Living abroad – coping techniques for new entrants

So you’ve just relocated? Welcome to Obodo-oyibo (foreign land).  Here, every penny or cent you make counts and you have to spend wisely to ensure you remain above water. If you are like me and have to work your way up then you need to pay attention to the tips I give as they formed my coping mechanism. I cannot stress enough how quickly the money you relocate with can deplete particularly if you have not come in with a definite job offer, click here . Even if you are a student, it does not get easier not unless your parents are sending you money for every whim and caprice. Bottom line you have to watch your spend, get and keep a job as the bills are certain. See tips below;

Black Hair Problems – Make your own hair or better still go for the natural look. This one is for the ladies mostly. There is no one waiting under the bridge to make your hair or even a road side saloon where braids are done for the equivalent of £5. In the UK the minimum anyone will charge you for braiding your hair is £30. By the way when you see the £30 pound braid you can tell because it is as scanty as can be! These days though you have every kind of imaginable wig so that should help you out as well. When I was at the university, I braided hair and got some pocket money out of it. While you are yet to relocate, please learn how to braid hair as every little helps (thank you Tesco!).

Child Care Issues– Ok so you have children, very young children then you must choose carefully where you will reside when you relocate. Initially, choices might be limited as you might be staying in a hotel or with family but when you settle in, choose a town that has support for you. This is really not the time to exhibit independence otherwise it could be difficult. Child care is unimaginably expensive. Au-pairs which tend to be the best bet at £500 – £700 a month is never a lasting solution. Usually young foreigners, the quest for entertainment, exciting city life, love or just plain distraction will get them out of your home in about 6 months tops. Sometimes, if you are particularly lucky, you can get one that will stay longer. If you have siblings or friends that have children, this is the time to move near them so that you can share resources. When I moved initially, I camped quite close to a dear friend of mine and she showed me the ropes; from introducing me to a nanny share programme to friends in the local church. Child care issues is the one thing that will break you down but if you plan well it will go swimmingly well.

Reflection Issues:”I used to work in the Bank in Africa”, “I used to work for a big company back home in Asia”, “I had a driver and a help”, “I have 3 degrees from South America”, etc etc. Forget all that for the moment as only one thing matters and that is the UK experience or Canadian Experience and so on. Your bosses will have loads of experience but could be GCSE holders. All of a sudden the degrees do not matter so much and even when they do, you still have to start off as an apprentice. Certifications or additional qualifications are usually needed, from careers such as Teaching Assistants to bigger ones like Medicine. Do your research and put money aside to do a program. However that program must be relevant to the field you aspire to work in. For example, doctors must pass the PLAB, unqualified Social Workers must have a MSW , Teachers must have a QTS ,  Business Analysts must have a BCS Certification and the list goes on. The most accessible jobs will usually be administrative as every establishment will need an admin officer in whatever capacity. Kick-starting a career is usually easier with Health, Social Care and Education as with government funds backing those areas, recruitment is always on-going.

Your disposition: The shrinking violet attitude will not work in a new country. This is the time to show personality. I have been in interview panels where the candidate with 50% on tasks beat the candidate on 75% simply because they have character! People need to remember you! Forget your accent and previous unsuccessful interviews and come in with a happy disposition. If they crack a joke at the interview, laugh and be yourself while keeping to the rules. At one interview they asked me what my greatest influence is  and I just said “my mother”! That got them and by the time I explained how the African up-bringing given to me by my strong disciplinarian mum had inspired my ethics and values, the panel was in stitches.  Even at work, be cheerful, take on extra tasks and then show them the hidden skills. So your boss has experience – the UK experience, but you have that strong Nigerian marketing experience and you have run presentations with no electricity previously so with that you can take on anything! Don’t feel low and sunken, be proud of the small beginnings and the Good lord will reward your hard work.

Choices: In your first year, things are tough so you are going to have to make some serious choices. Luckily in the UK, there are comparison websites for everything. Check your energy, telephone and insurance costs. Changing may be a pain but if you get to save up to £400 a year it is so worth it. Birthday parties are costly here as you do not have anyone to cook free of charge for you, the halls are expensive and homes are a lot smaller than it is back home. If you have children, seek out alternatives e.g. Mcdonalds will have a 2 hour party for your child with 20 friends for less than £300, there are also swim parties or bowling parties. Initially your wardrobe choices will have to be sensible until your income permits more expensive purchases. Keep on top of all sales, for instance the NEXT sales is legendary! In my early days, I would be on the queue at 4am so that I would be one of the first to get in at 5am. With reductions of 50%-70% my money would go the distance for the family.

I am very conscious of information overload so we leave it here until next time. Hopefully this will assist newbies to survive in “the abroad” as we say in Nigeria! 

As ever,

Uloma for Diaspora Chronicles.







4 thoughts on “Living abroad – coping techniques for new entrants

  1. Sis, if there is one thing I have learnt from you is this ;Practical Living.. I love this article and I look forward to the next volume. Thank you.

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