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Diaspora Chronicles: Why Don’t Nigerians Assimilate?

Diaspora Chronicles

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I made a fatal mistake that nearly landed me in jail when I newly relocated to North America; I’m too ashamed to even say what it was. Anyway, the reason for my error was that I had based my actions on the advice given to me by a cousin who had lived in America for many years. I believed in the views he had and that almost landed me in hot water! Truth is, it all could have been avoided if I had done just a little research or discussed with the right people. The thing is when you relocate to a new country, there is that tendency to want to hang around your own kind. While this is not a bad thing, you must ensure that, “your people” (whom you take advice from) are knowledgeable. You don’t want to end up asking the wrong people questions.

The wrong people could turn out to be fellow Nigerians or fellow town’s men who live around you, or worship in the same church as you. This problem is prevalent as the “I wish we had known this when we first came stories” are many. This aim of this article, therefore, is to stress the need for Nigerians in diaspora to assimilate into the new countries that we now call home.

There is really no way you will succeed as a professional in North America if you do not know what is happening within your chosen profession or you don’t forge bonds with like minds. The Nigerian that will be successful is the one that chooses to assimilate with other professionals in the country regardless of their origin.

A lot of Nigerians like me initially just worked jobs, shifts etc. with the only form of interactions being town meetings or church gatherings. Some of us are not even in PTA meetings of our children’s school. The compulsory parent/teacher meetings are simply not enough to get in sync with your child’s learning environment.

On the home front, some of us do not even interact with neighbours’ unless they are from the same ethnicity. An example of where this is beneficial is when you need help. My Italian neighbour for instance has been picking up my children from school for the last 1 year. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, as my kids are mouthing some good Italian, her kids get to eat some good old Nigerian food. Even more important, she hears my own version of what Nigeria and Nigerians are truly like rather than the adulterated version they pick up elsewhere.

In other spheres of life, we replicate the same attitude as we go to only Nigerian churches, shop only in African stores and attend only gatherings of our people. On the few occasions we attend the gatherings of other ethnic groups, it is because we hope to benefit from the socialization but not because we want to get to know them better. You never see our people at the museums (which most times are free), art galleries, book readings or any cultural enlightening events but call an Owambe and you will see them spending money they don’t have buying the Aso-ebi.

There is a saying that goes “It is the rat in the house that tells the one outside where the dried fish is”. This means that it is someone who has been somewhere for while that will tell the newcomer how things are done. The Caucasians who were born here and have lived here all their lives are a repository of information. Our people still do not know that where you buy your home will determine the school that your children will attend; if you buy in a poor neighborhood, your child will likely end up in a crappy school. Our people still do not know that having too many credit cards is not a plus or means that you have money as this action actually reduces your credit score and means that financing of homes or cars will be expensive for you. These are just a few of the things that you learn from talking to the right people.

I know some may argue that these people do not like to share information but surely if you ask six of them, at least one will give you the information you need. The other five may give you half the information but when you put it all together, you should have something useable.

My view is that if you have decided to call this land your home, the least you can do, is get to know the land and its people. I am derided by Nigerians when I have a party and it is multi-cultural. I get questions like, “what are you always doing with these people?” Sometimes they even try to scare me by warning me to be careful about how I associate with them as “they will show me” and in fact that they don’t really like me but are pretending so they will know my secrets. Let’s get our heads out of the sand and lose the paranoia! If they show me, is it more than the Nigerians have shown me. Have I stopped associating with them? Many of the Americans are so interested in knowing about where we come from and how things work there, but paranoia makes us wonder why they are asking these questions and we quickly shut it down or become taciturn hence making them stop. How can you change their minds when you don’t tell them about the beautiful land you come from instead you leave them to get the biased version from CNN, Fox News, or even Discovery Channel? What stops you from having a New Yam Festival in your home, inviting them to it and educating them on it being our version of Thanksgiving or did you not know that yourself?

For me, I believe in multiculturalism but this does not mean that I do not know who I am or where I am from. My beliefs though should not preclude me to opening my heart to this new land I call home. I assimilate, not because I do not want to still be Nigerian or I want to lose my identity, but I want to better know this land and the people who are my fellow citizens. I assimilate because I want to absorb the decades of knowledge that the older residents of this land have that will help me accomplish what made me move here.

I assimilate because this is home.

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For more articles like this see our blog – www.diasporachronicles.com; Instagram – @diasporachr; Facebook – diaspora chronicles.

Story written by Kiki Daniel of Diaspora Chronicles.

Photo Credit: Kadettmann | Dreamstime

Diaspora Chronicles specialises in insightful stories, articles and news that will help the newbie settle abroad. On the occasion we do write stories that border on entertainment. Our differentiating factor is that we will not share gossip hence our tag line "gossip is so last year"! Check us out on our blog www.diasporachronicles.com, [email protected], Facebook -Diaspora Chronicles and [email protected]

15 Comments

  1. mee

    October 10, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Brilliant article; as a Nigerian Londoner i totally get this. However i think the right question you wanted to ask is why don’t Nigerians ” integrate” not assimilate. That being said i agree with most of what you said apart from the new yam festival in your house part. That does not seem like a good idea at all.

    • Alexander Bonaparte

      October 10, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      On the New Yam festival issue, I beg to differ. If we can attend their carnivals and also join them to participate in events like The Halloween, I see nothing wrong in holding a New Yam festival and enlightening them on the significance of the event, provided it doesn’t get too noisy and showy as is the case here…

    • TEE

      October 10, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      @mee ..What is wrong with Yam festival? This is the real issue is not? how to ballance being yourself and at the same time try to aquire some understanding of your new environment. Some people seem to be ashamed of their heritage, they even go to the extent of denegrating thier culture,the impact is on the coming generation as most are lost. Your culture is your idendity not your red pasport. All other races are bonding together but we, Indianas pakistans Jews forge ahead and make the best of themselves in the current environment. Nonetheless its all well and good to make effort to assimilate but what if the indigines don’t really want you.? most of the time they just tolerate but deep down they dispise foreingers. Please don’t be fooled by the sound bites of multicururalism it mainly windowdressing whet it comes to real issue then you will find out, please ask the people that have lost loved one in the hands of the police and those that have had for one reason or the otherr pass through the judicial systems in those countries and am not talking about criminals. You will find it is not all what you think. Even mixed race people have their own story. Please take time to read David Lamming Review on Guardian UK.

    • curious

      October 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm

      Well said. There is a difference between integration and assimilation. Assimilation requires forgetting everything that makes you different and adopting the cultures of your host country in place of your own.

    • mbe

      October 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm

      why pls? why cant you celebrate new yam festival. care to explain?

    • Uloma Ezirim

      Uloma Ezirim

      October 11, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      You do have a point Mee, thanks.

  2. nwa nna

    October 10, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Good write up.. Assimilation is key to survival and thriving in any foreign land, period.
    As humans we naturally gravitate towards our kind, comfort zone. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the flip side is we never truly immerse ourselves in the new society which can be detrimental to us.
    I consciously chose to make friends outside of the Nigerian crowd and I have no regrets about it.

  3. Ajala & Foodie

    October 10, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    When I first moved to my current location in NA, I schooled in a State where the people of color were very small. In the town I schooled if an individual of color came into town everyone knew the new comer. So I had no problem assimilating. However, having lived here in different States for over a decade, my sis and I were taking stock of our support system recently. We found out the truth is many of our relationships with people from our country of residence never stick. It only lasted for when times were good or when we were together.

    The conversation came about because my sis has a Nigerian friend who was bent on not associating with Nigerians when she moved here but now she is regretting that because again it is the same for her. My sis was fortunate going to a school with a mid sized African student community. Her ride and die friends are all Africans either from college days or from work. My sis is someone that has friends from different walks of life and continents, her co workers make fun of her because when they travel for work she always knows someone in the Country but those that still have her back I.e her core friends are all Africans not by choice by the way. I have had African Americans, Caucasian, Hispanic friends but a bulk them don’t stick. I have a couple from my college days but 2 to about 10 i hung out with is sad. The same goes for my work. I am not sure if it is just that our values when it comes to relationships that are different or what, but that is my reality and the reality of those around me. At the moment, I am trying to work on building relationships with my fellow continent men and women. I can also say I understand now why some people may stick to their fellow country men and women. I was one of those that used to wonder why Nigerians will just come here and be doing “parapo”, like why leave Nigeria to create another Nigeria here, but I am less judgemental of those that choose to do this; not that I agree with but I understand better. I still don’t attend Nigerian churches though.

    • Ezinne O.

      October 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Funny how I read your comment with a British accent. I don’t know why. Too much GOT I guess

    • northeasterngal

      October 10, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Hey what part of the US are you in? I am in the Greater NY area. Let me know if you are close by and we can hang out sometime. Looking for naija friends around here. ANd yes, you are right, making friends out of your culture in this country hardly ever sticks. Once they get what they want from you, your friendship is over

  4. northeasterngal

    October 10, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    It is not only Nigerians who dont assimilate. The bulk of immigrants dont and that might be the secret to Immigrant success. According to statistics, 85% of americans have less than $5000 in their account. This is not so for Immigrant families. Immigrants save more, have higher average income, and are better educated overall. This ties to their strong family ties, strong support system and value for education and culture. While it is good to get along with others in your host country, it is also important not to get white washed. most that have tried it have gotten lost. Why do you think Adiche spends most of her time in Nigeria now?
    ..She is trying very hard to preserve as much of the Naija dignity that she still has left. The Chinese have their chinatowns where they do business and live together…d indians live mostly in New Jersey SUb Urbs and do stuff together…same for many jews.

  5. IJS

    October 10, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    I think the need to integrate is very important. I mean, the reason Nigeria does not work is not because of its location; It is because of the mentality and culture of most Nigerians. If you seek to recreate that, you have not really migrated.

  6. john

    October 10, 2017 at 8:51 pm

    I know some may argue that these people do not like to share information but surely if you ask six of them, at least one will give you the information you need. The other five may give you half the information but when you put it all together, you should have something useable……………….I love this article..gonna put this into practice…..nice one..thanks…

  7. Le coco

    October 11, 2017 at 2:22 am

    interesting article.. but huge difference between integration and assimilation . I don’t entirely agree on some points tho.. You accuse nigerians of not assimilating yet you proceed to talk about the use of multiple credit cards… Pray tell Where would Nigerians learn that mentality? surely not in nigeria.. The bulk of Americans for whatever reason have multiple credit cards which to me suggests that if a nigerian should adopt that bad habit, it is surely as a result of “assimilating.”

    moving to a new place is challenging.. I dont think it’s a bad thing for an immigrant to want to stick to their own kind.. its a comfort zone that they enjoy.. sure an effort shld be made to integrate more but i think people in their new home shld also make an effort to reach out as you do with the “new kid”… In All walks of life it is pretty similar. for example in a school setting.. The new kid will sit on their own at lunch until they are approached by someone.

  8. The real dee

    October 11, 2017 at 4:02 am

    We all have different life experiences. In my own case and from my experience in the short time I’ve spent in North America since relocating, I think integration is a question of the kind of people you relate with or desire to relate with without consideration to ethnic background, nationality or race. I’ve met the worst of Nigerians especially in ‘ Nigerian churches’ and I’ve met the best of Nigerians who are genuinely loving,caring, Godly, have a wealth of information, are not materialistic ( you know the Nigerian ‘Pepperdem’ lifestyle even when the money is not there) and and do not have the ‘crab mentality, (i.e the Pull Others Down syndrome).

    I’ve met African Americans who just dislike you cos you’re an immigrant and Nigerian for that matter ( as our own is too much nau, we are too ambitious and domineering …. lol). I’ve also met an African American who is one of the nicest human I know and has helped me a lot with understanding the American system career wise and has so much love that she motivates me to be a more loving person.

    I haven’t met the fake smile, rascist white Americans yet but the ones I’ve met especially in the multicultural church ( which is, well, predominantly white) I attend, kill me with so much love, I get paranoid. Like is this for real? Of course, coming from a Nigerian church where deceit, hypocrisy, backbiting, and sheer wickedness were the order of the day, I have become taciturn and wary of church relationships. I know if I become more interested, they will be very helpful. But God, I need to heal. Lol.

    So, if the purpose of assimilating is to forge beneficial relationships, get relevant information, or understand the system of the new country, any crowd will work for that, whether Nigerian or not. Just pray God connects you to the right people and take the wrong people far away from you.

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