Expat (IN) Nigeria : The army then was not the army we have now.
Expat (IN) Nigeria? Get it? No, ok we'll explain. It's a play on words on 'expats in Nigeria trying to 'expert' Nigeria. We think it's pretty witty don't you?
This is a segment on the site where we talk to different expats living in Nigeria about their experience in a bid to show how varied their situations are and also dispel or reinforce myths.
Today's' guest is a 75 year old female from Denmark. She moved here to marry the love of her life who was in the army and has earned the right to be referred to as a Nigerian woman.
When was the first time you heard of Nigeria?
When I met my prospective husband in 1960
Honestly love seems to be the favorite reason for moving and we ain't mad about that. Were you worried about coming here?
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I met my husband in England where I was studying English and he was in the military academy in Sandhurst. We fell in love and decided to get married. When he went back to Nigeria I followed him and we were married in Lagos in 1963.
Was this your first expatriate experience?
Strictly speaking I am not an expatriate, in fact I became a Nigerian citizen in 1966.
What do you do for a living here?
At the moment I work for Cappa and D’Alberto Plc
Do you have a Nigerian passport? Was that easy or hard to get?
Yes I do. It was easy as my husband was an army officer and they helped me register for it. However renewing it has, particularly the last years, been a bit difficult
Sigh. The struggle affects us all. Your husband was Nigerian. What was it like getting married to a Nigerian especially a military man?
I was very young and very much in love, I just wanted to be where he was.
My husband was Sandhurst trained and very much a gentleman, at home he relaxed and let me run the place, he played with his children like any normal father. He was not a disciplinarian at home, he left that to me.
He was very busy and it was never in doubt that the army came first. Even when we got married, he was then a lieutenant and his salary was pretty low.
I had just arrived in Nigeria where I had to reside for at least 27 days before I could get married legally so we had 27 days to arrange the wedding.
After a week the army sent him on a course in Abeokuta so he left me alone to sort it all out, I could not even tell people where he had gone, I could not pronounce the name of the town. It was his friend and best man who took me to Kingsway to buy a wedding dress and the wife of his English commander who baked our cake so all was ready when he returned.
After the wedding they gave him two weeks leave for our honeymoon which we were to spend at the army chalet at Tarkwa Bay. However after one week he was recalled as he was needed at the unit. The army then was not the army we have now, there were still English officers and sergeants and it was run properly.
The first coup in 1966 changed a lot and the army being in politics was something my husband never supported.
That is definitely an interesting start to a new life. Was there a struggle on how to raise your kids so both your cultures could be imbibed or did you guys chart your own course?
It became a problem when the children got older. My husband had ideas that did not agree with mine. In other ways we incorporated both cultures quite successfully.
What does your daily life look like? (weekends inclusive)
I am now a widow and my youngest is 50 so apart from work nothing serious. When the children were young my husband was in the middle of his career and a very busy man, however I was able to persuade him to make time for his family on Sundays which he did and the children loved this time with their father
How would you describe the life of an expat in Nigeria from your own point of view?
As I say not strictly an expat, my husband’s family are very much my family and most of my close friends are Nigerian so I can't really describe it from that viewpoint.
What’s been the biggest cultural shock till date?
The way people seem to thrive on disorder and the lack of justice.
Gets us every time too. How has Nigeria changed over the years since you’ve been living here.
Security has become much worse whereas life if you have money has become easier; imported food and locally grown vegetables were not so easy to get in the 60’s.
What’s the hardest part about living here?
I cannot really say, it is my home and nowhere is perfect
Do you have Nigerian friends or do you hang out with the large expat tribe we have in the country?
No absolutely not, I am a member of societies where I mix with both Nigerians and expatriates, but my close friends are Nigerian, and mostly family.
Can you tell we love how much she loves us? Do you have any beliefs that hold you back from fully adapting to culture here?
Depends what you call culture, there are things I cannot and will not accept and things that annoy me like the awful injustice and poor governance.
I am sorry to see some time honored practices being dropped like caring for family members and respect for elders due to the urbanization of the population.
Best & worst thing about living here?
Best: I like the weather and hate the poor state of infrastructure which makes life so difficult for most people
Any major differences between Nigeria and Denmark?
Oh yes, do not get me started. However, I am never bored in Nigeria.
On the other hand it is nice to be in a place where things work, you do get tired of potholes, power cuts and water shortages.