I was already a grownup and had only entered a plane once (on a trip from Lagos to Abuja) when I got admission to further my education in Jand (The UK). Living over there with those Oyimbo people in their ice cold country for almost 2 years is a book on its own but for the purpose of this series, I am going to capture a few of the differences I noticed between life in Nigeria and in England humorously. All the stories told in these episodes actually happened to me and I am sure by the end, even if you haven’t traveled to the UK before, you might as well famze like you have because you will already know the happenings over there. It’s quite long but I have tried dividing them into 3 very interesting, informative and hilarious series. Enjoy
1. Everyone is your mate: While preparing for my trip, I had heard tales of the cold raging over there so I had acquired the necessary winter coats/jackets from Yaba market in Lagos. I got into Jand and while processing my documents I tried greeting the people I saw with “Good Evening Sir/Ma” as my parents taught me but they acted like I didn’t say anything. I wondered if I sounded too Nigerian for them to hear me audibly so I added small UK panache to the way I said it but still no reply. Then right in my front, someone greeted the lady “Hi” and she answered. Oooooooo, that’s how they greet here. Next time, I greeted her “hi”, and she nodded. Then as I was basking in the euphoria of my greeting conquest, one young boy (maybe 10 years) tapped me on the back and said “sup mate, could you help me get that flyer”. What? This small boy calling me his mate. My life. I gave him the flyer but kept wondering why this small boy would call me his mate. It took a while to digest but it soon dawned on me that that’s how they greet “sup mate”. So everyone is your mate in Jand, no single respect for elders. How pathetic.
2. Driving: My first days crossing roads in the UK were hell for me because living all my life in Nigeria, I was used to the right hand traffic but UK utilize the left hand traffic so it took some serious getting used to. Also, although I never drove while in the UK, to get a driver’s license over there is something else. As a matter of fact, its easier to see their Prime Minister than to get a driver’s license. Getting a driver’s license involves one undertaking a compulsory theory test (50 questions with 57 minutes to answer them and you must answer at least 43 correctly to pass) and hazard perception test (14 video clips which feature everyday road situations and you must identify one/two developing hazards and you must get at least 44 points out of a possible 75 to pass). Then, a supervised driving test (you drive through obstacles, reverse, park etc and pass). All these before you are given a license. People fail like its JAMB but it helps reduce high rate of accidents. In Nigeria, as long as you have the money, you can get your driver’s license anytime. Most Nigerian drivers especially women can’t even reverse and park well unaided. Everyone wants to drive. We are in trouble….lol.
3. Driver owa: I entered Jand as a JJC (Johnny Just Come) so I had to observe to get used to their way of life and movement. In Nigeria, I was used to shouting “driver owa” (loosely means driver here) when I intended coming down from a public transport but I knew I’ll embarrass my family if I tried that in Jand. So I entered a bus and just decided to observe. As the bus was moving, a red light will show over the driver’s head, he will stop and people will come down. This happened like three more times and I was wondering if the bus was reading the passengers minds. How did it know when to show the red light to tell the driver to stop? Will it read my own mind too? Then in my confused state, an old woman saved my blushes, she calmly said “please I want to come down could you press the button”. “Which button?”, I thought you myself while looking around. Then voila, I saw a red button (request stop button) pressed when someone wants to alight. That’s how my family name was saved from shame.
4. Google map: In the UK, addresses are located by two mediums; postcode and the house address. So as long as you have data on your phone and Google map, punch in the postcode of the house and it sends you walking and driving directions to the place. I saved hundreds of Pounds by walking to friend’s houses aided by Google map instead of cabbing. In Nigeria? Google map works skeletally until your phone battery dies or your data finishes or your phone shows “no network”.
5. Minimum wage: While studying in the UK, we were entitled to maximum 20 hours of work per week. So the onus was on us to find work, not work more than 20 hours/week and get paid. The beauty of it all was the minimum wage in the UK which was £6.31 (N1900) per hour. Yes per hour. So that’s N38,000/week and N152,000/month. Clean cash and we are talking about minimum wage (least you can get payed). As a matter of fact, the minimum wage is now £6.70 in 2015 from £6.31 in 2013 when I worked there (it gets increased every single year). In Nigeria, state governments are still struggling with paying the comon N18,000/month (to hardworking Nigerians who work a minimum 8 hours a day for 5 days a week sometimes including Saturday). Oil rich country. Atrocious.
6. Bus times: In the UK, buses have their routes and these routes have time of arrival. Therefore, you want to go to lets say….ehmmmm, Station Road in Coventry, you make sure you get to the bus stop where bus 87 takes at the given times (6:15am, 7:05am, 7:30am, 8:30am) and be rest assured that the bus will be there at that exact time. The driver sees no one at the bus stop and he continues on his journey to the next bus stop. He sees you, he stops, you pay for your fare and bam, he continues. Orderliness. But wait at the wrong bus stop and even if you are the Queen of England, the bus won’t stop for you. In Nigeria, you are either jumping on one bus or running after another. Life.
7. Few cars on the road: A vehicle excise duty (VED) also known as car tax is paid for most vehicles which are used (or parked) in public roads in the UK. With this development and the good transport system over there its no surprise that most people own just a car and mostly travel by public transport. In Nigeria, on the other hand, tax on cars are non existence, road network bad and public transport shambolic and some men even own as much as 6 cars and use most one or twice a year. Also fuel is expensive in the UK with petrol selling for as much as £1.07/liter (N323) little wonder many people enter public transport leaving the road free and ensuring free flow of vehicles. Nothing like holdup.
8. Girls spend: In Nigeria, rapture would happen before a girl takes a guy out and pays or even buys a guy birthday presents more than boxers and singlet. In the UK, girls take guys out and actually PAY. OMG. What a beautiful country.
9. Buy on credit and pay monthly: The trust and love they have for themselves in Jand is beyond me. In Jand, you can buy almost anything (phones, cars, TV etc) on loan and pay jeje (small small) mostly on a monthly basis and that’s without collateral. In Nigeria, to get a common phone on loan, you have to give your wife as collateral. Just kidding but the truth is Nigerians don’t trust Nigerians. Simple.
10. Zebra crossing: In Jand, stand on a zebra crossing and cars would stop for your cross. In Nigeria, a driver stops at a zebra crossing only if you are a zebra. If not, you better wait, look left and right and then run across.
11. Charity for animals: So I got to Jand to see that even animals like dogs and cats have charity organizations set up in their name. You are inundated with news of agencies asking for like £2/month to take care of dogs. In Nigeria, humans never chop finish na dogs wan chop. If I hear.
12. Tap water is drinkable: You get back home after a long day’s work, you get to your kitchen, get an empty glass, open your tap and drink clean chilled water straight from the tap. The water is very clean and drinkable and coupled with the cold weather the water comes out chilled. In Nigeria, drink tap water and find yourself in the hospital. Pure water and table water have become the order of the day.
13. Unlimited Data: My love for Wi-Fi knows no bounds and with a host of internet providers offering unlimited data on their plans like Virgin’s £15/month data plan, I had internet to do course works and watch movies like forever..lol. In Nigeria? Forgerrit. You will see free wife in Nigeria before you see unlimited data.
14. Free calls within networks: In Jand, apart from the heavyweight networks like Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile or EE, we had smaller networks like Lebara, Giffgaff and Lyca Mobile which offered FREE unlimited calls to numbers on the same network. In Nigeria? Tahhhhh. Closest to free calls you will see is FriendsNFamily crap on most networks.
15. Sue for dog bite: I remember the story of a man who sued a dog owner because his dog bit him and he won damages. In Nigeria, a dog bites you then you are either a thief who went to steal in someone’s house or just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Forget suing, get medical attention.