Chronicles of Relocation – The Japa Story


‘Relocation’ or ‘Relocate’ is one of the most used words in recent time among working professionals across developing African countries particularly my beloved country Nigeria.

A synonymous word in Nigerian parlance is Japa, a popular slang in Nigeria that means to escape, to run swiftly out of a difficult situation or in this context, to relocate. Sounds a bit like Sapa which is slang used to describe a state of lack or brokenness. It kind of rhymes to say people Japa (relocate) from Sapa (lack) as most people relocate in search of better opportunities, improved working and living conditions.

Others relocate simply because they no longer believe in the Nigerian dream seeing that the long-awaited and publicised vision 2020 and its likes have failed to deliver on their mandates.

Many have no assurances of what holds beyond the seas but are willing to risk everything in hope of a better life for themselves and their family. Nobody can be blamed for seeking a better life, the fact is we all deserve a good life as humans living in this Terra Firma we call home.

I embarked on my relocation journey in 2019, my wife had gotten a job with one of the big four professional services firms in the UK. She received her Offer Letter the day of the naming ceremony of our daughter. It was mixed feelings for her but there was only one feeling for me, you guessed right. There was a twinkle in my eyes as I began to see pictures of our future. You know that pose when you dim your eyes, tilt your neck at an angle of about 45 degrees as you gaze mildly into the ceiling (I bet you just tried that). I was not always keen on relocating but for some reason, it felt right

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Soon after, we were both convinced the right decision was for us to relocate as a family. This meant I had to resign from my Job with another big four professional services firm in Nigeria in hope that something bigger and better was waiting for me at the birthplace of Shakespeare and The Beatles, the land of the Brits.

Off we went, leaving the familiar for the unknown with friends and family behind, away from the ‘comfort’ of a country we had called home for over 3 decades to reside in a foreign land that holds her history dear with strong cultural norms.

Relocating wasn’t all that we thought it will be as it takes time to settle into a new country, new economy and employment market. As if those were not enough there came the Pandemic rearing its ugly head. Barely a few weeks after we relocated, the whole world was in lockdown, medical experts confused, businesses closing down and people losing their jobs.

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A good Job became increasingly hard to find but eventually after over 200 applications, 2 professional certifications and 9 months of waiting I got my first major Job. My main job during those 9 months was babysitting our daughter and I assure you that’s one of the hardest non-paying Jobs in the world. It tested my patience, resilience and creativity. It was also one of the most beautiful as it afforded me the opportunity to spend so much time with my daughter as I watched her grow through various milestones from gripping her feeding bottle, to crawling and stumbling as she took her first steps.

My family’s story is not a perfect example of how relocation is for most people but there are few parallels that can be drawn from sharing in the experiences of others.

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Firstly, no system is perfect, it all depends on what you prioritise and are happy to live with. Developed countries have their flaws although the type and implications may vary. For example, while developing countries may be battling with local representation in employment, developed countries may be dealing with diversity and inclusion

Secondly, relocation is not a guarantee for success. Don’t assume that everything you need will fall into your hands or there is an automatic opportunity awaiting your arrival. You have to do your research and continue to develop and position yourself for the right opportunities

Finally, community is important. You have to find your community, especially people who you can trust to advise you and guide you as you settle into the new environment

Should you relocate?

A lot of people are under pressure (external or self-inflicted) to relocate and in the process, people forget to engage the season they are in and make the most of their current opportunities. Nobody can decide for you whether to relocate or not, it’s a decision you must own, fully understand the requirements or implications and be willing to live with the outcomes

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