Culturally, the UK and Nigeria are polar opposites so be prepared to experience some culture shocks as a Nigerian in the UK. I have been in the UK for almost a year now, and below are a couple of things I found shocking.
Culture Shocks as a Nigerian in the UK
1. Most restaurants resume operations in the afternoon/ evening.
If you are looking to visit a restaurant in the UK, your best bet would be to go in the afternoon or evening as most restaurants don’t open in the morning. The first time I heard this, I said to myself, ‘it’s like these people don’t like money o’😂. I can’t imagine restaurants in Nigeria not opening till afternoon/ evening. They’ll lose a lot of money. But apparently, everyone is used to that system here. If you are hungry in the morning, you can grab something from fast foods like Five Guys, KFC, etc.
2. Everyone will call you darling, dear, love…
The first couple of times someone called me darling and love, I was wondering if they mistook me for someone they knew. But I soon realised that that’s what everyone calls everyone they don’t know their names here, and there are no strings attached when they do this. In Nigeria, most terms of endearment have strings attached. So you don’t go about calling people darling and love in Nigeria.
3. Less privileged people are selective of the help they accept
I was really shocked to learn this. After an event I volunteered for one time, there was excess refreshment, and the caterer told us we could take everything left. We took what we could but there was still a lot left. When I suggested he packed it for the homeless, he said they would reject it. He’s been catering for a while, and anytime they had excess refreshments, they had to trash it.
P.S.: The refreshments were baked snacks, and they were all untouched and fresh as they were baked that day.
P.S.S.: I’m not saying less-privileged people shouldn’t be selective of the help they accept. They should. I was just shocked that they would reject food, even when it’s fresh. They prefer being given money to food- even if you offer to buy the food for them.
4. Pedestrian crossing buttons
If you want to cross the road, there’s a pedestrian crossing button usually under the traffic light you could press and in a couple of seconds/ less than 2 minutes the traffic light would change to red for you to cross. When I saw this, my mind quickly went to Lagos roads, and how it will take LASMA and thousands of naira imposed as fines for this to work in Lagos.
5. Rent is paid monthly
In the UK, you pay your rent monthly, not yearly- even if it is your first rent. I didn’t find this shocking though. I just found it surprising.
6. People are reserved about offering physical assistance- even to elderly people
The UK culture is highly individualistic. In Nigeria, it’s easy to tell someone walking your way to ease you of some of your load. But in the UK, even if you were carrying the whole world on your shoulders, the most show of concern you’re likely to receive will be someone asking if you’re all right- when you clearly aren’t! Offering to assist can seem intrusive. It doesn’t matter if the person is old and frail. So it’s better you respect people’s personal space and keep your distance. If you find someone you think is in dire need of help, I suggest you call the attention of a uniformed person.
7. You may never know your neighbours
Again, the UK is a highly individualistic country. You could live somewhere for months and never know your neighbours. Everyone stays by themselves, unlike Nigeria where your neighbours could come to your house to welcome you because they noticed you just moved into the compound.
8. You pay for water
This should not have been shocking to me considering water is supplied and managed by a company, but I was shocked to learn that you pay for the water in the UK. Now that I’m thinking of it, I think I was shocked because in Nigeria people don’t pay for water- except they don’t have boreholes in their compounds. Maybe if water boards work in Nigeria as they ought to, we’d be paying for water in Nigeria and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that people pay for water in other parts of the world.
Another point related to water is that people drink tap water here, and bottled water is more expensive than I thought it would be.
9. Houses/ rooms are small!
When I was house-hunting, I saw houses with ridiculously small rooms. What vexed me more about those houses was that they had big gardens- mis-prioritisation of space usage if you ask me. I honestly wonder what the architects were thinking when they were designing those houses.
10. You are encouraged to be a debtor
This is/ was a major culture shock for me as a Nigerian in the UK. Having a good credit score is good for you. To build a good credit score, you have to be a good debtor. I find this aspect of UK finance culture both shocking and uncomfortable because I earlier assumed people in the UK pay for things outright. I find it uncomfortable because I hate owing.
11. You have to pay to park your car in a public space
In Nigeria, that is not the case. I know there are a couple of places you pay to park your car in Nigeria. But here, you pay to park almost everywhere. You may even have to pay to park in your apartment’s parking lot.
I came into the UK as an international student, so I will discuss a couple of things I found shocking about the educational system in the UK. Before I proceed, I don’t know if everything I write below applies to all the schools in the UK. But I’d like to believe most of them do because most of the practices are based on government policies, not just school policies.
Cultural shock for international students in UK
1. You can ask for an extension on your assignment deadline
In the school I attended in Nigeria, if you miss the deadline for your assignment, just start thinking of rewriting the course because there’s nothing like assignment extensions. So when I came to the UK, and our course leader told us we could ask for extensions in extenuating circumstances, I thought she wanted to set us up😂. Well, I didn’t really think she wanted to set us up because that would likely cost her her job. But I was very sceptical about going that route. But I read more about it on my school’s website and found out there was nothing to be scared about.
2. You call your teachers by their names
Students call lecturers by their names. It doesn’t matter how young or old the person is, they insist on being called by their names. Chris, not Dr Chris or Mr. Chris or Professor Chris. Just Chris. In Nigeria, we don’t call lecturers by their names- even the ones that are your age mates would get offended if you called them by their names.
3. The school asks for feedback for almost everything- from courses to your lecturer’s performance, experience in the school, etc
From my first year to my final year in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (the university I attended in Nigeria), no lecturer ever asked us for feedback on their course. Not even anonymous feedback. UNN never asked me for feedback on any of their services either or to suggest areas they could improve.
But in my school in the UK, they ask for feedback on almost everything. They want to know what my learning experience in each course has been. How my lecturers performed. If I have any reservations about my school ID card, etc. In fact, sometimes, they even share vouchers, gift cards and enter you to a raffle draw where you could win money or laptop or any gift item if you shared your feedback.
4. There are a lot of student discounts
In Nigeria, nobody cares about your studentship. If you like, be the SUG president of your school, you’ll pay the same price as others. But in the UK, it is very different. You get student discounts on bus fares, train rides, clothing stores, gadget stores, etc.
5. You can discuss a payment plan with your school
If for any reason, you cannot meet the school fee payment deadline, you can discuss a payment plan with your school and they will let you study without withdrawing your admission.
6. The school offers financial aids to students
Asides scholarships, the school offers financial aid to students who are experiencing financial difficulties. You can even ask for a student loan- provided you are not owing the school.
How do you deal with culture shock UK?
1. Adapt to the system as quickly as you can
Adapt to the system as quickly as you can, instead of always thinking about how differently things are done in Nigeria. To add to this, don’t try to do what you would have done if you were in Nigeria if what’s done in the UK is different. For example, don’t try to help people carry their bags or do anything that would require you to encroach into someone’s personal space except they ask for your help.
2. Keep an open mind
Before coming to the UK, I had a couple of expectations based on movies I had seen, and stories people shared. But reality is oftentimes different from expectations. When coming to the UK from Nigeria, keep an open mind about things you may experience. Chances are that even after months of staying in the UK, you may still experience something new that will shock you. So never think you have seen it all.
Did you just relocate to the UK from Nigeria? What cultural shocks as a Nigerian in the UK have you experienced?