The United States is the place to be right now. While there are still complaints to be made—rate of pay, hard work, and medical benefits—the truths are obvious. In most cities and towns, a high school graduate can afford housing, transportation, and still have have disposable income. The working poor can borrow money to start a business or pay for university tuition. Hundreds of thousands of people migrate here annually, and there are many more who continue to apply for documentation or enter the country illegally—because working a job under the minimum wage in the U.S is preferable to life in many other countries.
They think it is like a television show – Oh and they think we all have guns
Expatriates, like myself, often come here to just study something in worldwide demand—like medicine or IT—and we choose to stay and compete in the highly saturated American job market instead of returning home. All of us have family “back home” that we communicate with. I have Nigerian relatives that are enamored with American culture and others who have no interest. One of my best cousins likes to compare my Florida life to episodes of “Magnum P.I.” and “Saved by the Bell”. However, my dad imagines that everyone has a gun and my mom doesn’t trust my friends who aren’t Nigerian.
Life moves way too quickly
They say that life moves too quickly here, unless you’re watching television. On a slow day, I might correspond with twenty people through e-mail, skype, text messages, and more than three social media websites. While communicating, I might be multitasking—working out, cleaning, browsing the web, shopping, or even eating—and if I can’t I get very impatient. This urge to keep busy, some might say, is a keystone to the boom in American industry. However, the difference is major when it comes to Nigerian culture. Traditional Nigerian families don’t communicate without providing full attention to each other; this is a huge sign of disrespect. While many cultures exist within our country borders, we all share the value of family first. We prostrate before our elders. We make money to stop worrying about our parents, husbands, wives, and children. We spend money to satisfy others.
Self interest is part of my American lifestyle that my parents disagree with. This is the country where you can be whoever you want to be: a writer, actor, musician, or artist of any kind. There is nothing here too extravagant to be impossible. Immigrants from all over the world who pursue such ambitions in the United States can attest to relatives who complain that they are selfish or ignorant—especially if pursuing a dream for the sake of exploration or self-efficacy instead of money. Nigerians make movies to entertain and generate revenue, rarely to explore the breathtaking potential in moving pictures. We display art and make music to celebrate our history, culture, and religious beliefs—not to make liberal statements.
The urge or ability to make a statement is likely the most shocking part about my American lifestyle. Nigerians only speak or act liberally around people they love and trust, and even then we typically feel dirty or too rebellious. Living in the United States has empowered me to quickly quit unfair job situations, critique the opinions and actions of leaders, and even argue with authorities like the police when I truly believe that I’m doing the right thing. Life in the United States has made me an advocate for movements that are rare or non-existent in Nigeria like LGBT, body modification, and animal rights. My parents don’t even understand how I could choose to marry an American woman or why I have so many cats at home.
Living in a foreign country changes everyone. Cultural expectations and social interactions all generate a new personality trait that can’t be removed like clothing upon returning home. Many expats don’t ever go home in fear of being seen as uppity or a having changed completely. This may be true, but self-awareness and self-esteem are huge benefits of having traveled elsewhere. We all come to the United States to change in one way or another. In the view of others, this change might be for the better or worse. However, in regards to my own life, only my opinion matters.