[I wrote this while I was doing my Master’s degree: 2007-2008.]
Welcome to the cold. I wish you all the very best in your studies. All success shall be yours, just as soon as you are able to locate the nearest African shop. After which the library. For maximum success, there are a few things, misconceptions you will need to unlearn:
- ‘That Nigeria and UK speak the same language.’ Before all loyal naija people start stoning me… Nigeria speaks English; they don’t speak English in Jand. It sounds similar but it’ll take years to understand. And it isn’t the same from county to county. Just when you have gotten the trend of the Lancashire speak, you have to move to Liverpool and low and behold, they don’t speak English there either! No Itsekiri, Kalabari, Kanuri or Ibibio has prepared you to attempt the British accent. But attempt it you must.
- ‘A smile is a smile in any language.’ Wrong again! A jandon smile is nothing like a Nigerian smile. They don’t come from the same planet. Someone once told me that a jandon smile is called ‘the icebreaker.’ I am very sure that there are textbooks detailing what the exact length, breadth, width and lack of warmth the ‘smile’ should be. Reminds me of the stories of two ebullient Yoruba men who hadn’t seen in years. They met on the streets of London. They hailed each other with their respective cognomens (oriki- praise song), slapped each other on the back and did a little dance. They were thereafter arrested for disturbing the peace. Learn the polite smile and stay out of prison.
- ‘The sun in Naija shines in jand’. Nope! I have finally come to the conclusion that it’s a different sun. And the jand one has an electrical fault. (by that same measurement the naija one may probably have a mechanical fault that is causing it to do overheating, especially over Maiduguri.) When you see the sun out of your window, do not be tempted to wear your newest flimsy outfit, I assure you, you will freeze halfway to the bus stop. They will have to unfreeze your black behind with a blow torch. Then your behind will become doubly black, as if your troubles were not enough already. Layer yourself with a million sweaters, and scarves and gloves and coats. In fact, just carry your duvet everywhere.
- ‘Humour transcends borders.’ Yeah right. And my grandmother can speak Japanese. You can laugh at an oyinbo joke, but when asked to repeat to a Naija man, he will look at you with the blankest look since Cain denied killing Abel. On the other hand imagine Basketmouth at the Royal variety. Or BGT. I cannot either.
- ‘Life is perfect in jand’. Things work in jand, the transport, electricity, water, also tax, bills, collection of fees, TV licensing. If you work 20 hours a day for a month, you will be divested of that money in 3 hours – because the system works. Life isn’t perfect – anywhere. Make the UK work for you. Understand the system. But do not expect perfection and definitely not instant riches. Or campus accommodation bigger than a Nigerian broom closet.
- ‘The weather is a small part of life.’ No, no, no! The weather is life. It’s the beginning, end and focus of all conversations, even academic ones. It affects your mood and is the genesis of a disease called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The acronym is very apt by the way. The weather affects your wardrobe budget and your dress sense. Your dress sense hits a definite low on the first few months in jand coinciding with your first bout of SAD.
- ‘ “Are you alright?” is an insult.’ Says who? Definitely not in the North of England. The first solicitous greeting you may get in jand may be along these lines. If you are a pugilistic wannabe like me, it will take some restraint not to engage in fight to the finish there and then. Questioning my sanity? After a while you begin to realise that it’s a request after your general welfare, but if you feel like making a point of it just say ‘I’m just fine, are you alright at all?’ the answer would be very genial and you would be regarded with warmth. (quick tip: on any visit to the motherland, lose this greeting fast! The violence that may ensue upon the use of this platitude will be unprintable).
- It’s work we are doing in Naija. No. Get a part-time job and you would be astounded. You can’t even leave your desk to eat here, not to talk of take a small snooze or go shopping (as I used to do in Naij!) but hey, no one is perfect…
Again. Welcome to the UK. May your road be road.