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.
Living in Lagos was so hectic for today’s subject on Abroad Life and her husband, she didn’t know he could cook until he made her a surprise meal in Canada. She talks about waiting for two years to travel, having her mum take care of her first child, and the peace of mind that comes with being abroad.
When did you decide to move abroad?
I had my first child in the UK in December 2012. I’d known for a while that I’d probably have a not-so-smooth delivery because of my blood group, but midway through my pregnancy, the doctors in Nigeria found out I also had a fibroid and told me I’d have to deliver through CS. My husband and I decided to travel to have the baby to reduce the risks of complications.
I got to the UK, the doctors checked me and said I didn’t have to do CS because it was a minor issue. After I argued, they referred me to a specialist who told me the same thing. Throughout the process, everyone I met — nurses, doctors, attendants — was so friendly, professional and confidence-inspiring. I felt safe. I was in a general hospital in the UK, but the quality of care was just spectacular. And life in the UK was stress-free.
When I eventually had my baby, there were slight complications, but I had a natural delivery and the baby and I were fine. After that, I decided I didn’t want my child to grow up in Nigeria. Abroad just felt better.
What did you do about it?
My husband and I had spoken about moving to Canada before my childbirth experience, but it wasn’t serious. When we got back to Nigeria, we decided to start the process full-time. First, we hired an agent to help us, but it didn’t seem like it was moving quickly. My husband has a cousin who’s been in Canada long before us, so we reached out to him and he told us we didn’t need an agent because he could run us through the process. So we collected our money back and did our thing ourselves.
Between February and April 2014, we were able to submit our application.
Why did you pick Canada?
I know people in the UK who are constantly looking over their shoulders because they have incomplete papers or expired visas. Migration to Canada is much more straightforward and drama-free. The other option was Australia, but we ultimately picked Canada because we have family here.
When did you eventually move?
Two whole years after submitting the application?
Yep. It’s like that sometimes. You just have to wait in the pool of applicants until you get your provincial nomination and invitation to apply for permanent residency.
What was the wait like?
It was tiring, but we also had it in the back of our minds that there was light at the end of the tunnel. From the moment we stepped back into Nigeria, I became hyper-aware of the flaws. First, there was no AC at the airport when we landed because, apparently, they were being repaired. Imagine my child who had lived for about a month in the UK being plunged straight into that heat. It was terrible. I also started noticing how stressful or nonexistent access to basic amenities like good roads and stable electricity were. All of this made the move even more necessary.
Expectation vs reality: Canada edition.
Because we have friends and family here, they helped us manage our expectations before we travelled. I think, for many people, moving abroad automatically means you’re going to start living well, making good money, buying cars and good houses, etc. But we already knew that we’d have to wait for a bit and integrate into society before we get those things.
We had to live with people for some time before we got our own place. Then, we had to find jobs. In Canada, finding well-paying jobs in your field is difficult. They usually want you to have Canadian job experience even when you’re just coming in. Your job in Nigeria will most likely not count as experience. For example, I studied engineering and was already an IT supervisor earning in dollars in Nigeria. When I got here, my first job was as a technical support person. I basically took calls from people who needed help with their internet. It felt like a downgrade, but it’s what I had to do.
With time, I got promotions, but I lost the job because of the pandemic in 2020. I eventually got a government job that same year and started my master’s which I’ll complete this year. I can’t wait to become hot cake, working at the big firms again.
Love it. Let’s talk about family life in Canada.
When we lived in Nigeria, my husband and I had would wake up by 4:30 a.m. and be on the roads by 5:30 because we needed to get to work on time. Our child barely lived with us. He was always with my mum. We picked him up on weekends. In fact, we enrolled him in a school close to my mum’s place because we didn’t have time for him. If we continued like that, I don’t think we’d have been a close-knit family.
Here in Canada, things are much different. I remember when I went to work one day, before the pandemic, and my husband had made rice and beans. What? I didn’t even know he could cook. Even I wasn’t cooking in Nigeria. There was no time for all that. But finding out my husband can cook was shocking for me, I can’t lie. Now, we have two children, and we live like a proper family. We have meals together, everyone does chores, we play, we do everything together because we have more control of our time. We’re not spending unnecessary time in traffic or being unproductive because there’s no light.
When I had my second child, I took care of him myself. I had time to do it.
A lot of Nigerians abroad tell me it gets lonely.
Not for me. I have two kids, a job, a husband who’s my gist partner, school, and extended family here. Also, I’m a boring person. With all of this, I don’t have the time or headspace to get bored. There’s always something. Also, my city has a very high number of Nigerians, so it’s almost like I’m in Nigeria.
Interesting. Tell me a bit about Canadians.
They’re nice, friendly people who hate confrontation. None of the blatant, American-type racism you hear about. If you experience racism here, it’s subtle. You probably wouldn’t even notice it.
Are you a citizen now?
My entire family is Canadian now, yes. Once you spend three years as a permanent resident here, you can apply for citizenship, and that’s what we did.
Please tell me you’ve been flexing that passport.
I’ve only travelled to Nigeria with it. I have young kids and I’m doing my master’s, so I can’t just hop on planes around the world. Before I came to Nigeria though, I went to the UK, and my God, it was the most stress-free travelling experience ever. When we landed, there was a place for people from Canada, America and maybe one other country to pass and scan their passports, while people from other countries had to get on a long queue to be questioned by immigration officers. It felt delightful to just walk in for once.
What’s your favourite part about living in Canada?
I like that I can plan my life and know that things will go according to plan. I can decide I want to do something and no rules will suddenly pop up saying I can’t.
I feel really good about my decision to move. I know someone just like me who had slight complications while giving birth in Nigeria and died. Here, things just feel much safer.
And your least favourite part?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything right now.
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.