What It’s Like Being a Nigerian Abroad

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Nigerians get a lot of press abroad. Depending on the country you visit and some of the people you meet, this could be either a good and a bad thing. While I haven’t personally been a victim of bad press – well, except that one time I was held up in immigration for about 2 hours in Paris, I have grown to become all too familiar with certain expressions as soon as it becomes public knowledge that I am visiting from Nigeria.

I thought it’ll be fun to pen down some of the things I’ve learnt and experienced being a Nigerian abroad – short term. So, here we go;

1. Nollywood is Big!

The Wedding Party Nigerian Movie
Image Credit: http://theweddingpartymovies.com

Being the second largest movie industry in the world (in terms of volume), Nollywood is bound to be noticed. Sometimes, for the right reasons – when well produced movies like ‘The Figurine’ or ‘The Wedding Party’ make it to the limelight and sometimes, it’s for the wrong reasons too.

This has a lot to do with the kind of movies that gain popularity in some of the places I visit. You know the ’51 Iweka Road, Onitsha’ Nollywood movies? The ones shot and produced in less than a week? The one with ‘Part 1’ to ‘Part 5’? Yep, that’s what I’m referring to here. I’ve had people come up to ask me about ‘Nigerian juju’ and all sorts! It’s mostly a hilarious situation.

Irrespective of the positive or negative attention we get, travelling abroad and seeing the way our movies are appreciated sorta makes you want to come back home with a new appreciation for our industry. Until you turn to Africa Magic and see a movie titled ‘Tear My Bra (If You Can)’ and a ghost looking both ways before crossing the road. Appreciation over!

2. Nigerian Music is Big! – You will be called ‘P Square’. Just answer your name and move on! 

Nigerian music is one of our greatest exports, especially in Africa. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel like you’re away from the country because you literally hear our music everywhere. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called ‘P Square’ or asked if I knew ‘Davido’ or this song or this other song.

It never bothers me though as sometimes, it comes with perks. For example, my sister and I were always scoring free drinks with the bar guys at our resort in Zanzibar because we knew the songs they were humming. Haha, good times!

3. Occasionally, the Topic of Nigerian Scams Would Come Up

A Nigerian Princess who has just inherited 40 billion dollars and is now looking for an international account to wire the money to…

You can almost never escape this topic. I had a taxi driver in Ghana tell me once ‘Nigerians and Ghanaians are brothers. But Nigerians, you people like too much 419’. I seriously doubt that anyone anywhere is unfamiliar with this ‘419’ thing but if you aren’t, the image below is an example of such scams. Even as a Nigerian, I am not spared from receiving them.

Nigerian 419 scam email

Personally, I find it amusing when I am asked about Nigerian scams and I try my best to educate whoever is asking. Not all Nigerians are out to scam you.

I have a pen pal who thinks I’m probably running the longest Nigerian scam business ever. I bet he’s counting down days till I tell him that I just inherited 40 billion dollars from my great grand uncle’s cousin. And that I need an international account to wire the money into – with promise of a 60-40 split accessible after he sends me $5,000 to get the documentation needed to transfer the money in order.

Just so you know, Horst, I’m referring to you and yes, this exact scenario can happen! On a more serious note though, I am less sympathetic to people who fall for emails like the one above. You get an email like that and you believe it? That’s on you! The romance scams are sort of understandable – I guess. When it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes, a little bit of foolishness is involved.

4. Our People Stay Representing – Oh Kanu believe it?!

kanu nwankwo arsenal hat-trick 1999While making small talk at a lunch table during one of my trips, someone asked where I was from and once I mentioned Nigeria, he said he had only good thoughts about the country because of Kanu Nwankwo. Specifically because of his performance at Stamford Bridge in 1999. Arsenal was playing against Chelsea and the latter was leading 2 goals to none. Kanu came in as a sub and scored an epic hat-trick in the last 15 minutes of the game!

I don’t even like football that much but I went looking for the video of the game. Let’s just say that there are a few moments when I feel incredibly proud to be Nigerian and that was certainly one of them.

5. Everyone has heard crazy things about Lagos

captain-americas-civil-war-lagos-scene
Captain America taking Lagos danfo hustling to a whole new level! [Image credit: http://www.justjared.com]

‘I heard that Lagos is …..’ – is a sentence I hear too often. Lagos’ reputation certainly precedes her and it isn’t often pleasant. Anyway, I’m always happy to confirm or dispel myths about this city. And to laugh at how people view our craziness from the outside!

Bonus: How to Spot a Nigerian Abroad!

I thought I’d throw in this video by Through Our Eyes here. It’s about how we spot our fellow Nigerians abroad. We talked about all those funny little things we do abroad. We laugh about everything from packing our entire homes in our suit cases to the extra accent we get so you know ‘we just got back’.  I’m sure you’ll find at least one thing you can relate with.

That’s all folks! I’d love to hear about your own experiences. What kind of questions, remarks do you get from foreigners at home or abroad?

8 Comments

  1. My last trip road trip to Togo was an eye-opener.

    So, I went from hearing ‘Nigerians are terrible people’ in Cotonou to Watching Nigerian movies [Aki and Pawpaw] in a Togolese transit bus. The movie was translated into French and the people were laughing good.

    Lome streets were banging with Phyno’s ‘Fada’ and Olamide’s ‘shakiti bobo’.

    I also got the Boko Haram question a lot. Someone even asked how I was coping in Lagos with terrorists disturbing the state. I took my time to school the person.

    I met someone in Tanguieta who said he respected Nigerians because they are hardworking people.

    The stories are always a balance of good, bad and ugly.

    • Oh wow, what a trip! Now that I’ve read your comment, I just realized that I have never heard a Beninese or Togolese perception of Nigeria and the Nigerian people. I’ll probably ask a local when I visit those countries again.

      PS: I just learnt of Tanguieta, thanks to you. 🙂

  2. We suffer sha… Being a Nigerian abroad is stress. Even in Senegal people don’t like or trust Nigerians and I always have to pull the “I’m half Cameroonian” card (also to explain why I speak French fluently) for people to take me seriously. It’s lowkey funny because Nigerians are pretty dope people overall… which is why everyone loves our movies, music and athletes, right?

  3. Haha! What a funny entry? Here in London, Nigerians have definitely carved out a place for themselves. The perception is not always too good, but I love your courage and your optimism. When it comes to Nollywood…let’s say it has come a long way! Thanks to films like The Wedding Party, Nollywood is fast shaking off its amateur reputation.

    • Haha, London is our second home! I’m grateful for the progress Nollywood has made over the last few years. It’s always exciting to see more local movies showing in our cinemas – which is really how it should be…

  4. I refuse to believe that Tear my Bra (If you can) is the name of a movie. If you show me proof I’ll still be in disbelief. LOL. Can def relate to most of your points. I’ve heard people say they know Nigerians are intelligent. Then there’s the idea that Nigeria is overrun by terrorists – I’ve been asked to advice my parents to move back to the U.S cause of the issues in the North. Then there are the people who have no clue where Nigeria is – to my surprise, I hear this a lot.

    • Oh Tiese, that’s not even the worst movie title there is! And yeah, I get the terror related questions as well. I wonder how you react when you’re asked about your parents relocating. LOL. Pretty sure the request comes from a good place though, so no harm meant..

      Surprisingly, I haven’t met anyone who didn’t know where Nigeria was. I’m not sure if some would have been able to point the country out on a map but most people I’ve met know of it.

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