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Lagos lies in southwest Nigeria on the coastline looking out into the Gulf of Guinea and consists of the mainland and several islands divided by the Lagos Lagoon and its creeks.
A West African hub for financial and economic activity, the city is also home to Nigeria’s famous film industry, Nollywood. As bustling and exciting as Lagos can be for new arrivals, living in Lagos carries both challenges and opportunities.
Many expats moving to Lagos have a less-than-flattering idea of life in this burgeoning Nigerian city. Lagos has been considered as one of the world’s least 'liveable' cities, largely in terms of political and social stability, safety and access to quality healthcare. The city is fraught with overpopulation, deteriorating infrastructure and sweeping unemployment rates. Traffic and pollution problems are also ever present, and severe crime rates certainly should not be looked upon lightly.
Nonetheless, Nigeria’s financial and economic capital has sizeable American, Indian, Filipino and Lebanese communities, and expats continue to move here. So, if life is so bad in this mushrooming urban centre, why do foreigners continue to uproot and relocate to Lagos? The answer is simple – money. Lagos is a city driven by the promise of wealth and work opportunities.
Lagos is the business hub of West Africa, and it claims some of the region’s largest and most impressive banks, ports and markets. Multinational companies, many of them mining the oil-rich Niger Delta, have made Lagos their regional headquarters. Massive corporations are continuously looking to lure foreigners to the city with lucrative expat packages.
It follows that expats offered a job in Lagos should expect not only a significant salary that more than makes up for Nigeria’s hard-to-ignore hardship ranking, but also a handful of accompanying perks. If a company does not outright insist on financing accommodation, health insurance, a driver and car, flights home and education, expats should make sure to negotiate allowances or an appropriately inflated salary that covers these costs.
Though it may be surprising to many, the cost of living a typical expat life in Lagos is sky high and inequality is rife. While a significant proportion of locals live in slums, the wealthy embrace life in glamorous mansions and large modern houses in affluent neighbourhoods and areas such as Ikoyi and Victoria Island. Private hospitals offer a decent standard of care and expats moving to Lagos with families should note the many international schools, but this comes with a hefty price tag.
Living in Lagos is not necessarily the nightmare it’s chalked up to be. Many expats take solace in the tight-knit, though slightly insular, communities they form within their carefully secured compounds and places of work. But there are also so many opportunities to socialise outside of these spaces given the host of social clubs, buzzing nightlife and cosmopolitan city lifestyle.
For a break from the hustle and bustle, Lagos has something for single expats as well as families. Visit the ecotourism project of Lekki Conservation Centre for some nature. The National Museum Lagos gives a window into the country’s history and culture. For something fun, there are upscale beach resorts and trendy restaurants and cocktail bars, or expats can watch a dance performance or attend an international concert at the National Arts Theatre.
Despite the inconveniences of power and water supply problems and adjusting to the culture shock of life in a bustling, congested African city, many expats report that life in Lagos is vibrant, colourful and fruitful.