Culture Nigerians Share Moments They Experienced Culture Shock Their First Time AbroadSharon Chidra JonahJune 20, 2022

Moving abroad can be a very thrilling experience, and sometimes, you might have moments that will make you ask, 'did that just happen?" That's what I like to call, 'culture shocking moments.' 

Picture this: 

You are a Nigerian travelling or moving abroad, it's your first time leaving your country, perhaps leaving your continent. It's a thrilling and exciting moment for you, you'll get to be in a different place far from home, meet people of different races and cultures, and eat food that you have never tasted before, food whose existence you’ve never known of.  

So, you have hopped on the plane, landed at the airport, settled in your hotel room, or moved in with family or friends, and are trying to get over the feeling of being mountains and oceans away from your home. Loneliness may creep in but excitement won’t let that stay for long. Then boom! You go on a walk and see a child yelling at his/her mother or calling an elder by her name, or worse, no one eats rice every day or puts Rodo in their soup.  Shocking, right? 

If there's anything popular in Nigeria, it's culture. We might have over 370 tribes, but if there's anything that binds us together, it’s our similarities in terms of how we act, the things we do, and what we believe is a tradition in an African home. From not eating food in your neighbour's house to leaving the living room when your parents get a visitor. 


We asked our japa representatives about moments when they experienced culture shock abroad, and here's what they had to say! 

Anita, 20 years old

The first and only time I travelled abroad was when I was younger, many years ago and I travelled to London with my mom for the holidays. We were staying with my auntie, my mom's sister. My auntie picked us up from the airport and drove us home and when we got there someone around my age called my mom by her name and said, "Hey, Dunno, what's up?" Immediately, my heart started racing, and I looked at the small boy that spoke and was like, "omo. You don die be that oo." And he really was because she slapped him and asked him who he was talking to. For God's Sake, what gave you the mind to call your auntie, a Yoruba mother, by her name? 

It was really shocking to me though. How they spoke to their parents, and how they called them by their names. He and his siblings also call other people older than them by their names, without adding the necessary "auntie" or "uncle." That's definitely something that can't happen in Nigeria. 

Temi, 21 years old

I won't exactly classify this as 'culture shock' but it was quite shocking to me in that sense. So, I moved to the United States after secondary school and coming here, I had to do 12th grade again (SS3), so I went back to high school. You know Nigerians use British English and here we obviously use American English. So back in Nigeria, when you are going to the toilet, you'll say, "Can I use the toilet?" And not usually, "Can I go to the restroom?" And in class, I asked my teacher the former and everyone was so shocked and kept staring and laughing at me. Also, language use here is easy to get people upset. For example, people don't like calling people 'ma/sir' and in Nigeria, that's what you call everyone. Here, they think you are insulting them and calling them old. I mean, yes, you are older than but that's not the case. It's just a form of respect where I come from 

Teniola, 21 years old

I moved to Maryland, USA recently and one thing that took me by surprise was how many people didn't expect me to speak English. When I tell people I'm from Nigeria, they go, 'Oh wow! How come you speak good English?' And I'll be so confused. What do you think we speak in Nigeria? Latin? And I've heard a lot of people tell me that I don't sound Nigerian at all. They have this entire stereotypical mindset about Nigerians, how we speak and act, and some even think we aren't educated. I was like, you think an entire country isn't educated? Is everyone in the USA uneducated? 

Wesley, 23 years old

A year ago, I moved to Sweden for school. It was hard making friends but by God's grace, I was able to. Some of them were friendly, others, not so much. But I had a school project, and I was paired with some people for the project. So I needed to do a couple of things for the project and one of my group members, who is Swedish, invited me to his house over the weekend to do it. So that weekend, I went to his house, I met his parents, nice Swedish people and he told me I can stay in his room. His mom was like cooking dinner or something and it smelt nice, I was so hungry and she was like, "yeah, you can stay upstairs so we won't disturb you." And I went there but this guy took too long to come upstairs to his room. And when he came up, I was like, "dude, what took you so long?" The next thing he said was, "I was eating, sorry." I was like, so you were eating and your conscience didn't tell you to ask me if I wanted to eat? Like I am also hungry. I heard about the eating at-home culture in Sweden, but this is a discovery. 

Ayomide, 21 years old

If there's anything that was a huge culture shock for me when I moved to the United States, it’s how expressive the people are. Like I knew they were very open, and had a different mindset than Nigerians. But, I wasn't expecting them to say and do a lot of things openly at all. 


Have you travelled abroad and shrunk in mortification at what they do and say? Have an experience to share? Send us a dm.