Living outside one’s home country is difficult. It means leaving behind everything one knows and is accustomed to for a completely unfamiliar environment. Such is the case of many Nigerians in America. Having never left my country since I was born, this experience is something I am all too unfamiliar with. It’s a whole new world with its differences, however, some things are similar. The language, the culture, the food, the weather and general way of life is different yet similar in so many ways. The weather is not similar though because it is warmer in Nigeria than it is here, another thing I had to acclimate to. I call my boss by his first name and I think in my mind “Really???” because that would never happen in Nigeria.
Nigeria is a very diverse and culturally centered country, it is one out of 54 African countries. According to Ethnologue, Nigeria has 529 languages of which about 7 are extinct. There are about 250 ethnic groups however the three major ones are Igbo, Yoruba, and Hausa.
Nevertheless, the official language is English and although I have to pronounce things twice as much as the other person because I have an accent, my control of the language is pretty decent.
So many people seem to have a misconception of my home country that it is, such as poor and that the people are uncivilized. I’ve been asked if we live on trees, “No we don’t!” We have beautiful buildings and skyscrapers too. However, there are facts to prove that my country is one of the best in the world. It is the 7th largest country in the world by population of about 178 million. It is the 32nd largest country by area with its size being 356,669 square miles, comparable in size to Venezuela and about twice the size of California, and the 13th largest oil producer in the world, producing 2,525,000 barrels of oil per day according to the U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA).
There are several differences between Nigeria and America. The language, culture, and food constitute a major part of Nigeria. The culture is especially distinct, Greeting in Nigeria is directly linked to respect,for example there are special ways people say hello to older people. You should not stare an older person in the eye when talking to them and you kneel to greet older people rather than shake hands. A child is considered as disrespectful if they don’t incorporate these teachings. For food, there is not much difference,for I ate different kinds of cereal like CocoPops, Kellogg’s, Rice Krispies, Fruit loops, etc. for breakfast all through elementary school.
Nigeria is just as good as any other country in the world. The country is democratic not monarchical, and we have three arms of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. Monarchy still exists though but not in the way it is in European countries like the U.K, Denmark, Japan, etc. The ruling families only have power in matters that concern their region, they have influence but only to a certain extent. The state government controls the power they have.
The health system is fantastic; according to USA Today, Nigeria has managed to control the spread of the Ebola virus since its outbreak and that says a lot. There are gas stations, grocery stores, and markets where fresh organic food and not genetically modified or artificial food like the food in America is purchased. There are trees with fresh, juicy, fruits and I have climbed my share of trees to pluck mangoes. Life is just fun and free. There are zoos with wild animals, we don’t have wild animals crawling around in our front yards. I’ve been asked if I see lions like in the movie “The Gods are not to Blame,” and I answer “Yes, in the zoo.” It’s funny how people already conclude without knowing the structure of a place. The media is partly to blame for this because people see things as it is portrayed. I too had my perception of the United States before I came here.
I believed everyone was rich and famous and that the bad guys are contained, but I have come to realize that it is not as it is in the shows I have seen. Not every cheerleader is “disrespectful” or “mean”- my very close friend and co-worker, Katherine Elias, was a cheerleader in high school and she’s one of the sweetest people I know. Also, there are in fact homeless people and a significant percentage of people actually going hungry.
I’ve come to the conclusion that not all that glitters is gold and not everything is as is seems from the outside.