How is life in Abuja?
October 31, 2012 4:48 PM   Subscribe

My friend is moving to Abuja, Nigeria! What should she know?

My friend just got an awesome job offer in Abuja, Nigeria and will be moving there at the start of January.

She's trying to figure out what living in Abuja will be like. Do you have any info beyond the State Department's "THIS PLACE IS ULTRA DANGEROUS" advice??

She wants to know what life there will be like. How much is rent for one bedroom? What is there to do? Is there an expat community? How easy is it to travel to nearby countries? Also, she is a vegetarian -- will she be able to maintain that in Nigeria? (she also saw online that there is a sailing club. can she join the sailing club?!). Any other advice would be great too!

Thanks, Metafilter! Your answers will be awesome for her (and also for me, because I totally want to visit her!).
posted by aaanastasia to Travel & Transportation around Abuja, Nigeria (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If she gets into a car accident, don't stop.
posted by thelonius at 4:50 PM on October 31, 2012

I haven't been to Abuja, but the sailing club question in particular causes me to suspect your friend may be disappointed. Google links Abuja sailing club to a sort of clubhouse with a dock out on a dirt road by the reservoir. You can see kind of what it's like on Panoramio. If you're the right sort of zero-frills traveler with a group to keep things safe and lively, I'd guess it's something that could be fun. But if your friend has never been to an economically developing nation, she may be caught off guard by how, um, rustic things like that can be.

Since your question seems to be striking out here, I'd advise looking around for photo sets and personal blogs, not for horror stories or pictures of slums, but for things like this seemingly ordinary car ride through Abuja on a rainy day.

Again, if your friend has done this kind of thing before, then no worries. But something worth considering is that almost anyone can have a miserable adjustment period upon moving to a new place. It's wise to seek the very softest landing she can arrange, e.g. initial hotel accommodations that are very well rated. She can move to a different place within a day or two, once she's there, but if her flight pulls in delayed at 3am, 24 hours after she set out, then that's not the right time to discover she's picked a vermin-infested hole to stay in. Perhaps her employer can make a recommendation, but even then, I'd be extra careful to make the first few days as nice as she can reasonably afford, so she doesn't wind up doubting her choice just because of poor planning and predictable stressors.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:53 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

If the job offer is awesome, your friend should be receiving relocation advice and a relocation package. Especially if she is (I assume) a single woman. She absolutely shouldn't be moving until she knows her package makes sure she isn't out of pocket for rent and cost of living. This is especially the case for Abuja, which is notoriously expensive for expats. Some estimates place a one bed house as around $15k/year to rent.

I don't know Abuja, but I have been an expat as an adult, and lived an expat life as a kid in Africa. The easiest way to answer this is for her to find someone on the ground who will take her under their wing because there is a whole list of things that can bewildering - how to find a place to rent, where to live, the best way to travel to work, how to get phone and utility bills in your name, how to manage your money and convert currency, how not to be scammed, whether it is worth employing someone to help clean, cook or do shopping in local markets, best places to hang out, social clubs etc etc. As a rule, expats understand that this is a case of give and take and can be very generous, often because they were on the end of generosity when they arrived. She should ask her employer if there is someone who could do this. As M. Caution says, the first few weeks are the hardest: the culture shock, the homesickness, the stress of not just having to make friends but make the ones you actually want to see. Your friend would benefit greatly from having real support.

There definitely will be expat clubs, because expats everywhere congregate. Abuja is a buzzing place with thriving American, British and other communities. There are clubs just for women, although in some cases these are geared more for expat wives than working women. Anywhere expats go you will find a hash house harrier club - which can be a good way to find a younger, social crowd. Embassies provide another focal point, and often have bars or social clubs attached. There will be known expat hangouts, and exploring the various expat forums or FB groups will show where they are. You can read a basic interview here and more information on the same site.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:28 AM on November 1, 2012

I've been a couple of times, but just living in hotels or short-term apartments. Completely agree with MM that she should be very clear on the details of her package before she goes. Most important is the living and security. The organization she works for should insist on some minimum security arrangements. I'm not talking about guys with guns, but definitely a fence around the building and an upper floor. Especially for a woman. Abuja's probably one of the safest big cities in Africa, but crime - both violent and petty - is a real issue. Its not worth going if you're going to be scared a lot of the time; its not worth going if you have something terrible happen while you're there. You'll also probably want a car in Abuja. It is not a compact city, is not friendly to pedestrians, and doesn't have great public transportation. Relying on taxis will get expensive and annoying. All these things cost money. A lot more money for expats than locals. A lot more.

The question about sailing is a little strange since Abuja is nowhere near a coast. There's a couple of yacht clubs in Lagos; going through the Lagos harbor out to the beaches can be a surreal experience, but Lagos is a WHOLE other story. The north of Nigeria is also fascinating but probably off-limits to foreigners these days. Being a vegetarian shouldn't be a huge problem. Especially if she can develop a taste for pounded yams.

Caveat: I'm old and cranky and jaded about how exciting it can be to travel and live overseas and have scary adventures to tell your friends so take all this with a grain of salt. As others have pointed out a lot depends on experience and attitude. And having a place to live where you feel safe and some people around to help you out.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 5:38 AM on November 1, 2012

Thank you all! I spoke with my friend, and she said that this is all great advice. She wanted to clarify that she read about the sailing club on an expat blog, and is definitely not expecting anything fancy -- just wants a fun thing to do.

I believe that her employer is going to pay for 75% of her housing and possibly also provide a transportation allowance. (though I have to say...after living in DC, $15k/year for a one bedroom sounds amazing.)
posted by aaanastasia at 7:53 AM on November 1, 2012

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