“My Friends in the UK Make Life Amazing for Me” — Abroad Life

April 29, 2022

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.


The doctor on today’s #AbroadLife talks about moving to the UK in 2020 and finding happiness with reunited friends from Nigeria despite how difficult the UK can be.

When did you decide to leave Nigeria?

2017. Before then, I was like a Nigerian who dreamt of moving abroad but didn’t do anything about it. When I finished medical school in 2017 and went for my housemanship, I realised Nigeria wasn’t a place I wanted to practice medicine. 

Why?

The quality of medical practice in Nigeria is bad. Let me tell you the experience that made the decision final. In the hospital’s surgery department where I worked, a consultant usually checked on the patients and instruct nurses on how to care for them. On one of these routine visits, the consultant asked a nurse to open up the dressing of a man’s injury so he’d check and advise on how the man could recover faster. The nurse’s response, right in front of the patient: “I’ve recently dressed his injury, and now we don’t have materials to dress it again if I open this one.” And the consultant moved on.

Just like that, the man couldn’t get the care he deserved, and nobody seemed to care.

What was your process for leaving like? 

I first had to choose where I was going. USA and Canada were out of the picture because I just don’t see myself living and working in those places. Australia and New Zealand are too far. South Africa is still Africa. The UK is just perfect. It’s also the easiest path for Nigerian doctors looking to japa.

I decided on the UK in 2017, wrote my IELTS and PLAB exams in 2018 and started applying for jobs after. I sent over 100 job applications through NHS and vacancies on hospital websites. By 2019, I had five offers, and I took the one that offered the most money. 

Why the UK?

As a child, I fantasised about living in the UK because of the castles, the beautiful scenery, men in top hats, culture, etc. That’s what the movies made it look like. 

And when you got there? Expectation vs reality: UK edition 

The first thing that hit me when I got off the plane was the cold. I anticipated it, but no matter how prepared you are, you can’t expect what snow cold feels like. As I settled in, I saw that my idea of the UK was flawed. . I found normal houses, normal people, even some bad roads. 

As time has gone by, I’ve realised that the England we see in movies is actually Wales and Scotland. Those places are breathtakingly beautiful. 

Was it easy settling?

When I first moved here, my sister lived about an hour away, so she helped me settle in.

Apart from your sister? 

Here’s where it gets interesting. In the space of four months after I got here, four other people from a book club I was in, in Nigeria, also moved to the UK. We were all still on the book club group chat, presumably reading that month’s book, so we decided to meet at a restaurant to catch up and discuss the book.

None of us had read the book. But at least we saw one another, talked about what life was like in the UK and ate good food. We posted pictures and the story of our meeting on social media, and it got a lot of engagement and sweet comments, so we decided to do it again. 

The next time we met was Thanksgiving, and I invited them over for a different version:  Friendsgiving. We had lots of Nigerian food, alcohol, music and games.  

After that, we decided to make it a thing. We saw how happy we were around one another, and it made sense to keep hanging out like that. 

Before we could hang out again, COVID struck. 

Ouch.

We spent the lockdown having Netflix parties and keeping up via videos and texts. When they eased the lockdown, we went on a hike. And then we went on a picnic. And then another person came from Nigeria and we went to visit him in his city. We also went camping in cabins near the lakes for a few days. With each hangout, we increased in numbers because people brought their spouses and friends. 

By December 2020, I hosted our Christmas party in my apartment. There were 12 of us, and we ate, danced, drank and slept comfortably. 

This is so sweet. 

We haven’t stopped hanging out. In June, we’re going to Portugal because there’s going to be a long weekend of public holidays when the queen celebrates her platinum jubilee. 

Nigerians who live in Nigeria take for granted the support system around them. In the UK, there’s nothing like that. You don’t have family, and the people here aren’t the friendliest. If you’re on the internet a lot, you’ll hear jokes about how people in the UK mind their business to a fault. It’s true. You can stay here for years and not know what your neighbour looks like. 

When I first moved here, I couldn’t have my gas cooker or washing machine delivered to me for weeks because the delivery company wanted me to be at home at a particular time, and I had to be at work. In Nigeria, I’d easily meet a neighbour to receive the items for me. People don’t do that here. I had to buy food and use a laundromat for weeks because I didn’t have anyone to receive my package. 

My friendship with these people is the blessing I need to survive in this place. In November 2021, we had Friendsgiving again, and this time, everyone took turns saying what they were grateful for. Almost everyone said they were grateful for the group.

Do you guys live in the same city?

The closest person to me lives one hour away by high-speed train. That’s far. All this hanging out we’re doing takes a lot of planning, scheduling, travelling and commitment, but we do it because it keeps us together. 

What’s the plan for the future of this friendship?

We just want to keep hanging out and creating memories. Nothing big. Just people in a hard country finding time to enjoy themselves. 


Hey there! My name is David 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.

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