My son, Alex, was back from boarding school last week. Sitting in the car in Lagos traffic we were commenting on how, since my daughter worked for Scania last summer, we suddenly notice Scania trucks everywhere.
‘Yeah,’ he said. It’s like that with Nigerians. I see them everywhere now.’ Alex lived with us in Lagos for 4 years during his middle and high school years. He loved his time here and at school made friends with Nigerians kids or foreign kids who had lived their entire lives in Lagos. He speaks a bit of pidgin and feels absolutely comfortable buying food off the streets and haggling with local vendors.
For my son, his awareness of all things Nigerian has opened his world in ways he never predicted.
On Oct 1, Nigeria’s national day, all the 20+ Nigerian kids at his boarding school got together for a celebratory dinner and Alex was invited. My white, Dutch/Canadian son ‘belonged’ at the table: he could participate in the banter, understood the history and cultural context and could relate to the stories of ‘back home’.
How special is that?
Given that the Nigerian community is the 2nd most successful foreign community in London (after Americans), having a connection to the country comes in handy. Alex has made friends with bouncers in nightclubs and has started up conversations with total strangers at the airport because he knew they were Nigerian.
It is one of the advantages of living the internationally mobile life: the potential to develop empathy with people of another country and culture, to have a connection that would be otherwise impossible to form because of (negative) stereotypes. I am immensely proud that Alex has been open to getting to know the Nigerian culture and has maintained an interest in the people of the place he once called home. It is an attitude that will serve him well in the future, in our increasingly globalised world.
Diane Lemieux has spent a whole lifetime as an expat and sees moving to live in a new country as a life choice made by an increasing number of people. Those who successfully recreate a full and satisfying life in a new place develop the skills and approaches needed to deal with any change that life presents us.Her new book, The Mobile Life, co-written with Anne Parker, helps those who are undertaking this journey for the first time, and highlights the achievements of those who are experienced resettlers.