Abuja lies in the very heart of Nigeria, within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Centrally located, it was a planned city, strategically placed to unify an impressively diverse population. Today, expats moving to Abuja will find a welcoming metropolis buzzing with activity.
With a cost of living much lower than Lagos, and with just as much to offer, Abuja is the natural choice for many expats who relocate to the Giant of Africa. For some, the move may be daunting, given negative media coverage and the warnings of crime and conflict issued by various foreign governmental authorities. Of course, safety and security issues are not to be taken lightly, but most expats agree that by taking the usual precautions, they feel just as safe in Abuja as in any other major city.
An open mind helps expats adjust and come to terms with culture shock. Not blinded by the negatives, new arrivals in Abuja can see a contemporary city with sweeping boulevards, clover-style interchanges and modern, skyward-climbing buildings. Despite being a rapidly growing city, greenery and tree-lined streets have not disappeared from Abuja’s neighbourhoods.
While rental prices often go far beyond the average Nigerian professional’s wages, those working for international companies and organisations find themselves in expat enclaves and secure gated complexes. Impressive mansions with swimming pools, electric gates (and sometimes armed guards) are squared away for assignee accommodation well before their arrival.
In fact, expat life in Abuja can feel surprisingly luxurious, and many foreigners enjoy the closeness of a community made up mostly of foreigners, as well as a variety of good shops, bars, cinemas and nightclubs. Maitama and Wuse 2 are among the more affluent areas of the city, with Millennium Park around the corner allowing residents to take in the fresh air and beautiful landscape while watching butterflies and tropical birds.
Abuja is only a hop, skip and a jump away from some of the more naturally splendid areas of the country, such as Gurara Waterfalls. Closer still, Jabi Boat Club offers exclusive dining experiences as well as jet ski rides on Jabi Lake, while Mpape has also gained recognition as a tourist hotspot with its abandoned quarry.
Abuja experiences what is known as a tropical wet and dry climate, with a humid rainy season distinct from its dry season. Along with the tropical temperatures, expats report that the people are equally warm and friendly. As the country’s capital, it boasts a cosmopolitan lifestyle. While English is the official language, Abuja is said to be home to over 200 ethnic groups, and several key languages including Ibo, Yoruba and Hausa are spoken.
As with ethnicity and language, religion is just as significant, and about half the population are Muslim and 40 percent Christian. The National Mosque stands as an iconic landmark in Abuja against the backdrop of Aso Rock, a key monolithic geological feature defining the city’s landscape, along with Zuma Rock.
Unfortunately, the wealth and luxury arguably act as a glossy veneer to the city’s problems. The wealth disparity that permeates much of the nation is far from absent here, the electricity supply is inconsistent and unreliable, and navigating the roads through unpredictable traffic can be intimidating and frustrating. To add to these issues, despite well-trained medical professionals, healthcare in many hospitals is not always up to standards.
Of course, it’s important to maintain some perspective and to realise that expat life in Nigeria’s capital can be challenging, and one of extreme and unbalanced privilege. Given all the pros and cons of living in Abuja, with an open mind, it’s possible to work hard and live comfortably in this West African capital.
►Planning a budget for a stay in Nigeria's capital? Read more in Cost of Living in Abuja
►For more insights and advice on moving to the Giant of Africa, read our essential Moving to Nigeria guide
"Come with an open mind and see it as an adventure, if you are bringing children worry less about them as they will adjust quicker than you. Don't expect too much and just enjoy it as it unfolds. Don't try to make it the same as where you originated from, it won't work." Read more about Abuja in our interview with Ann.
"The main thing is to look beyond the headline projection of Nigeria and do all you can to learn about it. Abuja may be labelled a hostile environment posting, but it’s friendly, fun and unlike anywhere else you can live. A good book to read is Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa, which is a travelogue from Nigeria. If you can, learn a few words of pidgin, that’s also very helpful." For some helpful advice and insights, read this interview with Clementine.
Are you an expat living in Abuja?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Abuja. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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