Ottawa: Life Here Shapes You Different

“I came into Canada in 2016 – that was the wrongest time to be a Nigerian student abroad. It was the time when the Naira was crashing very badly. People would send money to you from home and by the time you received it in dollars, it was like peanuts. How I survived? I jammered noni. When hunger hits you hard, you’ll sit up and look for things you can do. You apply for jobs no matter how little, you learn a skill. Anything legitimate that I could do, my man, I tried. I even learned how to cut hair sef.

Before I traveled, I people told me: ‘ma worry, there are jobs over there, all you need to do is apply.’ I arrived Canada and began to apply for jobs, then they began to ask for work experience. I indicated them I had work experience but I was never offered a job. What I didn’t realize was that when they asked for ‘work experience’ they meant Canadian work experience. Baba, I weak.

Here in Canada, there are some jobs you will apply for but the slots were already filled up even before the organization put up the application online. This is the reason why: certain organizations recruit from certain calibre of schools because such schools provide graduates with the knowledge base and culture that those organizations require, so they cannot just recruit from a pool of applications. Culture is everything for such organizations, they can’t recruit you, pay you fat and still be training you on their rudimentary points. It won’t be worth it for them.

Sometimes, such highflying organizations recruit from other organizations that would have instilled such culture in prospective recruits. They seek graduates specifically tailored for their work culture. So, if such organizations are recruiting for 10 slots, they would have gone to their preferred universities to recruit 9 people and then they leave the last spot for the general public to slug it out.

I used to blame companies in Nigeria for having preference for those who schooled abroad until I got the chance to travel myself. Now, I don’t blame them anymore.

If we have to tell ourselves the truth, education in Nigeria is not it at all. Education in Canada is hands-on, it is about the psychology of the students being able to use information to creatively find solutions. In business school here, they don’t teach you business, what they teach is relationship – how you foster relationship to achieve business goals.

For example, if you have an escalation in your business, how do you handle it? What’s the workflow? What’s the process? If you have an erratic situation in the process, how do you deal with it? They don’t teach you things like this in Nigeria. If someone who takes a program in HR here sacks you, you won’t feel like you lost your job at all. The “how” changes everything.

The lifestyle is another point of difference. The environment here sets the standard for how humans behave. When there’s an established order, an individual who comes into the environment will conform to the laid down order. There are places you will go that even if you wanted to throw something on the floor, your brain will hit reset and you will keep your trash till you get out of that environment.

Another thing about lifestyle is time – time is gold here. If I am meeting you by 2:30, we will have to be at the venue by 2:20. If for any reason, I am not there by 2:20, I am already late and I will have to communicate with you, apologize and give an exact time that I will be arriving (and yes, you can plan your life to the detail like that). All of that has a way of shaping you.

In Nigeria, people steal money and have get away with it or do something illicit; then we say they have blow. In Canada, the idea of ‘blowing’ doesn’t exist. No one is trying to blow here, everyone is trying to improve their value. If you’re rich in Canada, you will be able to explain how every dollar came to be; but in Nigeria, the answer to how we make money is not in our work, it is in our God. People will ask: “how did you do it?” they will answer: “It was God o.”

Still on lifestyle and culture, here, nobody cares about whether you’re rich or poor. No one send you. Someone who takes a bus might actually be way way richer than you who’s riding the latest Benz. You can be a cleaner or a cabman or a mover here and still sit down next to a multimillionaire without feeling dwarfed. No one relates with you based on what you do so there’s a sense of equality which enhances the idea of dignity of labour.

EIGHTY PER CENT of the things we pray for in Nigeria is provided by the government here – light, water, great health care, security, viable business environment name it. Government has sorted all these things out. Government is held accountable here and the citizen is responsible to the government too – it is a 2-way thing. For example, you pay taxes here and I will not lie to you, it is a lot but you can see what the government is doing with it and you can hold the government accountable for what they do. There’s a bare minimum and the government ensures that every citizen has access to that bar minimum quality of life. You see good roads, you’ll see a solid healthcare system, there’ll be electricity.

The biggest assumption people make about life in Canada is that it is easier to get things done in Canada. You hear people say “ti n ba ko le kuro ni Naija yen, maa make e.”  (If I can just leave Nigeria like this, I will make it). They don’t know that that’s not how it works here. Yes, you will make it but ko to make e, waa se ise. You will work for every dollar.

If there was any experience that Canada has afforded me, which I would never have had in Ibadan, it is diversity. I have learned a lot about the cultures of other peoples of the world. I have witnessed different cultural weddings which I would never have witnessed if I was in Ibadan or Nigeria. Here, a Congolese can marry someone from the Bahamas, a Yoruba will marry a Swahili, just like that so you see different cultures and traditions. It changes you and you’re not the same person afterwards.

However, you have to give it to us, Naija people. No country in the world grooves like we do. Our owambe is always on point – the men in agbada and the ladies in different beautiful attires. Our music, the way we groove; our food. Everything is tight!

If I will not lie to you, my brother, if there’s something I miss about home, it is Naija owambe.

(the end)


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