The UK is a great place to live in. Being Nigerian, I remember one time where travelling “overseas” can be termed as one of the greatest achievements in someone’s life (I think this mentality is still the same in the hearts of so many Nigerians) Writing this post, I remember my first day in London. I was so happy and gassed up! The air in the atmosphere was different, it had this chill and clean feel to it, am sure my lungs and heart was grateful to me for the new found oxygen. What made this experience very interesting was the fact that it was also my first time flying on a plane out of Nigeria, it was indeed a surreal experience. Things got pretty exciting for me from the start.
I remember when my mom and step-dad came to pick me up at the airport, they were also very happy to see me and even though they didn’t say it explicitly, I could tell that in their hearts they said something like “Thank God Dami is now free and has left Nigeria to the greener pasture”, I say this because I am Nigerian and know the mindset of Nigerians – if you can leave Nigeria, you are considered “Free” and somewhat “Successful”. On a lighter note, before coming to the UK, I have always dreamt of eating burgers, the real rich burgers not the ones made in Nigeria.
So, the first stop from the airport was a McDonald’s drive-thru! Damn! That burger tasted so good and the chicken nuggets where insane! Fast forward to today though, I do not eat at McDonald’s anymore because I try as much as possible to stay away from fast food. A lot of Nigerians and people around the world have mis-conceptions about what life is like overseas and have decided to touch on some of them.
4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to The UK from Nigeria
#1. Things Are Cheap in the UK.
This is the biggest mis-conception people especially in Africa have about the UK or any overseas country to be fair. They think things are very cheap over here and no matter how poor you are, you will be able to afford a descent life. This is not 100% true.
The UK is just like any other place in the world, the prices of products and things are in direct proportion to the money you have. If you’ve got some money to spend, you will be able to pay for stuffs you need / want and if you don’t have money, you cannot pay for stuffs.
I remember so many conversations and arguments have had with friends and family where the topic of the conversation was a comparison of Nigerian and “overseas”, even though none of us had any personal experience, we used to talk about how food and clothing are so dirt cheap overseas and how our government is screwing us over. A quick example is this, on average if I go grocery / food shopping, I normally spend about £28 – £32 on average to buy stuffs for my kitchen and these items will last me just over one week.
It lasts over one week because I don’t eat a lot, I spend more time working than eating even though I work from home. If I was someone who ate 3 times a day or ate a lot, this won’t last me that long. So, let’s say on average I go grocery shopping 3 times in the month, on average – I will spend about £90 a month on grocery shopping. (this is just an average figure, there’s a high chance I spend more than that). Remember, am not married and I live alone. I only feed myself. £90 as of today is about ₦43,000 per month on just grocery shopping.
Most Nigerians do not make up to ₦50,000 a month and even if they make ₦100,000 a month which will be considered “making alot”, I don’t think anyone would spend half of their salary on food. On the other hand, in Nigeria – I believe with about ₦10,000 – ₦20,000, you will be able to buy groceries and food stuff to last a month NOT just for one person but for more mouths! Things are not cheap in the UK, the figure amount might sound little (for example, £2 doesn’t sound like a lot of money right? well, £2 is about ₦1,000)
Things are not as cheap as most Nigerians believe them to be, I will not also say they are super expensive but I can say very clearly that it is not dirt cheap as people think they are.
#2. You Can Get A Job Easily.
This is big! Everyone thinks getting a job in the UK is so easy, all you have to do is land in the country and there are jobs everywhere you look but they forget the tiny fine print. The UK and it’s people and businesses are known to follow rules to the letter. Unlike Nigeria where favoritism and bribing even in the workforce is the order of the day, the UK on the other hand has less of that. You cannot bribe your way into getting a job or getting a job because of the tribe you are from in the UK.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the meat! Firstly, getting a job in the UK requires you to be on a work-based visa. To my knowledge, the visa categories that allows you to work are the Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 5 visas and they are “point based visas”
Below is a breakdown of types of work-based Visas for the UK.
- (Tier 1) High-value migrants: Valid on the passing of a points based assessment, applicable to investors, entrepreneurs and those exceptionally talented whereby you can apply to enter or stay in the UK without needing a job offer.
- (Tier 2) Skilled workers sponsorship: Available to those who have been offered a skilled job in the UK; if your prospective employer is willing to sponsor you, you’re eligible to apply to come or remain in the UK and fulfill that occupation.
- (Tier 5) Temporary workers: If you’re a national of a country participating in the youth mobility scheme or if an employer in the UK agrees to sponsor you, you could be valid to work in the UK for a short period
Speaking from experiences and knowledge of my people, most people do not make this research about visas that allows them to work legally in the UK, all what everyone cares about is “traveling overseas to a greener pasture”.
A very large percentage of people who have migrated to the UK came on visitor’s / tourist visas and overstayed their Visas then did some behind the scenes things to remain in country and had to face a lot of un-foreseen shit to get by! I made a video about this called “Before You Leave Nigeria for “Overseas” WATCH THIS!”
Besides having a work-based visa, you will need to have something called National Insurance (NI number) which can only be gotten if you are on a work-based Visa. The NI number is one of the most important things a business or company will ask for when you go to them for a job. Without a valid NI number, a reputable business will not give you any employment even if it is as low as cleaning the toilet. The reason is if they get busted for employing illegal immigrants, they will pay for it severely.
However, job hunt can be quite interesting and not all that hard in the UK and this is because there a lot of job hunting platforms such as Monster, Indeed, Total Jobs, Job Today and the list goes on. So, if you have the right qualification, experiences and are on the right visa – you should be able to get an interview and ultimately a job in due time.
#3. Rent, Living and Accommodation is Cheap.
In all my years living in Nigeria and all the meaningless conversations/arguments have heard with friends and family about how life “overseas” is even though none of us in that conversation has actually lived overseas, I cannot recollect if we ever talked about the cost of living and accommodation.
No one ever talks about it because you will only know about the cost of living and rent in the UK when you actually live here. In conversations about “life overseas”, most people just assume the rent and accommodation is just like the food and clothing – it must be dirt cheap right? No its not! As someone who has lived in the London since 2015, I can tell you for fact that the rent here is not only “not so cheap” but its also kinda like a pain in the ass.
Why is it a pain in the ass? Well imagine this – you have to pay your rent at every month! This is crazy because in Nigeria, rents are always paid per annum and you can even pay for up to 2 years or more. So, once you pay your rent, you are rest assured that you have a whole year not to worry about any kind of rent payment but in the UK, when you pay your rent this month, in 30days, you have to cough out another rent.
This can be very crazy for someone who doesn’t have a steady job, someone who has a menial job, an entrepreneur or someone who is still trying to figure out their shit! Its also important to add that my 1 month rent for example for a simple and tiny space in London is the same amount for a 2 bedroom flat in Nigeria for a year! To be fair, this is because I live in London, if you move to other parts of the UK, rent might be cheaper but it won’t be worlds apart.
For people who are thinking of travelling “overseas”, be aware of this.
#4. There is Free Health Care.
There is no such thing as free health care in the UK, atleast not for Nigerians or people who come from other countries that are not in the European union. Another mis-conception about living “overseas” is that free health-care is available for everyone. According to ExpatFocus, “The UK National Health Service (www.nhs.uk) is recognised as one of the leading health services in the world.
It provides free medical care to British nationals and visitors from EU countries, Australia and New Zealand. All other non-British residents must pay for medical and hospital treatment unless your employer provides sufficient medical insurance. Free NHS treatment is available to all UK residents of over 12 months who are registered with a local doctor.”
So, to cut the long story short, there is no free health care but guess what? On a lighter note, most Nigerians are very strong and our bodies are immune to sickness, so except you do more than yourself, chances are you will not fall sick. For example, I have been here since 2015 and I do not know what the inside of an hospital looks like because I haven’t had a reason to visit one.
I have had flu from time to time when the winter weather strikes but this is normal.
#5. UK is The “Greener Pasture”.
Do I love living in London, absolutely! I love it, I love the life, the environment,t the security and everything in between (oops! I forgot to add that I love the women too) but it not so much of a greener pasture like most Nigerians believe it to be!
I know this might be exaggerating it but a lot of Nigerians thinks there is pounds (£) on the floor in London and you can make a lot of money in a short period of time. That’s not the case, as you keep earning and making money, the system takes it back in high rent fees, taxes, and other behind the scenes tactics.
This mis-conception about the UK being a greener pasture is what makes most siblings and friends back home in Nigeria ask their “overseas” siblings for so much. They ask them for money, gadgets and so much just because they believe that they should be making so much money since they are “overseas”.
They have no idea what is really going on and when you try to explain to them – they hardly believe and some go as far as to say “Let me come and find out by myself”. Life is good in the UK if you’ve got money to spend and funny thing is – this is the same for any country in the world.
The same way you have the rich is the same way you have the poor. Let me give you a shocker – I saw more beggars and homeless people in my first year in London than I have seen in my 22 years living in Nigeria! (Crazy isn’t it?)
This is not a post to throw shade at the UK or to discourage anyone who wants to travel overseas but rather, this post is to enlighten people to make right decisions and know the floor before they step on it, its always better to be prepared ahead than to be thrown into the wild and then find out the hard way.
Are there any other mis-conceptions I didn’t touch on? Please drop a comment below on your thoughts about this post and what I have said so far, do you agree? is there something that doesn’t sound right? Drop a comment below let’s have a conversation!