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Ibadan to London

My transition into a different country and my culture shock experiences

By DamilolaPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
Ibadan to London
Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

I moved to the U.K. when I was about 14 years old. Before then I was in a girls-only Christian boarding school in a city called Ibadan in Nigeria. Because of how incredibly strict the system of my old school was, even during holidays at home, mixing with boys was already a culture shock. 14 year old me in a social setting with boys was very embarrassed and shy. I don’t have any brothers and my father lived in the U.K., so I was a bit clueless and the male gender in general, was completely new territory to me.

I remember the feeling of being chosen for events at my secondary school, and how much we would get excited to come back and gossip about what boys were like at the events. Looking back at it now, it’s one of the moments in my life that I really cringe about. As you might have already guessed, that is not the only thing that was a culture shock to me when I moved to the U.K. and changed into a mixed school. There are so many other things that caught me by surprise and also made me feel slightly out of place in my first few months. Eventually, I adapted, but here are a couple of things that were culture shocks when I moved to the U.K.

1 - Method of discipline

This is probably the biggest culture shock of all. In Nigeria, students are not allowed to speak back to teachers, and doing that will earn you punishment which includes cutting the grass by hand, cleaning classrooms or maybe even kneeling in front of the principal’s office with your hands up. In the U.K. however, I was surprised to see how free students were, speaking to their teachers sometimes in rude tones. Some even decided to leave the class altogether after being warned several times for disrupting lessons. The worst that would happen is detention. I am not quite sure which one of these disciplinary methods works best. Having seen both sides I would say there are disadvantages and advantages to both. Nonetheless, it was a huge culture shock to me. It did take me a while to get used to minimal consequences in comparison to those meted out to offenders in my old school.

2 - My accent

One of the most noticeable things, when I moved here, was my accent. Not so much the intonation of my words but the way I pronounced them. I happen to have an H-factor common to people from my city in Nigeria. Which means I can’t pronounce hair, ear, or here. I end up mixing them all together and people get them confused. The most torturous sentence you can probably ask me to say is - Can her hair earn her an A?

It’s an inside joke between people with the same H-factor as me. We joke that it’ll be impossible to make any sense with that sentence, as the majority of the words in it requires pronouncing your H’s properly. In Nigeria, it wasn’t so much of a problem as the majority of people spoke in that way. But imagine my shock when people constantly asked me to remove or add H’s to my words because they simply couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. At some point, my friends started to taunt me with it. And I eventually gave up on trying to correct myself after numerous attempts.

3 - Being a teenager

One thing you’d never see even in mixed schools in Nigeria is a public display of affection, especially between tweens or teenagers. Holding hands will probably earn you a visit to the principal’s office and some sort of punishment. But in my first few weeks being in a U.K. school, I realised that lovers seemed to be very comfortable kissing and hugging in classes and around the school. I found it fascinating that they weren’t shy and it was seemingly normal. Whilst this might not seem like something serious, with the knowledge of how much of a taboo it would have been back in Nigeria, I was very shocked. I eventually got used to it and realised that it simply is a cultural difference.

4 - Phones and technology

Technology and all forms of it were contraband in my old boarding school. This is because it was deemed easy to become distracted from your studies when you have things like phones and games. Having them could actually earn you a suspension. And so when I moved here, I didn’t have a phone. Because prior to that, I simply didn’t need one. But seeing my new friends at my new school with their new iPhone 4’s and smartphones made me feel like an outsider. And I understood what not following a particular trend can do to you in social settings like a school. People would send messages on Kik to each other and laugh about things, and I felt very lonely. That is until I finally managed to present a winning argument to my dad about getting a smartphone and could finally join in on the classroom jokes.

5 - System of education

When you reach the fourth year of your secondary school in Nigeria, you get grouped into three different categories. You have a choice of either going into the art class, science class or the commercial class. The art class is for those who are planning to do something art-related as the name suggests, commercial is for bankers and the likes and science is for people going into things like biochemistry, medicine and other related subjects. But in the U.K. you take the same class as everyone else but you can choose which subjects you would like to do, which might differ from others. This was a bit of a culture shock for me because I somehow expected the system to be the same, and didn’t expect as much freedom to be given to students when it comes to mixing different types of subjects from science, arts and commerce together. That in addition to the one year difference and also having to go into sixth form or college before going into university kind of disrupted some of my learning. I had to catch up and also re-learn some things over again.

6 - Fashion

Last but certainly not the least has to be fashion. I would say my fashion sense was pretty much non-existent prior to moving to the U.K. That’s because I didn’t have any use for it. When you’re in a boarding school you have your school uniform, your dormitory uniform and your Sunday uniform. Your hair must be made in a certain way in accordance with the rules of the school, and you are not allowed to add any kind of extension or accessories to it. Those three uniforms and the mandatory hairstyles were all I really knew. Even when I was on holidays, I was too preoccupied with submitting assignments to think about catching up on the latest fashion trends. On my first day at my new school, I came in with my cornrows, innocently, without any inclination that I might stand out from the crowd. It didn’t take long to realise that the majority of my mates had some sort of hair extension, weave or sew-in. I moved right when sew-ins were really popular and everyone had them. And so there I was feeling a bit embarrassed of my cornrows. Trends are unpredictable and cornrows ended up going back into vogue, but I remember feeling quite embarrassed about mine because no one else had them.

That concludes my culture shock experiences from the perspective of my 14-year-old self moving to the U.K. from Nigeria. The majority of the things I mentioned did make me feel out of place at first, but as humans we end up adapting to our environment, and I soon adapted and settled into my new life. If you are ever in a similar situation, remember novelty eventually wears off and not everyone is making fun of you like you might think they are.


About the Creator


poet, wanderer, writer.

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  • AyoO11 months ago

    This is lovely.

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