Last updated on May 13th, 2020
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!
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 bartenders 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
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.
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 the 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?!
While 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
‘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 suitcases 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?