“What? You’re going where?” That was our friends’ initial reaction when we told them that our first posting abroad together (as a family) would be, of all places, Abuja in Nigeria. Since then and after more than a year in the “Pearl of West Africa”, as the town is called by some of our German and international colleagues, we have now reached the stage where we can give a brief overview of our life here as a family.
To give it away in a nutshell, all of us are enjoying ourselves and feel at home here. I do not want to write too much here about my daily office life in the German Embassy as a clerical officer and imprest administrator, as whilst that differs slightly from country to country, at the end of the day the basic tasks do not vary much. Instead I would like to describe how we feel here as a family.
The art of ‘making your own way’
It is definitely difficult to compare Abuja with other cities. There are huge disparities within the population – on the one hand, one walks through Fulani villages where naked children wave to you and are glad to have a straw roof over their heads, whilst on the other hand every day one is overtaken by flashy cars on their way to countless enormous villas.
As a foreigner one must also accept that you cannot have and do everything and learn to ‘make your own way’, as my wife likes to put it. Being unprejudiced and open is paramount for this. Thanks to the American school, in which we have enrolled both of our children, we all made contacts very quickly. Our local circle of friends and acquaintances is comprised not only of Nigerians, but also South Africans, British, French, Indians and Mexicans. What’s more in the first few days, my wife already met a Nigerian woman whilst playing sport and a very close friendship developed out of this acquaintance. This led us to learn a lot about Abuja, the Nigerian mentality and life here right from the beginning.
School, sport and games nights
In the meantime with so many contacts, we practically have to be careful not completely fill up every weekend with plans and make sure we have time for ourselves. Invitations are often reciprocated. For example we go to “Hash” as a group (the Hash House Harriers are an international running club), spontaneously organise a BBQ or go to the fish market together to savour some freshly grilled fish. Recently we have even started hosting regular games nights.
Being sports enthusiasts as my wife and I are makes settling down and getting to know people even easier – in addition to fitness training, tennis and football, here you can play golf, join a running group or meet to go mountain biking, which also gives you the chance to discover the ‘bush’ outside Abuja every now and again. Due to the security situation in Nigeria, one has to get used to the fact that you cannot go absolutely everywhere freely, yet this leads you to put all the more into your circle of acquaintances and friends.
With your family you feel at home everywhere
It is certainly harder for my wife than it is for me and our children. We three leave the house early for school or the Embassy, she is then left to her own devices. Nonetheless I can quite proudly say that thanks to my wife our circle of acquaintances and friends is larger and more international than ever. She undertakes joint activities, helps at events or organises visits to pottery workshops or art markets.
And even if life in Nigeria took a bit of getting used to at the beginning, the post in Abuja was the right choice for my family and I. We will enjoy the next two years here and definitely look back happily on our time in Abuja. Of course it goes without saying that there can be difficult moments every now and again, for example during the holidays one can feel somewhat alone when many friends and colleagues are away.
When I take stock I reach the conclusion that every post has something good going for it and when my family is with me I feel at home everywhere. Nevertheless I am aware that my daily life in the office makes it easiest for me to settle down in new places and that as a result I have to do my bit to ensure that our whole family feels at home, regardless of where we live.