I was tired of paying electricity and water bills for a five-bedroom house on my own. I could’ve moved to a smaller apartment, but it just felt like it would defeat the purpose of the house. Also, my child was five, and I’d been taking care of them alone for the most part. I broke things off with her father who lived in Nigeria the year she was born. I wanted us to reconnect with family.
At my store job, I met a Nigerian woman who told me she’d been working at another branch of the store for 23 years, and my future flashed before my eyes. I didn’t want to tell another Nigerian girl I’d been working at a store for 23 years, 23 years from now. I wanted to return to Nigeria and do something more.
What did you do?
I went to culinary school. I like working with my hands. From there, I built a career in Nigeria and even became a consultant for restaurants.
What did moving back feel like, though?
At first, I hated it. I was in a place with no sanity. One of the first things that got to me was the bad driving. My God, Nigerians are such terrible drivers. Then things like electricity, buying fuel, water and the Nigerian police, just made me hate living there. In Canada, things just work. People know the rules and follow them.
It took me a couple of years, but I eventually settled in Nigeria. In fact, I like to say I was at the best point in my life when I moved back to Canada in 2021. I had a good business making decent money, a group of close-knit friends I hung out with at least once a week, I was around family and had a nice apartment. It was beautiful.
Why did you move back?
Because I promised my child we would move when they finished JSS 3, so they could get used to the Canadian system before university. It was just time.
Was this move different?
Oh, absolutely. For almost a year, I cried every day. In the shower, in bed, while driving, tears. When I came in 2003, I was a student, so my life was pretty organised by the school system and whatever programmes they had. This time, I had to be responsible for myself.
Here’s another piece of advice for Nigerians trying to move to Canada: Move to a city. Especially if you’re coming alone — without a partner. I know cities like Toronto are more expensive, but if you move to a less populated area, loneliness will finish you.Trust me, I’ve been there. Texting and calling your friends and family in Nigeria is not enough.
For three weeks, the only person I saw was my child. You might say you have friends who live an hour away, but nobody wants to drive for one hour to visit you because you’re lonely. And you can’t drive to visit them because you’re busy. Just move to a place with lots of people.
Amidst all this loneliness, I had to work extra hard because the first restaurant job I found wasn’t even paying enough to cover rent. I had to cook and deliver Nigerian food on the side. Also, my credit score had become terrible when I wasn’t around, so I couldn’t even get a nice apartment or a brand new car. It was sha tough. And let’s not even get into the dating scene.
Actually, let’s do that
Both Nigerian men and women in Canada are suffering, but for different reasons. Nigerian women can’t find men, and they don’t want Nigerian men.
From what I’ve seen, Nigerian men come here and become comfortable doing mediocre jobs, earning not so well, and they don’t want better for themselves. Like why are you comfortable being a plumber or an Uber driver without any side hustles or plans for the future?
Have you seen the Nigerian women in Canada? It’s like Nigeria’s hottest women were handpicked and brought here. And these women are hardworking, jumping from job to job to increase their earnings. A foreign woman would probably be fine dating a plumber with no future plans, but not a Nigerian woman.
If men want to come here and whore around, they can do that. There’s plenty of fish in the sea. But the dating pool? The potential Nigerian men for Nigerian women to be in serious relationships with? It’s not looking good.
I’m sha currently seeing someone. But it’s not long-term because he wants children. I don’t.
Would you date a non-Nigerian?
If the person was African, I could try. There’d be some cultural similarities we could work with. But a white person? Nope. If my soulmate is a white person, I would like them to be assigned to someone else, please.
I have to walk on eggshells with white people because I hate having to replay scenarios or things they said in my head, wondering if they were making a casual comment or being racist. The lines could be so blurred.
Do you have an example?
At an old job, I was admiring some flower pots when my white boss said, “You’d like to steal them, wouldn’t you?” I know he wasn’t being racist, but not knowing how to react to situations like that can be stressful.
Recently, a white girl asked to touch my hair at a store. First, I politely declined, but when she asked again, I had to decline with a firmer tone. Now, I’m the rude black girl and probably a reason she sees black people differently. Those little cultural differences and blurred lines can just be frustrating jare.
Do you think you might move back to Nigeria?
Right now, I don’t think so. I’m here alone because my child had to move back to Nigeria after encountering some issues here. So when the time for university comes, they’ll return.
No more loneliness?
I moved to the city this year, so no. My brother’s house is a 15-minute walk from mine, I have friends I can visit not so far away, I’m happy and smiling now.
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Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 9 A.M. (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.