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Located in West Africa, Nigeria stands out as an economic powerhouse that is well connected to the West African region. Its southern coast lies on the Gulf of Guinea flowing out into the Atlantic Ocean and most expats relocating to Nigeria settle here, particularly in Lagos, or in the central capital city of Abuja. Nigeria is a multicultural nation with over 500 languages and 250 ethnicities and a diverse environment to match, so it’s best to get a sense of what to expect before moving.
In truth, media reports on safety and security haven’t painted the prettiest picture of the country. Nigeria has a dubious reputation with persistent reports of crime, corruption, kidnapping and endlessly inventive ‘419’ advance-fee scams. While this is not something to overlook, particularly for families with kids, and expats should follow guidance from their embassies and the authorities, safety concerns should not consume one’s entire perception of Nigeria.
Expats who move to Nigeria for work often benefit from a generous employment contract. Nicknamed the Giant of Africa for its large population and growing economy, major multinationals, particularly in the mining and oil sectors, have set up shop here and commonly employ foreigners. Recognising the potential hardship factors and the high cost of living, these companies offer a great financial enticement and sometimes a full relocation package, including comprehensive healthcare and medical insurance, accommodation, schooling and transport.
Large companies that hire expats often have pre-arranged accommodation in protected gated complexes with 24-hour security systems and guards. This housing usually comes with amenities such as swimming pools to cool off in the warm tropical weather.
These complexes are home to a sociable expat community and new arrivals positively report on this camaraderie. Life in a large city such as Lagos or Abuja affords many sports facilities and groups and there are upscale restaurants and trendy cocktail bars for anyone to enjoy. However, the typical expat lifestyle in Nigeria sees many foreigners living in somewhat isolated enclaves, far removed from the reality of Nigerian life. Those not stuck living in this ‘expat bubble’ may find their relocation to Nigeria a richly rewarding cultural experience.
Nigerians are famously hospitable and friendly and getting to know them can help overcome the initial culture shock. New arrivals will soon pick up some local slang or find interest in the local fashionable and colourful clothing. The diversity of cultures makes for consistently interesting discoveries begging to be stumbled upon by the more inquisitive expat.
Expats may be surprised by Nigeria’s hidden gems, from sheltered beaches to wildlife reserves and national parks with magnificent rainforest habitats and waterfalls. The famous Nollywood film industry also calls Nigeria home, and the popular Afrobeats music style has Nigerian and West African roots.
While there are adventures, there are also frustrations. Transport and driving are major causes of frustration. Despite some development of transport infrastructure, the city roads are chaotic, and traffic is a nightmare, whether it's commuting to work or taking the kids to school – most expats hire a driver to resolve any stress.
Like any other destination, Nigeria brings both pros and cons. We encourage expats to prepare themselves for the realities of life there, but also keep an open mind to enjoy the many positives.
Official name: Federal Republic of Nigeria
Population: Around 206 million
Capital city: Abuja
Largest city: Lagos
Neighbouring countries: Situated on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Nigeria is bordered by Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Geography: Nigeria has a large and varied landscape from coastal plains to mangrove swamps and tropical rain forests. It is home to the Niger Delta, one of the world's largest river deltas, and is very rich in natural resources, most notably large deposits of petroleum and natural gas.
Political system: Federal presidential constitutional republic
Main languages: English is the official language. Other languages include Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulfulde and Kanuri
Major religions: Christianity, Islam, and numerous traditional religions
Time: GMT +1
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz. Round (type D) and square (type G) three-pin plugs are used.
Currency: The Nigerian Naira (NGN), divided into 100 kobo. ATMs are available in Nigerian towns and cities. Credit card fraud is a concern in Nigeria and expats should keep a close eye on their bank and credit card statements.
Tipping: A standard 10 percent in restaurants, while in taxis, fares are normally agreed beforehand
International dialling code: +234
Emergency number: 112
Internet domain: .ng
Driving and transport: Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road. Road safety and traffic are major concerns in Nigeria and most expats have a car and driver provided for them by their company rather than driving themselves.