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Jamimah Manning: 7 Mistakes People Make Before Moving to America



For most migrants, life in America is a mixture of trial and error. A lot of us make things up as we go. There is no particular route to success, but there are many mistakes to avoid when moving to and living in the United States of America. Here are a few lessons I have learned and some from others who were kind enough to share.

Expecting Magic
I strongly advice coming to America with some kind of long term plan (legal plan, I should add). So many migrants come to America and subconsciously think that just because they are in America, everything happens like magic. BOOM get the job, BOOM get the house, BOOM make six figures. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, expect America to be REAL. We romanticize life in America because we see pictures on social media, movies and our own unrealistic expectations. Plan to hustle, plan to be disappointed at some point, but also plan not to give up.
Life in America is not easy.

Not Being Resourceful
We rely only on the information we are given. We have to learn how to ask for what we want. Learn to think unconventionally. You have to open your mind. Do not be ashamed to ask questions. Know what you want and ask for it: no beating around the bush and no trying to appear “humble”.
The biggest resources are people – of all races and cultures; so it does pay to be nice to others. Also, there are a lot of free resources that we miss out on because we do not ask or know to search for them.

Not Learning the American Culture
A lot of migrants do not take time to learn the American culture. See ehn, culture goes beyond the accent, driving the fine cars, clubbing and taking pictures at historic sites. Culture includes the way money is handled, the way jobs are given to people, how to network in that society, how they communicate and the general thought process of an American.

I have noticed that migrants(including myself) are sometimes in a rush to get to the ”American dream”, we don’t take time to really understand the America we live in.
Here’s a quick advice to someone reading this thinking about moving to Americar: read a lot on the place and culture of the part of America you want to live in. Do your research on how successful migrants are, and also what kind of occupations thrive there. You might also want to know the ratio of black people living there before you end up like the guy in the “Get Out” movie.

Staying Glued to Our Ethnic Communities in America
Yes! I will love to attend the annual Nigerian party. No! I do not want to be around Nigerians ALL the time. Nigerians are great people. Funny, smart, outgoing, just all round wonderful. However, what is the point of leaving Nigeria, moving to America and then hanging out with ONLY Nigerians? Personally, I think that defeats the whole point of being in America. I do have A LOT of Nigerian friends in America who are awesome, but guess what? We are not the dominant culture. We are mostly migrants or our parents were migrants, and because of our cultural background, we have a similar lens on life. In order to thrive in America you need to have multiple lenses on life. So, get as many diverse friends as you can have.

Not Adequately Preparing for Homesick Days
You will get home sick at some point in your stay in America. Though America is wonderful and a great place to live, nothing replaces home. Nothing ever will. Put things in place to cheer you up on the days you feel down.
Create a photo-album or re-read letters from loved ones back home. One of the things I do when am home-sick is call my parents early in the morning and just talk/Skype with them all day. I might take a day off work (use my vacation time) because it is that important to me.
Another thing I will say helps is having a strong support system back home. There will be days you might feel like giving up, some days you just want to pack all your ‘kata’ and go home and just be like “look, this suffer head it haff do” because nothing seems to be working (I have had MANY of those). It’s on those days that the love of the people who are in your life shines the brightest.

Not Taking Care of Your Health
Most migrants throw away the autonomy of their health once they get to America, some never had it in the first place. We must make it a priority to know what we are putting in our bodies and what the effects are. FYI: going to the gym doesn’t mean you are healthy. Nutrition goes hand in hand with exercise. Health is not just physical. Pay attention to your mental, emotional and social health.
Please, African people pay attention to your emotional and mental health. Not everything is juju; most things are preventable.

Comparing Yourself to Other Immigrants
It is hard not to compare your progress to others, but there are some few things you want to remember.
a) your destinies and life goals are not the same, you are not going where they are going. Stay in your lane. b) You don’t know how they got their success. There are so many migrants who live flashy lives but cant sleep at night. They live in fear because they are illegal.
c) Don’t envy the glory until you know the story. Some migrants are legit legal and are successful but they went through hell. It was not easy for them at all.

Don’t compare your chapter 1 to another persons chapter 100.

Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks |

Jamimah is a West African immigrant based in the USA who uses her education and experience in health sciences, sociology and multicultural studies to assist other migrants on issues pertaining to adjusting to life in a foreign country. She is a speaker, dancer, international liaison,podcaster,blogger and avid sleep lover. Check out her blog on www. and on Instagram @olagbenle


  1. Klaire

    April 17, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Point on!??

  2. Amen Samson

    April 17, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    This is really beautiful, wish many people think about these in their moments of desperation in looking for a greener pasture.

  3. chifire

    April 17, 2017 at 4:43 pm


  4. Doris

    April 17, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    True talk.I have seen many people come to America and expecting to find gold on the floor.Surprising and funny that even educated people would think like this.

  5. Akara Pancake

    April 17, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    One important thing to note about the US of A, which makes it different from Nigeria are the twin concepts of “process” and “consequence.” Okay, sorry two things. Lend your ears though:
    (1) In America, there is a process for everything. You move here, you start from the bottom no matter who you were and what you were in your previous country (unless you are moving to Yankee with millions of dollars in your bank account, and if so, this article is not for you. Refer to the Whistleblower’s news from last week).

    In the US, you build up your credit, your work history, and start on a lower salary scale with your first job. Once you have garnered sufficient experience, you can apply for bigger paying jobs, and any certifications/courses you do will add to your bargaining power. Your credit will start at zilch when you come, but if your bank where you pay your salary, offers you a credit card, you could start building your credit. Then your credit grows until you can apply for a loan to purchase a home and get decent interest rates (which are calculated based on your credit history). When you buy a home, in a decent area where you don’t hear pishaun at night, you could build equity if the value goes up. This equity is the difference between the purchase price, and the price it is currently worth. You can take that equity and purchase an even bigger/better 2nd home, as you have a bigger deposit (which gives you more favorable interest rates). There are no omo onile’s to settle. No charge and bail lawyer is involved. You have peace of mind. Well, except from the utilities companies who never neglect to send monthly bills. And the property tax authorities.

    There is no jumping the gun, or “do you know who my father is”. Unless your father is Obama/Warren Buffet, and even them are not above the law. No one gives a fuck, and they will let you know.

    (2) There is a consequence for every action. If you violate a simple traffic law, you get fined. If you murder someone, and police finds out when you are 100 years old, off to jail you go. There is no “Abeg sir, it was the work of the devil”. Well, you and that devil will be thrown into jail so that your work together can continue behind bars. Dont drop the Delta soap. For every action, there is a reaction. If you commit homicide, your fate is electric relaxation, incarceration or deportation. Sometimes all three at the same time. And you dont want deportation do you? I mean you sold your granpa’s house to get here.

    Sure, no justice system is perfect and there are inconsistencies here and there, and some crooks get off with the slap of the wrist. But those are heavily moneyed individuals with millions and billions to their name, and not an immigrant pauper like you, who sold their father’s village home to travel abroad. The fear of consequence makes the system prevail. That is why people can sleep in homes without walls, or have Amazon packages delivered to their doorstep when they are not home. It is what makes people sleep in a one-storey home with windows that are not burglar –proof, a death wish in a country like Nigeria. If you get caught breaking the law, you pay the consequence.

    Other things to note:

    – It is a very racist society. That should not deter you from meeting your goals, though. By the way Nigeria has religious, ethnic and economic discrimination.
    – Be ready to work hard for every cent. There are no bail-outs or handouts here. Nobody will give you “envelop for Xmas” or spray money on your forehead (except at Nigerian-Houston parties, haha!). And it may be one-one dollar.

    – Nigerians here are quite competitive. Stay in your own lane, and don’t compare yourself to others who have been here for long. Sort your shit out – go to school, build your resume, get financing for your business, before you think of buying a big SUV or an expensive house to keep up with the Adeyemis, Okoronkwos and Ahmeds. Do not be tempted to join illicit business schemes just to make a quick buck. Na JJC them always dey first catch. You have a green card, but remember that you are green horn in this society. Yes you may feel the urge to paint the town red, but hardwork comes first. Dont get blacklisted.

    – Disregard any Nigerians in Nigeria trying to make you feel guilty for moving to Yankee. The most important thing in life is to make a success of yourself wherever you are, on God’s green earth. Besides if they could relocate, they would.

    – Attempt to get positive influences from the country, and do not live in the cocoon of the Nigerian community in whatever state you are. Socialize with Americans, go see a baseball game and eat a hot-dog, go to mall, hang out with co-workers for after-work drinks, join a social group, learn Americanisms. Buy a barbeque grill, and make some baby back ribs and grilled steaks on July 4th, and invite your friends and neighbors. However keep your Nigerian roots, as that is our foundation. Teach your kids your Nigerian language, culture, values etc. Let them know that if they misbehave continuously, a slap or a knock will come their way, as is the Nigerian manner.

    – Watch the food, and your weight, especially if you are in Texas. The portions are massive, and laden with sugar. Learn to say no to food. Unlearn that Nigerian attitude of wolfing anything that is offered to you even if you are not hungry. I know you are from a very humble background, and Yankee was the first time, you had a whole fowl to yourself. But you will soon learn that excess food just like its cousin hunger, are both mortal enemies to good health and wellness. There are lots of processed foods made out of GMO and inclusive of artificial flavoring and sweetners like fructose corn syrup. You will add weight fast and in places that you never knew fat could inhabit. Like your ogo, your forehead and your torso. By all means have your Burger King every now and then, but 85-90% of your diet should comprise healthy organic food , fruits and vegetables

    • Uloma

      April 17, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Men you are too much. You wanna write for my blog? You could not have said it better bless you.

    • Hogan

      April 17, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      I think you were more meaningful than the article itself. You cut to the chase and hit the nail at the right hair shoot.”my thots”.

    • Person

      April 17, 2017 at 11:23 pm

      I was lucky to have someone explain some bits of this to me when I moved 8 years ago. Other parts, I learnt on my own. 100% correct and endorsed!!!!

    • kwinny

      April 20, 2017 at 11:38 am

      WOW. I copied this to word format and saved in my phone. Thank you for this information.

  6. chichi

    April 17, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    This is very motivational. A must read for everyone who are thinking of migrating to a foreign country.

  7. Vivian

    April 17, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    This is nice.

  8. Livin

    April 17, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    When i moved to America 4 years ago (lol, I can’t believe it has been that long) I was depressed and empty. I knew I was moving for better opportunities, but it comes with a lot of culture shock. I was taken aback to see the way life is lived over here. I am grateful though, for the opportunity to live here.

  9. Ife Olayemi

    April 17, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    This is accurately written and well-said. Everybody’s destiny and glory is different. Please, let us stop the comparison, and competition. Instead, let’s focus on greater, higher and better things that add values.

  10. Anne

    April 17, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Lovely and informing. I wish someone could also write an article regarding those who choose to house Nigerian immigrants before they get their feet together. If your friend or relative will be staying at your place first, let God direct you before you fight the fight you did not fight back home in the US. Sometimes people are ungrateful and will be influenced by other Nigerians even if you treat them right. Choose your words when advising or instructing them most especially about boundaries and bills. Some Nigerians have an entitlement mentality. If you don’t watch and pray, their stay in your home will be horrific. God is watching who is right or wrong between and among you. Some of them don’t understand the fact that you sacrificed your privacy for them especially if you are married. I have said my own but sha don’t leave them at the airport or refuse to pick your calls if you actually asked them to come to your house. That’s being deceptive, you shouldn’t have told them to proceed on that long route.

  11. tunmi

    April 17, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Talk to your neighbors. Mingle with the folks other than the ones who lodge you. While this is not true for everyone, too many people have been deceived by the people who facilitated their papers or the people they stay with.

    1. It is absolutely possible to make it in the US.
    2. You don’t have to be a citizen or green card holder to go to school
    3. Please ask questions if you don’t understand. Please do.

    • Mtenibe

      April 18, 2017 at 3:58 am

      How do one go to school without papers?

    • Munani

      April 18, 2017 at 5:56 am

      Google sanctuary cities and states where you can get driver’s license without passport or American birth certificate. All the best.

    • Mtenibe

      April 18, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      @munani by referring me to google, I’m assuming you really don’t know. You think driver’s license or ID is enough a document to guarantee admission into a school? You kidding!

  12. Muna

    April 17, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Everybody is writing from their own experience. There is something to learn of course from everyone’s experience. For me sha, to add something I will say, know what you want, understand the process to get there, network, know that there are lots of friendly Naija fraudsters here too and some real enough ones who can guide you if you are absolutely new.. Trust me, that Auntie, Uncle, friend, will be very handy in helping to understand the system…and then allow you stand on your own feet..Always easier, but not always available…. Anyhow, if you are focused and passionate enough to maintian that focus, it will lead you to your goal, no matter what, you will realise success. Problem is some people get here all they want is sharp dollars now now. Healthcare, nursing, etc….they then get depressed when they realise they are almost or over 50, no marriage, no friends, no purpose, just credit, a house maybe and desperation to marry anything just to catch up sets in. There is quite a lot of older Naija girls and guys just roaming around here ooo with many stories to tell but really depressed and not actually living the American dream…. and with 4 of 5 failed marriages as proof…
    I will say why are you leaving Naija in the first place. Make sure every department of your life is carefully planned if you choose to relocate… It can be too real for some people’s mental state to handle when their life seems to be heading in some many different directions but no focus. Same everywere. USA, EUROPE , and other parts of AFRICA. Have a plan. Start from where you are right now. The plan does not start when your feet lands in this soil….and the land will not help you plan if you have none of your own…. I hope some elements of this helps someone.

  13. Muna

    April 18, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    What’s the point of visiting your blog if you choose not to release my comment that is clearly not offensive to anyone. This is disappointing Bella Naija and this is not the first time. I guess this is my cue to stop bothering with visiting this blog.

  14. Ndidi

    April 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    I liked the ‘don’t compare someone’s chapter 100 to your own chapter 1’ .
    So true. Everyone’s journey is different.

  15. Glory

    October 11, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Good one
    God bless you aunty

  16. Glory

    October 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Good one

  17. Steffi

    February 11, 2018 at 6:35 am

    True talk

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