Culture Shock in Nigeria

Nigerian culture shock often precedes one’s departure. There is no doubt that Nigeria has a fearsome reputation for kidnappings, corruption and political unrest, all reported as common occurrences. It's therefore natural that expats may be concerned for their welfare before arriving in the country.

Nigeria's largest cities, Lagos and Abuja, are congested, chaotic metropolises that can incite considerable culture shock, even in seasoned expats. Nigerian drivers have a reputation for being aggressive and reckless, while local women can be very forward and, in general, Westerners will attract attention and therefore feel conspicuous.

That being said, many expats who move to Nigeria have successfully created their own insular bubble in the bustling city that surrounds them. Westerners generally live in compounds that recreate a familiar world quite apart from the maelstrom of Nigerian city life outside its electrified perimeters. Within these boundaries, expat life is a familiar blend of socialising, sports and entertainment.

The reality of living and working in Nigeria can actually be a welcome surprise; the people are friendly, the good weather is guaranteed and the food is delicious. Although it is not without its struggles, if expats take the relevant precautions, brush up on the dos and don’ts of the different areas and remember at all times that Nigeria is a developing country, then they will have a worthwhile and enriching experience.

Meeting and greeting in Nigeria

Respect for elders is important in Nigeria; indeed this is possibly the central tenet of life throughout the country. While an entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged across all generations, generally one will find that people in positions of power are likely to be a lot older than those in the Western world.

For all greetings it is necessary to be standing up, for both men and women. Men will generally shake hands on first greeting. Nigeria has a large Muslim population, so many men refrain from shaking hands with women.

If greeting an older male, then a safe and traditional greeting is to bow one’s head very slightly; this is seen as respectful and is an acceptable greeting across all religions and tribes throughout Nigeria. With an older Nigerian lady, or a lady who holds greater rank and seniority, it is advisable to rise and then curtsey slightly before her. More often than not, she will approach and put her arm around one’s waist and engage in conversation. It is appropriate when greeting Nigerians to take time and not rush through this process.

Queries should be made into the person’s health, and also the health of their immediate family. Nigerians naturally talk in short, abrupt sentences and when they are inquiring after someone’s well-being they use the term ‘what of.’ To be understood quicker it is advisable to start enquiries in the same manner, so the question. “How is your sister’s health?” would be “What of your sister?”

Socialising in Nigeria

Both Nigerian men and women are known for their friendliness and are open to meeting new people, so expats who take the time to get to know the locals will be richly rewarded. Within Abuja and Lagos, there are bars, clubs, shopping malls and cinemas showing all the big name Hollywood releases. However, outside of these two cities, manufactured entertainment is rare. There will still be bars which serve food and alcohol, but cinemas will be more scarce and the shopping mall will be replaced by markets in the centre of town.

Dancing is a popular pastime in Nigeria, which is understandable as Nigerians do it very well; nightclubs are usually full of people who really do just go to dance and have a good time. When out socialising, Nigerians will drink a lot less than is consumed in many Western countries. Drinking until drunk is incomprehensible to Nigerians and will be frowned upon.  

Ablutions in Nigeria

Even in Abuja, the country's capital and the most developed city in Nigeria, a good public toilet with a lock, toilet paper and a bin is hard to find. It's not unusual for expats in Nigeria to take their own toilet paper with them on many occasions, even in offices, as it will run out and won’t be replaced.

Outside of Abuja and Lagos, tampons are also hard to find as Nigerian ladies tend to favour sanitary towels. Female expats should therefore stock up before they arrive and ensure that they are always well prepared.

Expat Health Insurance


Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global


Moving Internationally?

Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.

Get your free no-obligation quotes now!