Laura Arina, Lagos

Who are you?

My name is Laura, founder and creator at Migrate. I am a Kenyan currently living in Lagos, Nigeria. I’m a gem expert and jewellery consultant, digital content creator and lover of good food!

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I was born and bred in Kenya. I moved permanently to Nigeria in November 2020. My fiancé is Nigerian, and we had a Zoom bride price ceremony. Yes, we were in different countries and were still able to seamlessly go through with the ceremony! Covid-19 really had nothing on technology and the determination of two people destined to be together! After the traditional ceremony, the next step was to move to Nigeria and be with him! So, I packed my bags, bid adios to my friends and family, and got on a plane to my new home!

What challenges did you face during the move?

It was a struggle to sell my house stuff back home during a pandemic. I had to do a number of paid ads to get the big things, like my couch, fridge and bed, sold. That said, I gave away a lot of things to my friends and family.

Then the airline I used lost my main bag in transit. They have still not recovered it, almost three months later. Imagine being in a new country without most of your personal possessions, such as clothes, shoes and other personal effects!

Finding information about certain things has also been difficult. I’m lucky to have the support system of my fiancé and his family, who guide me and direct me on where to find the things I need, like a great salon, where to buy clothes, where to find my acne medication, who to call to fix the car, and everything!

How did you find somewhere to live?

This one’s easy – my fiancé already had a house, so it was just a matter of me moving in!

Are there many other expats in your area?

No. The only one I’ve met is a wonderful lady from Togo, who is probably the most skilled hair stylist I’ve met!

What is your relationship like with the locals?

Wonderful! Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming, and it’s so interesting to learn Nigerian pidgin, an English-based creole language used in everyday conversations. The most common question I get because of my accent is, “Are you from Ghana?”

What do you like about life where you are?

The variety of food! The communal way of life is also amazing! I like taking drives across the Lagos Lagoon, along the Third Mainland Bridge, which is one of the longest bridges in Africa.
What do you dislike about your expat life?

Being away from my family has been hard, especially after we got so close during the Covid-19 lockdown period. That said, my fiancé has been fundamental in making sure I keep in touch with my parents, siblings and friends. In this age of fast internet, video calls have been very helpful in maintaining my communication with my folks back home.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

I have found that people are more communal in Lagos. It is impossible to live in an apartment block and not know your next-door neighbour, or even to not spend time getting to know them. I cannot count the number of times our neighbours have brought us food! People in Nairobi are more reserved. I lived in my last apartment for two years, and I left knowing no one personally, having only sighted my next-door neighbour maybe four times.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Don’t be scared to visit Nigeria. Not everyone from Nigeria is a scammer. I think it’s unfair to cast a stereotype on an entire country of over 200 million people for the crimes of a few individuals.
What are your plans for the future?

To explore life in more countries! I’ve lived in Tanzania, Uganda and now Nigeria. I’d love to visit more countries. I’d also like to expand Migrate, which is a useful expat-driven platform with a goal to encourage people to MIGRATE! We’re all about stepping out of your comfort zone (read: home town/country) to explore new places, learn new cultures, meet new people, try out new foods, and travel fearlessly!

If you would like to follow Migrate, you can do so on Twitter @weare_migrate, on Facebook, and on Instagram @wearemigrate. You can also visit their website or get in touch via email (wearemigrate@gmail.com).