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Uzoamaka Okafor: Things People Don’t Tell You About Moving to the UK

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In 2022, I moved from Nigeria to the UK for my MSc in International Marketing. Reflecting on my experiences so far, there are a couple of things I wish I knew before coming to the UK. Although knowing them wouldn’t have changed my decision to come to the UK, it would have helped me better prepare for the challenges and reality that awaited me.

I think a lot of people do not share their honest experiences about living in the UK because they do not want to be judged. Until recently, when people asked me questions like, ‘Is relocating to the UK from Nigeria worth it? Is living in the UK better than living in Nigeria? Is everything as you imagined it will be?’ I’d say yes, even though what I want to say was, “Yes, but…” And this was because I didn’t want to come off as ungrateful. I’m in a country thousands of people want to be in, so how can I tell people that this place is not the bed of roses we have imagined it to be without sounding ungrateful or even sounding condescending?

The main reason I decided to share my experience is not to discourage anyone from coming to the UK. On the contrary, it is to prepare them for what’s to come and what to expect when coming to the UK for studies or whatever.

You are on your own

Even if you have family and friends in the UK, you will have to figure out how to navigate your life in the UK by yourself. Most people are working round the clock to keep their heads above water, especially people with family. So, as much as your friend or family member may want to be there for you or help you financially and emotionally, they may be limited by distance or resources. My advice? Be open to receiving help from strangers. Most of the people who helped me when I arrived in the UK were strangers.

People mind their business too much

Yes, there is such a thing as minding one’s business too much. The level of mind-your-business in this country is epic. It’s so bad that you may never know your neighbours or talk to them. Even worse if you don’t share anything like a garden or driveway, bumping into each other is zero chance.

I like to be alone. So I wasn’t looking forward to impromptu visits from neighbours or expecting us to invite each other out to activities when I came. However, I feel it is crucial to establish a conversational connection with one’s neighbour so that if there is an emergency or a need to speak, you may reach out to each other.


It will take you quite a while to come to terms with the number of bills you have to pay. Apart from your rent and basic utility bills like electricity, water, and gas, you have to pay for council tax (this excludes the tax that’s removed from your salary), a TV licence (if you own a TV set and watch the programmes streamed on the TV), road tax, parking fees and car insurance (for car owners). For couples with children, the bills are even more. It might take a while to get used to the bills but you will figure it out.

Going broke or running into debt is easy

As a single person, aside from all the bills you pay, if you are not proactive or spend unnecessarily, you’ll go broke or run into debt. I saved a lot when I was in Nigeria and I was careless with my spending when I first came, until one Saturday when sapa sat me down. I limited my expenses since then.

There are so many things that encourage unnecessary spending in the UK: online shopping works efficiently; you can buy things on credit and pay monthly for up to 2 years; you can get a credit card; you can buy things with £1, £2, £5 and even £0.50. Before you know it, your money has finished because the £1 and £3 won’t seem like a big deal initially, but have cumulatively put a dent in your account.

As a couple with children, yours might be different. Taking care of children in this country is, perhaps, more financially demanding than it is in Nigeria. My advice? Budget your income before spending for the month, track, and account for your expenditure.

You’ll occasionally feel homesick

From time to time, you’ll catch yourself missing your family, friends, and neighbours back home. But that’s not all you’ll miss. You’ll miss the noisiness of your neighbourhood, buka food, the conversations you used to have with your customers in the market, roasted corn, and boli. You’ll miss home.

I knew I would miss my friends and family when I was leaving Nigeria, but I did not think I would miss the conversations I had with people I patronised in the market or the noise from speakers that blasted music when there was a party close to our house.

My advice? Eat Nigerian food. There are African stores where you can get the condiments you need. If you do not know how to prepare your favourite Nigerian meal, check YouTube. Food vloggers like Sisi Yemmie and Sisi Jemimah have super helpful food preparation guides.

I understand that some or most of the things I have shared above may not be everyone’s reality. But these were mine, and from gisting with friends, classmates, and acquaintances, I know they also share these experiences. Notwithstanding, the UK has been great and I have enjoyed a lot of the benefits the country offers. If you are in the process of relocating to the UK, I wish you the best.



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Uzoamaka Okafor is a graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where she studied Religion and Sociology. She has extensive experience writing for health and fashion blogs. But what she finds more joy doing is traveling to new places, reading African literature, and making money. Uzo currently studies International Marketing at Sheffield Hallam University and runs a blog,, where she shares traveling and study guides. You should check out her blog💯.

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