Everywhere you turn, there’s an ongoing sale of sorts. It’s either property, a car or household furniture. Social media is bursting with pictures and videos of beautiful items belonging to Nigerians relocating to other countries.
It has now been tagged as the “Japa season.”
A lot of Nigerians are leaving the country at an alarming rate. Many people have decided enough is enough and would prefer a different experience. Frankly, it’s understandable. The current state of the nation is distressing. Let me digress and say, “If you are Nigerian living in Nigeria, I am sending you lots of love”, we are going through a lot, and it can take a toll on a person’s mental and emotional well-being.
So, what happens when you Japa? How do you maintain a positive mental state as you transition into your new life? In this article, I want to create an awareness to help you manage culture shock and keep you emotionally grounded as you make the necessary adjustments to thrive in your new country of abode.
When I travelled to London for the first time, I experienced one of the most significant shocks of my life. I travelled in a pair of jeans and an open-toe leather sandal in the middle of November. As I stepped out of Heathrow airport with a heart full of excitement to explore this foreign land, the breeze hit my face with so much force that I questioned everything. It was freezing, and I was unprepared. My hands and feet froze in minutes, and I immediately felt distressed. This feeling stayed with me for a few weeks until I made some adjustments to align with my new environment. I bought a coat, a pair of covered shoes, and gloves, amongst other things.
This season known as winter, also comes with a lot of gloom. It was dark as early as 5 pm, which impacted my emotions quite a bit. As someone who grew up in a country with lots of sunshine, the weather took some getting used to. I will admit there’s an emotional disruption that comes with a sudden change from hot to cold weather and from long hours of sunshine to long hours of gloom.
I lived in North London; it was lovely. I quickly noticed that there weren’t places to buy Jollof rice and chicken. There were scores of fast-food places close to where I lived, but they sold chicken, chips, and kebabs, not rice, stew, or amala. Before now, I was used to walking into fast-food restaurants and ordering certain foods. This experience made me miss home dearly. I researched and discovered places I could get some spicy Nigerian jollof rice, but this came at a high cost and for someone with a limited amount of money, adjusting my diet was the wiser choice.
One day I ordered a reading table and chair; I was beginning to develop lower back pains from using my bed as my study. I was excited when the delivery man dropped off my box but was equally surprised, he offered no help to assemble them. I opened the box, pulled out the pieces of my newly ordered table and chair, found the instructions in the box and immediately felt overwhelmed. I was used to seeing carpenters do all the assembling of furniture in Nigeria. It took me a few hours to read, understand and assemble my table and chair. Unbeknownst to me, this was only the beginning of my DIY journey.
A few weeks into my transition, I got a part-time job as a telemarketer. I was excited at the opportunity to earn my first foreign income. On my first day at the office, I received a script and a long list of phone numbers to call. With a big smile, I called the first number; about 10 seconds into our conversation, the receiver asked, “What are you saying?” I thought to myself, “what does she mean I was reading from the script my employer handed me”. The following person said the same, and the next before it finally hit me. I had a foreign accent, one that was unfamiliar to them and one they didn’t easily understand. Yet again, I was distressed because my accent could affect my earning capacity. This situation was more complicated because my accent wasn’t something I could dump. It is an integral part of my communication, so adjusting would require some time.
I like how Oprah defined stress in one of her interviews. “We feel stress when we want things to be different to how they are”. Simply put, don’t obsess over the things out of your control; it is a recipe for personal disruption. When you Japa, this can happen because every experience is likely new, and some of these experiences will be overwhelming. Culture shock can lead to anxiety and create emotional disruptions.
It will help to research the country of choice so you will have some ideas of what to expect. Managing your expectations is essential; you might be leaving for a more organised place, but it’s unrealistic to think everything is perfect over there. Your new country might require you to learn a new language or adopt a different way of speaking to ensure ease of communication. Practice self-compassion, give yourself time to acclimatise, and be intentional about doing it with a smile. As I learned, Japa isn’t an automatic ticket to happiness, but it can create a lot of joy if adequately planned. I wish you well on your new journey, and I hope it is all you imagined.
Thank you for reading