top of page

Building a New Life: Tips for moving to Nigeria (or any other country) with children.

It may be hard to believe, but we moved to Nigeria without knowing where we would live. The choice of our new home was wide open: Awka, the capital city of Anambra state; Isuofia, the quiet village and home to my husband's ancestors; Enugu, the capital of Enugu state with its close connection to the airport; or even Aba, where Ezenwa grew up, and where being busy is more of a common reality than an individual stress.




However, we didn’t want the kids to be out of school for too long, so we didn’t have much time to decide. After spending one week in Enugu, something clicked. Maybe it was the city's welcoming vibe, or perhaps it was the way it felt safe. Enugu it was—our new home in the heart of Coal City.

We realized we had to compromise.

Finding the right school? Now, that was a different story! Schools here are like brain factories, pushing kids to academic excellence, I dare say, at all costs. Playtime? Not a priority, and "discipline" still interpreted more in a physical than a vocal way. We were hunting for a school where the kids could be themselves, burst into laughter, make a ton of friends, and have a good time. However, I have to admit that we did not find such a school here. After visiting several schools, we realized we had to compromise. And as strange as it may sound, this might be the learning we all needed.


Coming from a society where both the smart and the lazy have equal opportunities to become somebody in life, the perspectives look quite different here. Without good grades, you will have difficulties in life, which is my interpretation of why the focus in schools here in Enugu is much more results-oriented and less focus is given to soft skills and well-being. This is why it was even more important for us to find some extracurricular activities for our kids to let loose and make friends (and, of course, get rid of some of their energy so they would not tear our apartment apart after a full day of sitting quietly behind a desk).



In Switzerland, our kids were as free as birds, going out to play with their friends for hours without us really knowing where they went, making friends at every turn, and participating in several sports classes throughout the week. Here, we found it challenging to find activities for them. However, we managed to put our boys in a football academy and sign up our daughter for a ballet, dance, and modelling class.



Now, you might wonder, "How different can life really be?" Well, mornings are still a rush to get the kids ready, looking for a pair of socks at the last minute or the book that was just right here on the couch yesterday. But instead of our kids walking to school alone, we have become their drivers, chauffeuring them to all activities. Unlike in Switzerland, though, the children do not come home for lunch. They stay in school all day (phew, no midday cooking marathons!), structuring our day till the 3 PM pickup. After school, we are busy driving them to their activities and waiting until they are done before taking them home.


The evenings are ours—no rush, just family, laughter, and good food.

And while this may all sound stressful and packed with activities, you would be surprised to hear that Nigeria has calmed us down and brought us closer as a family. The evenings are ours—no rush, just family, laughter, and good food. WE HAVE THE TIME TO ACTUALLY "BE" RATHER THAN "DO". A stark contrast to the Swiss clockwork life we led.



But I must be truthful: the kids miss their friends in Switzerland. They miss the freedom to go to school with any hairstyle they like, enjoying those 10-minute breaks to play outside after every 45 minutes of class. They recall a school without homework, where rulers were meant for drawing lines, not for discipline. Despite missing these aspects, experiencing how schools operate in different parts of the world will be an enriching experience for them. It is important that we, as parents, acknowledge their feelings and guide them through the process of adaptation.



And in case you plan to move to Nigeria (or any other foreign country) with your children in the future, here are some tips and lessons learned I am happy to share with you:

  1. Reset your expectations: Know that you know nothing. Even if you've visited Nigeria many times as a tourist, living here is a completely different experience. Approaching your move with an open mind will help you navigate the unexpected challenges and joys of setting up your new life.

  2. School selection: Schools in Nigeria can be quite competitive and academically focused. Look for a balance between academic rigour and a supportive environment where your children can thrive socially and emotionally. Be prepared to compromise.

  3. Extracurricular activities: Finding activities outside school can help your children adjust and make new friends. Start looking into options before you move, or ask those who already live here; this can help your children better adapt and have something to look forward to.

  4. Routine and structure: The lifestyle change can be jarring. Establishing a new routine that includes school runs, extracurricular activities, and family time can help provide a sense of normality. Prepare yourself for new routines and understand that this may require more energy at the beginning until you adapt. Recognize the beauty and opportunities of new structures. It will just take some time.

  5. Prepare for logistical changes: Life in Nigeria might require adjustments in daily logistics, such as transportation and shopping. Something that may have taken you a few minutes before can take up most of your day here. Embrace it, as you can not change it anyway.

  6. Take individual needs seriously: While some kids might integrate better than others, we are all different, and as a parent, it's important to pay attention not only to your kids, but also to your partner. Relocating and living in a new context gives you the chance to redefine who you are, to start afresh but may also bring up some long-forgotten or new traits you will have to deal with.

  7. Connect with others: Building a support network of other expat families can provide a wealth of information and support. They can offer advice on schools, activities, and day-to-day life, as well as be a source of friendship and understanding.

  8. Stay open and positive: Moving with children to a new country is a significant change that can come with challenges. Keeping an open mind and maintaining a positive outlook can help your family navigate these changes more smoothly. Celebrate the small victories and stay patient as everyone adjusts at their own pace.




Last but not least

I decided always to end my blog posts with an Igbo proverb or quote and a song (not necessarily Igbo) that speaks to my heart. Feel free to share your favourite proverbs or a song you are currently listening to!

Igbo quote of the week:  "Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe." Translation: If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the Garri before dipping it into the soup.


Disclaimer

This blog is neither scientific research nor a social study; instead, it is written with much appreciation for the Igbo culture, from the subjective perspective of the author, based on personal experience. Generalizations must be read with care, as no truth is true for everyone. And most importantly, this blog is to be read with a smile and a pinch of salt (or pepper in this context)



5 Comments


Wow, you’re helping the kids adjust gracefully to their new environment. The new perspective to life will help them to be more grounded later in life.


Well done nwanyiocha.


Craicbuzz.com

Like

A bold and creative write up. I admire your use of words for various situations. I can quite relate to most of your findings and thank you for your patience and honesty.

You made it seem very simple despite the challenges. I hope others will find this blog very informative and enriching. I wish you and your family well. Udo dịrị gị.

Like

This is beautiful.

I love how you keep showing the beauty of Alaigbo.

Like

Thank you for sharing

Like

This post is indeed a well articulated experience that can serve as a guide to a prospective settler in àlà ìgbo and by extension any other part of the world. Weldone Nwanyị ocha

Like
Peach and Red Vibrant Food YouTube Thumbnail.png

More of a video person?

Check-out my Youtube Channel!

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
bottom of page