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Before you ‘japa’…!, by Vivian Daniel

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Before you ‘japa’…!, by Vivian Daniel

There are no mincing words about the fact that there are a whole lot of issues going on in our nation that have lasted for decades with little or no assurances of foreseeable solutions in the nearest future, which leaves an average Nigerian wondering what next to do other than thinking of departure from his or her fatherland to migrate to another country.

The wave of movement by Nigerians to pursue what they call “greener pasture” is alarming. The categories involved in this ‘japa’ syndrome include mainly skilled youths – IT/ICT engineers, nurses, university lecturers, doctors, and artisans or technicians. You equally have young people who have just graduated from the universities and are looking forward to furthering their studies abroad and would not opt to stay back because to them our country has nothing much to offer them, seeing the fact that there are no meaningful jobs opportunities and the basic needs for safety and protection of lives and property seem to be eroded daily, as we hear the news of bandits’ attack, kidnapping, killings, etc. frequently.

The truth is, it is quite understandable that most of you do not care that the future of this great nation – Nigeria – depends on you. So, one way or another, this piece is done out of the enormous love and concern I have for you all and to remind you of the need to pay close attention to the following salient points ‘before you japa’:

Where to stay – your accommodation:

In case you are not aware, stories abound of how family members are meant to contribute to settling their house bills. For instance, I have friends who tell me how it was not even up to 1 month they travelled abroad – to live with their family members and are made to literally pick up their bills, otherwise, they are at liberty to go and rent their apartments.

Why is it like that over there, you would ask? Apparently, because of the high cost of living, mortgage, tax, etc. payments. Rest assured my aim is never to put fears in you, but you should be aware that over there – where you are ‘japaying’ to – is almost like lands where you are certainly ‘on your own’ – ‘OYO’ – expressing it in the Nigerian way, so you should be properly guided. You must make adequate preparation for where you would stay while planning to ‘japa’. Do not say I did not warn you…!

Choice of work and your academic qualification:

Have you taken out time to examine the type of job that is available in the country you intend to travel to? Your quest to ‘japa’ (travel) shouldn’t just hinge on the internet news stories that fly around about a particular country needing millions or thousands of workers. You should find out whether or not you qualify for the said jobs. Also, you should know exactly what you want – the type of job you desire and are qualified for.

A friend of mine, name withheld, told me how she waited for a year or more before securing the exact type of job she so desired. That was because she knew what she wanted from the get-go. But far from this reality, many who have travelled out end up taking on jobs that are far below their qualifications while some subject themselves to taking some opportunities that are rather dehumanising such that I would rather not mention specifically, simply because they would rather remain in another man’s land than remaining in their motherland. How about those who are lied to on the fact that there are jobs available for them and would end up becoming sex workers…?! The stories are many. You should be guided.

Working conditions and/or organisational culture:

You should endeavour to do your due diligence on the working conditions, environment, and values/culture of the organisation you intend to work for before jumping on any offer of employment and plans to ‘japa’.

For instance, business communication in Canada is quite direct. There will be no need for you to decipher and read into messages. Emails and telephone calls are also direct and succinct. In business meetings, a handshake is the appropriate greeting. It should be accompanied by strong eye contact and pleasantries are exchanged very quickly. For whatever type, official or not, at meetings, punctuality is a priority. For an evening social event, it is acceptable to arrive 15 minutes late, but not later than 30 minutes.

You must note that great importance is given to respecting everyone’s opinions at all levels. Regardless of rank and status, people expect their rights to be heard and listened to, and decisions are not usually made until all the facts are at hand. It is considered especially rude to speak in a foreign/local language in the presence of other people who do not understand what is being said.

Traditionally, business gifts are offered after you close a deal. They are usually unwrapped immediately and shown to everyone. The best choice is a present from your home country or an invitation to a meal/other form of entertainment.

Meaning, if you want to ‘japa’ with the ‘Nigerian-Time’ kind of blood and way of doing things still running deep in you to perpetually go to work late, meetings etc; and would desire to do a ‘pr’ (as it is called most decently over here) while pursuing a business deal, you had better think twice.

On the other hand, in Sweden, except on account of sick leaves, holidays, and weekends, you must go to work. Unnecessary excuses are not entertained. Human rights are a priority to them as they expect companies – private or state-owned to respect human rights in all their operations. As long as you are not a soldier, a nurse, or a banker, you are allowed to dress casually. Punctuality is key to them and you leave work punctually, as well. The only time Swedes accept a wait is for dental or medical appointments. If you have an appointment for a meeting at work by 9 or 11 am, it is best you are there a few minutes before then only one minute late.

In Sweden, most of the time, you are not expected to work overtime. You are also expected to work hard but do not stress yourself. They are very good at keeping an eye on their colleagues to ascertain whether or not he or she is under any form of stress as a result of their work. Everyone except the members of the Swedish royal family, address themselves by their names. No unnecessary titles. Many Swedes draw a distinct line between work and private life. It is unusual for them to blend colleagues with ‘private’ friends.

And, to think that a friend of mine over here got so offended when a candidate I introduced to her addressed her by her name…! Obviously, her type may not be comfortable living or ‘japaying’ to Sweden. Anyway, these and many more are the types of research you should do when thinking of travelling abroad to any country of your choice.

The lifestyle and culture of the particular country you are ‘japaying’ to matters:

The living standards and lifestyles usually vary from country to country, coupled with the challenges of moving from the comfort of your home towards fulfilling the need to seek greener pastures, hence the importance of understudy what is and what is not obtainable in the particular country you are migrating to, along with their culture.

While it is obvious that Canada has historically been welcoming and open towards immigration, seeing migrants tremendously as beneficial to the country’s expansion and growth. Research suggests that more than a fifth of Canada’s population is comprised of people born outside the country alongside Nigerians who have been trooping into the country as well.

As part of the Canadians’ culture, you should be aware that they share informality, freedom of expression, pioneer spirit (particularly in the north of the country), and entrepreneurial imagination of the USA, yet, they lean towards modesty, indirect and considerate in voicing their opinions. Canadian society has also harnessed cultural multiplicity as a source of unity in a significant manner. They emphasise classlessness, impartiality, and mutual respect, as they believe that the distribution of wealth often does not always reflect the principle of equality. The class divide within Canadian society is somewhat hidden as they hardly rub it on people’s faces. Canadians tend to favour the underdog and always avoid making people feel inferior because of their lower socioeconomic positions. So, visible or conspicuous signs or shows of wealth, affluence and luxury, extravagance, etc. are rarely displayed.

According to everyculture.com, “the ethnic diversity of Canada means that rules of social propriety are quite complex. There are certain general expectations. Greeting, except in formal settings, does not require touching in the form of embraces or handshakes. Behaviour in public should be subdued. Rowdiness and loud speech, for example, are considered inappropriate except under special circumstances or in places such as bars or other venues. As a community, Canadians are in general soft spoken, patient, and almost apologetic in their public behaviour. They are also in general tolerant of the complex network of cultural differences in public behaviour, more so in cities perhaps, where such diversity is more commonplace.”

But you have to be careful about the kind of gift you give to someone. Note that if you decide to offer flowers, be careful not to choose white lilies, as they are associated with funerals. Avoid red roses as well; they are dedicated especially to more romantic settings. In communication, greetings, and body language whether or not there are official, avoid using the “V” sign – it represents a serious offence in Canada. Express your joy for victory otherwise!

Meaning, with the noticeably loud and selfish nature of many in Nigeria, you should be ready to make lots of adjustments. And those of you who like to ‘touch-touch’ and those who enjoy hugging like my humble self should also get ready to embrace a different lifestyle altogether.

In the same vein, moving to a country like Sweden, you should understand it equally has its culture and lifestyle. The country has a culture of transparency and openness which are a major part of its democracy. They have 4 fundamental laws that protect their democracy which are: instruments of government; freedom of the Press Act; fundamental law on freedom of expression and act of succession. I encourage you to read up about them if you desire to ‘japa’ to Sweden.

They also promote gender equality by making it possible for parents to combine work and family while encouraging shared participation in childcare. So, it is not the place of the woman to raise children by 80 to 85 per cent as you hear most men say over here, while they go about their other businesses. Both partners have an equal stake in raising their children.

Regarding the weather in Sweden which is a major factor in their lifestyle, the cold experience over there is the most difficult to deal with according to travellers and students. It is almost like you are literally saying “Hello darkness”.

According to research, the Swedish winters can be tough if you’re not used to cold weather. And depending on where exactly you reside in Sweden, you might have to deal with rain, wind, or snow as well. The cold weather may be quite tolerable in some parts of the country like Gothenburg. You should get ready to adjust and equally am yourself with a good hiking/alpine jacket or coat, good shoes, and a pair of gloves…along with having a central heating system and cups of coffee. But, if you are “a village champion” like some who hardly take coffee, you are probably in for lots of hard times…Lol

There is also another major weather condition you should be prepared for. It is called “winter darkness”. You should endeavour to read about it, and know what to do; before you experience it. From friends who live in Sweden, I heard it is so intense. Imagine where the sun only rises at 09:00 and goes down before 15:30 hours…! For students, while there are still in school and when they get back home – it is usually dark. You will probably get to see the sun again by the next day.

In all of these, how prepared are you? To what extent have you done your due diligence and research on the culture, lifestyle, living conditions, etc. of the country you are hoping to ‘japa’ to?

The country’s immigration rules, laws, and regulations:

This is also another important factor you should put into serious consideration before you leave your shores for another. The need for you to understand the types of documents that are expected of you, where, when, and how you should put up your applications; the travel, visa guidelines, regulations etcetera in general should be taken seriously, to avoid making certain preventable mistakes.

Seeking God’s will in the matter:

Without wanting to sound unnecessarily too religious, the place of seeking the face of God or Allah and knowing His ultimate will in anything you are desiring to do or embark on is one action that must be taken seriously.
You should not ‘japa’ simply because your friend, neighbour, colleague, family/church member etcetera has travelled abroad. Don’t ever forget the old saying that if you go to Russia illegally, you will rush back (paraphrased).

Unemployment and inflation in the United Kingdom:

In case you are not aware, sometime in April it was reported by the BBC that the number of people looking for work had risen as job vacancies fall, suggesting that the uncertain economic outlook is hitting employment. The report was titled “The rising price which has continued to eat into pay cheques.” According to the official figures suggestion, about 220,000 more people were seeking work between December 2022 and February 2023 than in the three months before and unemployment rose slightly and job vacancies fell for the ninth time in a row.

Inflation in the UK – the rate at which prices rise – has also been running at more than 10%, remaining close to 40-year highs, and the latest earnings figures showed that pay increases continue to lag behind rising prices.

The Office for National Statistics said in a statement that the rate increased to 3.8 per cent from 3.7 per cent in the three months to the end of January. The ONS said the increase “was driven by people unemployed for up to six months”.

Public and private sector workers have been striking since last year to try and win increases to pay, whose value has been eroded by elevated inflation. Job vacancies fell for the ninth time in a row with companies blaming economic pressures for holding back on hiring new staff. It should be noted that from January to the end of March 2023, the number of vacancies fell by 47,000 from the previous quarter to 1,105,000, although the ONS noted vacancy numbers remained at “very high levels”.

In fact, my friend, Wils’ told me how he had worked for a particular organisation in the UK for a couple of years as a contract staff and had to be unemployed at some point as well. According to him, although he had the best experience working in that organisation as his team members were quite supportive and would have loved to continue, he had to go as his contract came to an end, and of course, the organisation did not have the budget to keep him or confirm his appointment.

But then, the good news is that the Government of “the United Kingdom has just announced plans to ease immigration”, according to Juliana who reported this today (May 17, 2023) during the “Business Incorporated” program on Channels Tv. Meaning the unemployment being experienced over there would at some point begin to ease off, as the country, I believe would do its best to provide employment opportunities to immigrants.

The CRUX of my message or my aim for writing this piece is that just as Nigeria does not have everything figured out – like having a well thought out plan, systems, favourable policies, etc.; just as we have unemployment, prices of food hike, inflation and all manner of crimes being committed over here and/or issues in the polity, likewise in other countries across the globe, only that they do not hype theirs as they do on matters that concern other countries.

For instance, I saw a report some time ago about Sweden’s Minister of Employment, Ylva Johansson visiting Canada to learn about Canada’s immigration system and to understand how newcomers are integrated into Canadian society. She says one of the biggest hurdles to integrating newcomers into Swedish society is finding them employment.

According to figures from the Swedish Migration Agency, immigrant integration is a major issue for Sweden, with the country of 10 million people accepting 31,220 asylum seekers in a particular year alone.

There is also a report that South Africa is going through a power crisis at the moment. To the extent they may be going into a state of blackout…even though they are currently using about 33 megawatts and also have the capacity to produce about 46,000 megawatts.

While I believe that some country like ours are far behind on the development line and needs urgent attention which calls for a drastic change in major sectors, no country in the world has their systems, sectors etc all put together. So, if we refuse to build our nation – stand by her to see it become great in our time, who will? If you think ‘japaying’ would solve all your problems, you had better think twice.

Conclusion

It should be noted that it is not every country you travel to that will put in the resources needed for newcomers to feel at home. In fact, I make bold to say that Nigeria, to some extent, is a better host by far. The reason I say so is because right here, you have many companies from across the globe blossoming with their multimillion-dollar investments.

For example, America started its largest consulate globally in Lekki, Lagos State. Portuguese investors are funding a high-speed rail link from Nigeria to Niger. I also heard of a Gambian investor who built the biggest estate in Port Harcourt. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etcetera have all launched new mega projects in our nation, Nigeria. Chinese investors are building a plant to mine Lithium in Kaduna. These are all verifiable. And yet, some of you feel this is the worst country ever and want to ‘japa’. It is alright! Go on! But, take this piece as a timely guide or perhaps I should call it a ‘warning’ coming from a good heart, dedicated to you.

For the record, I am not writing as though if given the opportunity to travel abroad I would not take it. No! I will take up such opportunities, but, mainly for holiday, learning/training purposes, and/or for any other major reasons…only when I know clearly that it is God leading me to embark on such a journey. And, I would also state categorically that I do not support any law/bill from the federal government attempting to restrain Nigerians who have genuine reasons to ‘japa’.

At least, if no one can talk you into staying back in your country to contribute to nation-building and its development; and you are travelling legally, you should do the needful in preparing for your journey adequately. Once again, the need for you to do your due diligence in all aspects cannot be overemphasised. Preparation they say precedes opportunities. If you prepare accordingly ‘before you japa’, you would most definitely have no regrets.

Sources: todaytranslations.com; hejsweden.com; everyculture.com.

Chikaodinaka Vivian Daniel (vivianchikadaniel@gmail.com) is a graduate of political science, journalism, and business communication; a public relations professional and bonafide member of NIPR; writer; corporate compere and moderator; voice-over artiste; a 200 per cent human resources and management enthusiast and the content producer at Neptune Prime.

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