Asha: New Jersey to Nigeria
As every expat is first and foremost an individual, reactions to the sudden changes vary greatly. Asha made the transition from New Jersey to Nigeria, and recounts her new expat life - the good and the bad - in regular, personal, and often very funny, posts to her blog.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Nigeria, etc.
My name is Asha. I’m an Indian-American woman married to a Nigerian-American man. Until moving to Nigeria in November of 2011, I had lived in the USA my entire life.
My husband, Mike, grew up in Lagos and had always wanted to return. Last year we were living happily with our three kids in suburban New Jersey. Mike wanted a professional change and asked if I would be comfortable if he pursued job opportunities abroad.
I said okay. In the blink of an eye, he found a position at a private equity firm and we were on a plane to Nigeria.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in July of 2011 while Mike’s job search was on-going. It seemed silly at first. I wasn’t sure he would even get an offer! But I knew that if we were going to make the biggest move of our life, I needed to document our experiences. I thought our kids might like to go back one day and read about how we changed as a family when we left the USA.
And I was a fiction writer before I became a mom. I wanted to flex those muscles again. I anticipated that in Nigeria I would have more support with childcare—because it has always been 100% my responsibility—and I wanted my blog to be the first step towards a long career as a writer.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Lagos differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Well, the more comfortable we become here, the less I notice the differences.
When we first moved to Lagos, however, I became extremely depressed. Everything seemed ugly and foreign. We had no friends. My husband left us by ourselves in Lagos because he had to work out of the South Africa office. My daughter developed a nervous tic that was misdiagnosed as Tourette’s syndrome. My father-in-law—who we had moved here to be closer to—died unexpectedly. We sent the kids to a school where two were hit on the first day after we were assured there was no corporal punishment. We sat in traffic for hours every morning and evening. I felt like I was losing my mind.
I clawed my way out of depression and we’ve managed to make a happy, little life for ourselves.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Nigeria? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was not prepared. My husband wanted me to visit beforehand but we had no childcare. Even if I had visited, I think our arrival never would have been happy. We were on our own when we moved. There was no community of people waiting to sweep us up, as is the case with many ex-pats. All the factors that made life so miserable would still have existed.
I don’t like to dwell on what I could have done differently. What’s the point? What I can say is that I am very PROUD of myself for making it through the first few awful months. I had to dig deep and tap into strength I never knew I possessed.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I can tell you about sitting in the car with my driver while he’s farting up a storm. Or the naked Nigerian man who gave me the fully Monty. But I won’t. Just read my blog. You’ll enjoy it. I’m funny. What can I say? It’s a gift. Often I make myself laugh while I’m blogging, which is probably a sign of narcissism or mental instability. Or in my case, both.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Nigeria?
- Be open.
- Be careful.
- Be brave.
How is the expat community in Lagos? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expats I’ve met are welcoming and friendly. They’re easy to find. I have met parents at the children’s schools. I’ve met ladies through the American Women’s Club of Lagos. There are social clubs for many different nationalities. And in an unexpected twist, I’ve met a few women who’ve contacted me through my blog.
How would you summarize your expat life in Nigeria in a single, catchy sentence?
A terrified idiot savant who kicks and screams her way to Lagos is amazed to discover that thrills, connection, fulfillment, joy, and unlimited possibilities await her.