The average Nigerian gets excited at the prospect of living abroad. There is the belief that greener pastures can only be found outside the country: better education, healthcare, job opportunities, security, e.t.c,
Truth be told, the belief can easily be justified, as the state of the country leaves very little to desire. There is no denying that the economy gets worse with each passing day and offers less and less to young people.
While there are so many benefits of moving living abroad, it certainly is not always rainbows. So many factors need to be considered for smooth transition; and even after the move has been made, several actions have to be taken to ensure you stay above water.
Adanma, a young mother of two, imagined that relocating to Canada would be the easiest move. Having already spent short stints abroad studying: US, Dubai and the UK, and being of the upper middle class, she did not envision she would face any hassles whatsoever. The idea when she enrolled in the Federal Skilled Workers scheme for Canada was to guarantee a safe future for her two young daughters.
She and her husband had planned to move in phases: she moves first and takes the children with her, then the husband visits regularly until they received their citizenship, and then return to Nigeria.
They liquidated some of their assets and prepared mentally for it all and took the leap. While the basic plans worked out, her preparations and expectations were completely dismissed the moment she stepped foot on Canadain soil.
“You know, they tell you Canada is great, the people are friendly and things are definitely easier and better…but they don’t tell you the challenges you have to face moving for the first time. Nobody tells you about the obstacles you have to climb before getting to the easy part”.
The first challenge was securing an accommodation. She needed to secure a place to live as soon as possible, and unlike the Nigerian system where credit rating is not necessarily a factor, it was a sort of a requirement for the agents in Oakville, Canada.
Also, the fact that she was not fully aware of the tenancy laws operational in the city made things even more difficult, as she was forced to pay 4 months rent upfront which was illegal. Getting a place, moving and settling in seemed like huge milestone achieved. She and her family enjoyed the first few months, until her husband went back to Nigeria and she was left with the kids. However, the bills started coming: utilities, electricity, e.t.c. And while she still had a stash of cash which she had brought from Nigeria, she soon realized it would not last as long as she had hoped.
Again, the support from her husband back home was not something she could completely rely on, as it was super difficult to get money sent to Canada from Nigeria thanks to the highly unfavourable financial system. She needed to get a job real fast.
Getting a job was not supposed to be a big deal; she had multiple degrees from the US, as well as a wealth of experience. Also, she had decided to live in Oakville as she was looking to avoid the competition in big cities like Toronto. “Toronto is where most people would settle in, but it is extremely difficult to start from there if you don’t have money to wait out the competition. It’s like moving to Lagos or Abuja in Nigeria”.
To her surprise, getting a job there also proved to be the most difficult thing. “I sent in over 100-200 application but no callback. International experience, well -schooled…yet no callback. It was a wakeup call, I began to doubt myself n search myself.”
At first, she was convinced that the delay in getting a job was hinged on the fact that she had traveled during the winter, a period when it was difficult to meet people and most companies were no longer hiring, and she only needs to be patient for the season to be over. Oakville was also not a very big city. Of the 158,000 people in the city, just about 20 of them were Nigerians and it took some time for her to connect with these Nigerians.
Before long, Adanma realized she had missed the point all along. It was all about networking. “I soon realized that Canada works a lot like Nigeria. It is all actually about who you know. It came as a shock to me really as I expected it would be like in America and getting a job here would be strictly by meritocracy.” Despite two masters she had to get back to school. For 4- 6 months to learn about Canada’s labour laws, human rights e.t.c and also to make a connection to people in the programme. She volunteered for months afterward and had to downgrade her CV a little bit, before she finally got her first job interview and eventually a job.
While finally getting a job came as a relief, the home front was still a little too lonely. “It has been very lonely; you don’t know people so you tend to be family-oriented. The people around are welcoming. It is like the law requires everyone to be nice. The police are real friends. But then, all the niceness can be a little uncomfortable ‘cos you don’t know when someone doesn’t like you. Also, you cannot really lean on these people as you would your own family. I guess it has helped that my children are independent. They were able to integrate quickly. But for me, it still has been very lonely”
The truth about moving abroad in hopes of having a “brighter future” or in order to take advantage of better opportunities, is that sometimes you would have to go through the darkness first to get the results that you’re looking for.
Adannma’s case is one in a million of people who move abroad with the fantasy notions then get slapped by reality eventually. Not everyone is able to bounce back just as she did, which is why we have a number of Nigerian fugitives strolling the streets of foreign countries. They are too distraught and ill-equipped to survive abroad, yet too ashamed to return home.
In the quest for a greener pasture, it is important that you do your research well, have enough savings, and keep your mind open to both positive and negative developments because as much as you would want it to be, moving abroad is not always filled with rainbows.
Photo Credit: Paulus Rusyanto | Dreamstime