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Advice needed from any expats in Nigeria!

(50 Posts)
childrenknowyourlimits Sun 25-Jul-10 19:32:20

My DH has told me that there is a potential for our family to move to Nigeria from UK for approx. 2 years with his work. The idea terrifies me & excites me in equal measure! We have 2 DSs aged 4 & 6 and, if we go would be in approx. 1 year.

Does anyone have any experience of this sort of thing? Any regrets? What are the positives & negatives? What sort of things do I need to bear in mind? I have done a bit of travelling pre-children to places like Australia, NZ & Thailand but have never been to Africa before. We would be living in a compound with an apparently good American school next to it. Would appreciate your thoughts!

Thank you! smile

Onestonetogo Sun 25-Jul-10 19:56:33

I have been to Lagos and Abuja many, many times (for work) and hate the place. Very, very, very dangerous and corrupt to the core (maybe you could say that of any country with oil?).
The general mentality is to rip off any foreigners so if the locals pay 30p for a pineapple you'll be charged £5 (this is the lowest price I've managed to haggle down to, to the frustration of the taxi driver who was trying to help, but who then charged me 3 times the fare back to my hotel! No surprise there!).
Anywhere we go, we are escorted by security guards carrying rifles (at any time our convoy could get attacked)and asked to keep the curtans in the mini-bus closed as to not attract attention of potential criminals.

I'm sure things are much safer in a compound and your DH might already know an expat over there?
Good luck, be safe!

P.S. are you going to be in Lagos or Abuja? Lagos is even more dangerous than Abuja, it would mean you and the family never venturing out unless to the British Embassy escorted by several guards.

childrenknowyourlimits Sun 25-Jul-10 20:18:47

Hmmmmmm.....we would be in Lagos. Sounds pretty scary! I guess you would recommend probably not to go for it then! Alternatives are that DH stays put in UK for the time being or possibly wait until something comes up elsewhere. Boss would like him to go to Nigeria though if possible! Another option would be for him to go there & we stay in the UK but not sure I like the idea of that at all. Its all such a dilemma & not sure how to go about making the decision! confused

DH might take me over there to have a look for myself.

Onestonetogo Sun 25-Jul-10 20:33:00

definitely go there beforehand and see what you think, check out the compound and talk to the expats who are already there.
Would your DH's employer take the responsibilty of your security staff (checking who is who, etc)?

childrenknowyourlimits Sun 25-Jul-10 20:43:58

As far as I know yes. There are security staff 24 hrs on the compound, gates & fences etc. (sounding like a prison now!!) I think we would be given a driver as well. When my DH goes there for work trips at the moment, he describes the travelling like you with armed guards. I guess it's like that all the time? Even if you need to pop out somewhere to the food shops? It's really hard to imagine.

Onestonetogo Mon 26-Jul-10 00:12:36

you don't venture out in Lagos on your own without a trusted local or a security guard. You have to have transport/security arranged every time you go out.
And make sure (if you do move there) that everyone knows you have no valuables or cash in your home, maybe drop it in conversation here and there.
I'm sorry for scaring you; go there beforehand, after my bleak account you might be pleasantly surprised afterall.

childrenknowyourlimits Mon 26-Jul-10 10:21:57

Thank you for your advice.smile I do want a "warts & all" opinion so I can be fully informed before we make a decision. I will definitely look to go over there to see for myself. A lot to think about!

It's an overwhelming place at the beginning, noisy, loud, scary and dirty! But I know plenty of people who have really enjoyed living in Lagos (especially those with young children). There is a strong sense of community amongst expats and strangely, a lot of things to do. None of them have ever regretted the time they have spent living there. It's a different way of life but not necessarily a bad one.

childrenknowyourlimits Mon 26-Jul-10 22:45:48

Thank you Themaster. Good to have some positives. I want to really give this a fair hearing for my DH sake. I don't want to say "no" without thinking long and hard about it & probably visiting the place myself. Sometimes it is good to get out of your comfort zone isn't it? Am in a very comfortable place at the moment. Just wonder how willing we are to push ourselves....!

MonarchoftheGarioch Mon 26-Jul-10 22:46:27

My DB spent 2 years in Lagos and found doing business there a nightmare, a daily struggle to maintain your integrity. He rarely received mail that wasn't delivered via the company courier bag, and on the occasions my mum visited him, she was briefed to have a tenner slipped in the pages of her passport to facilitate her departure from the airport...

You would be living in a compound (and have a driver) out of necessity, not convenience - his family were more or less confined to theirs, though fortunately his DC were very young at the time. The benefit of this was however that they did make close friends there and the social life was as good as it could be in the circumstances.

I think one of the hardest things for them was living with the threat of crime rather than anything concrete, although he personally knew a family who suffered a serious and very violent incident. I'm not sure how isolated this incident was, obviously these things are very widely reported when they do occur.

In all, a very long-winded way of saying please think about this very carefully indeed, see if his company can put you in touch with families who are already out there or have been recently and can give you more detail about daily life and what to expect. It will not be anything at all like the travelling you've done before; but that's not to say it could still be a very exciting and rewarding experience.

childrenknowyourlimits Mon 26-Jul-10 22:54:48

Thank you Monarch. Its good to hear peoples experiences. This is exactly what I need to make the decision! I will try & get in touch with some families already living there. I have absolutely no clue whatsoever what life would be like living on a compound (other that it sounds a bit prison-like!).

I have to say its the threat of crime/violence thing that really worries me the most & the thought that it might be really wrong of us to knowingly put our family at risk.

Staying on my positives here, I would just like to point out that these compounds are HUGE with many apartment blocks on them, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a clubhouse, so often there is so much going on inside them, especially for the small ones that there is not much of a need to travel outside for social reasons.

IMO the crime issues are rarely targeted at foreigners per se (unlike with me here in Nairobi). You are more likely to be caught up in an incident rather than be the target of one.

I think the big issue is that the traffic is an absolute nightmare, there are huge 'go slows' and the school run can be a nightmare, so living close to the International British School or American School is a huge advantage. Also you have to be prepared for the climate, high high humidity, living in ac and torrential rain in rainy season.

Sadly corruption in its many forms is a fact of life across Africa as a whole...

A 'look-see' visit is a must. smile

MonarchoftheGarioch Mon 26-Jul-10 23:07:39

Yes, agree definitely a look-see - had friends who decided not to take up an overseas posting after a first visit (not to Nigeria but similar type of place where there is a shocking contrast between rich and poor). They felt they would have been up for it a few years earlier as a couple, but could not consider the move as a family.

childrenknowyourlimits Mon 26-Jul-10 23:19:37

Thank you both. It is so great to use this as a sounding board. Don't want to mention it to my friends yet until I have thought about it some more. I think they will all tell me to stay put! As for my sis (only family I have sad), she would be absolutely horrified if she knew I was even considering the idea!

MonarchoftheGarioch Tue 27-Jul-10 18:59:21

Let us know what you decide!

MrsSchadenfreude Tue 27-Jul-10 20:27:10

I lived in Lagos for 3 1/2 years in the early 90s. I would never go back. It is dirty, violent, corrupt and compound living where everyone knows your business, drives you round the bend. (I think the swingers enjoyed it though.)

I was ill almost constantly there - everything from runny tummy to lymphangitis, caused by an infected cut. One of my colleagues died of cerebral malaria. I used to register deaths out there and the only things that expats died of were cerebral malaria, cirrhosis of the liver, drowning or being shot.

Expats weren't necessarily targeted for crime, but people with nice cars were. Two colleagues were carjacked. One was shot dead on the spot and the other lived (but needed a lot of blood).

Traffic is horrific, with the go-slows. I saw someone being "necklaced" one day. And the climate is awful. Hot and wet or hot and less wet.

childrenknowyourlimits Tue 27-Jul-10 22:25:14

Wow shock! You wouldn't recommend it then?? I don't think I want to know what "necklaced" is. Must be something awful! I think I will go there for a look. Will let you know, Monarch, what I eventually decide.

Thank you all for your input so far. Am building up an intriguing picture of Nigeria!

No positives at all then in 3 years Mrs S? wink

Africa has changed a lot since the early 90's.

Do keep us posted children and let us know your first impressions.

childrenknowyourlimits Wed 28-Jul-10 12:58:02

Thank you Themaster. I will let you know what we decide to do in the end. I can't think about anything else at the moment!

MrsSchadenfreude Wed 28-Jul-10 21:58:25

No. I was also relieved of my jewellery by a man with a large knife on Lighthouse Beach.

Oh - hang on a minute. I met my DH there. grin

Could you go to Ghana? Ghana is much nicer.

childrenknowyourlimits Wed 28-Jul-10 22:29:42

Has to be Nigeria unfortunately cos of DH job. Have heard good things about Ghana though. Might be a nice place to go on holiday if we do end up in Nigeria. Sounds as though you had a pretty scary time there Mrs S! Glad you remembered the minor detail of meeting your DH there! grin How did you meet him?

Suedonim Wed 28-Jul-10 22:31:38

I returned a month ago from nearly five years in Lagos and whilst it has its annoyances and indeed dangers, I do not recognise the picture being painted here of expats only moving around with armed guards and only being able to go to the British Enbassy! (Not that there is one there anyway, there's just a Deputy Consulate)

The only people who have armed guards - often the guards have no ammunition anyway confused - when they go out are the Governor and other Big Men (Businessmen/politicians who've made good). Likewise, the only people I know who have suffered crimes have been those who've ignored the rules and gone to dubious places at dubious times or have allowed themselves to become overfamiliar with Nigerian staff.

One needs to keep one's wits about oneself, no doubt about that, but we have survived five years there and have no regrets, in fact, it's been an amazing experience. smile

childrenknowyourlimits Wed 28-Jul-10 22:37:51

Thank you Suedonim! You have been v helpful! smile I am building up a lot of useful info to help us make our minds up. I knew Mumsnetters wouldn't let me down!

Suedonim Wed 28-Jul-10 22:56:22

Oh, and I've never paid £5 for a pineapple!!!!! shock 80p or £1 is more like it.

Sure, expats may get charged a bit more than a local but compared to the vast majority of 9jans, expats are fabulously wealthy, so I don't mind paying a wee bit extra if it means someone's son or daughter can go to school. Plus what comes around goes around; by paying a bit of a premium you'll find that they treat you well and don't foist off any old rubbish on you.

Hey Sue, it's been a long time! I had hoped you would pop up. smile Have you moved back to Scotland or do other exciting climes await?

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