“The French Are Big On Respect and Nepotism Like Nigerians”- Abroad Life

January 22, 2021

The Nigerian experience is physical, emotional and sometimes international. No one knows it better than our features on #TheAbroadLife, a series where we detail and explore Nigerian experiences while living abroad.


Today’s subject on Abroad Life talks about how her love for French from a young age helped her decision to move to France 8 years ago. She talks about the culture shock she experienced her first few months there, how the French society is classist and the similarities between the French and Nigerians. 

When did you leave Nigeria?

I left Nigeria in 2013. I moved straight to France. 

Why France?

My relationship with French grew over the years. I remember being interested in the language straight from primary school even though it was just “Bonjour” and “Ça va”. In secondary school, I was one of the few people that chose French as my elective. Though I didn’t really like my French teacher, we used a projector and had media elements like music and movies, so the classes were less boring. I became more interested in the language over time and started summer lessons.

I never really thought about moving to France. 

What changed?

I worked in a telecommunications company shortly before I left Nigeria, and we had some clients in Brazzaville. Everyone knew I could speak French to some extent so when we had to send a representative for a two-month program, they sent me. When I was there, I realised that my knowledge of French was better than I’d imagined and decided to move to France for my masters in telecommunications. The culture shock when I did move was… well, shocking. 

How so?

My expectations of “abroad” were the things I’d seen on TV about the UK and America, so I expected lights and loud noises and bling-bling everywhere. I was wrong. I moved to Paris, and once I got past the awe of the Eiffel Tower and all the other stuff and settled in, I realised that the French are classy. No loud colours or over-energetic scenes, just people going about their business. 

How was settling in?

It was hard. It took me a few months to transition from my expectations to my reality. Learning things about the new culture was tough. For example, in Nigeria, you go to a bank and someone attends to you. Even if they’re not solving your problems immediately, they’re making you feel important because you’re a customer. Here, you get to a bank and they tell you to book an appointment with your account manager before you can be attended to. If you don’t know who your account manager is, they’ll tell you to book an appointment on the website to find out who your account manager is.

Here, the customer isn’t king. The service provider is king and the customer adjusts to whatever they do. 

In restaurants, they take their sweet time. You can’t go to a French restaurant and expect to get food quickly like you would in a Nigerian restaurant. And you have to wait. If you complain, you could be asked to leave. 

Ouch…

All of these new experiences helped me understand that I was seeing the entire world through the same lenses. I had to quickly learn that different countries have their different behaviours, cultures and accepted ways of doing things. I couldn’t say “Oh, this is how Europeans behave.” or “This is how Africans behave.”

Was it easy for you to integrate into society after your master’s?

After my master’s, I had to quickly unlearn the Nigerian “go-getter” attitude. People don’t want you to be in their faces, introducing yourself, throwing around your CV and putting yourself out there. You have to do things subtly. They’re not even friendly with people they don’t know in the first place, so you have to build their trust. 

What did that mean for you in the job market?

It wouldn’t have changed much because there’s already a system in place that decides the types of jobs you get based on the school you went to. In France, the school you go to and the course you study are two major important things that every employer takes into consideration. 

No matter how skilled you are in a field, if you don’t have a university degree in that field, nobody will hire you. If you like, show them all the amazing things you’ve done, they’ll ask for your CV that shows you got a university degree in that field. If you can’t provide one, you’re wasting your time.

Wow.

That’s not even the most interesting part. In whatever industry you are, there are top three to five schools that are recognised. What this means is that if you didn’t go to one of the top five schools that offers your course, you probably won’t get a good-paying job. 

What? 

It’s a society run very largely on classism. Everybody already knows where they stand based on the school they went to. So you know that if you went to a top-five school, your salary falls within a specified range. If you went to the next five rated schools, you can’t get jobs in certain places, and it’s impossible to earn a salary as big as the people who went to better schools. These things aren’t probabilities. It’s the official way things are done. Years of working experience in France also count for better pay. 

How did that play out for you?

I didn’t go to the top 3 schools overall in the country. However, lucky for me, I went to the top 3 in my field but even at that it was a difficult 3 months looking for an internship.

In the three months when I was searching, I considered a change in career paths but that wasn’t possible as I had to have studied whatever career I wanted in school.

In the end, I got my first job – a compulsory internship when a friend took my CV and dropped it on her boss’ table and told him to hire me. Nepotism is also big in France. 

How’s the Nigerian community there?

Although there aren’t as many Nigerians here as there are in Germany and even Spain, the Nigerian community here is growing. When I came here in 2013, I didn’t meet many Nigerians. But now, more of us are choosing France as a study destination. There’s also the older generation of people that do informal jobs like selling stuff like hair extensions. 

It’s been eight years since you moved. Are you now a permanent resident?

I’m a citizen. France isn’t big on permanent residency. They’ll give you one-year extensions on some visas, talent visas and 10-year stay visas but not permanent residency. You have to go through a long process to apply for citizenship. I did, and now I’m a French citizen. 

What’s the best part about living in France?

The beauty and peace that comes with living in Paris is pretty nice. People have a romantic idea of France about Paris and a lot of it is true.  The food? The food is top tier especially the pastries. I’m at the point in my life where I can’t imagine living without access to a nice croissant or a nice baguette. 

What about the people?

I think the French are very similar to Nigerians. Hearing their H-factor makes me laugh. It just jumps out. 

Another thing is respect culture.  The way some Nigerian languages have words that indicate that you’re speaking to someone older than you, French has the same, and the French take it very seriously. They demand respect for both age and class difference. 

The French are also very proud of their country. You hear them complain about the government and the country all day every day, but the day someone from outside tries to trash-talk them, they’ll attack the person. It’s the same way Nigerians always complain about Nigeria until someone from another country says the same thing. 

Is there anything you don’t like about living in France?

There’s a lot of pretences especially with issues like racism. People say, “You can’t say ‘Blacks’” or ‘Asians’, just address everyone as human”, but there’s a lot of lowkey racism that goes on. 

I don’t like that people don’t have room to diversify; they can only stay in career paths they’ve chosen. It makes us feel like robots. 

People say Paris is the capital of love and sex. Is that true?

Omo, there are streets where you see rows and rows of sex shops– both shops that sell sex toys and shops where “things” go down. The French are very romantic and sensual. Even in French movies, the sex scenes are much more real than in American movies. 

It was in France I first saw a gay couple expressly displaying love. The Nigerian in me was shocked, but I soon realised that things like that are normal here. 

What’s your social life like?

I like experiencing things, so I go to museums, exhibitions and all that kind of stuff. Sometimes, I go to restaurants and theatres. The highlight of my social life in France was when Falz came here to perform, and because my friend was close to him, we all went out after his show. It was fun club-hopping and having a nice time. Falz is a fun guy. 

Must be nice. What’s one French experience you can’t forget?

The day the Notre-Dame cathedral caught fire. I was headed to the metro station when I saw the smoke. Everyone thought it was a terrorist attack but then we started hearing some banging. We ran towards the sound and when people saw that it was the Notre-Dame on fire, they threw themselves on the floor and wept. It was so painful to see. For me, it was a tourist attraction that had caught fire, but it was much deeper for them. We stood there for a couple of hours and just watched. It was truly heartbreaking. 

Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.

David Odunlami

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

September 16, 2020

Okay, so if you’ve not seen Tinubu’s message to the Edo voters, find it here: Still didn’t watch it? Here’s a quick summary: Tinubu says Edo people should reject Godwin Obaseki in Edo’s Governorship election Tinubu says he has suffered with many others to bring about democracy in Nigeria Tinubu says Obaseki can’t understand the […]

November 22, 2019

This is Zikoko’s Game of Votes Weekly Dispatch. We share the most important things that happen in Nigeria every week. 5pm Thursdays. Stay woke.  Beggi Beggi, E No Good O  Who knew Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi State, was so influential? He definitely yields some kind of power over the who’s who in Nigerian politics if a whole Madame First […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

Acne
June 16, 2021

Dealing with acne is never easy. From random people recommending products to you to the self-esteem dip, everyone has their story. In this article, seven Nigerian women talk about living with acne.  Khloe, 22  I was 14 the first time I noticed acne on my face. It was my first year in university. I didn’t […]

June 16, 2021

The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 25-year-old Nigerian woman who has travelled to over fifteen countries alone. She talks about how this love for travelling started, the way she’s stigmatised at airports and in hotels, and her dream to attend aviation school. What was growing up like? Life was good until […]

June 15, 2021

As a Nigerian, sometimes you need to remind yourself that you are in the best country in the world. 1) We have delicious suya and kilishi Regulate open grazing? No. Ban Twitter? Yes. Ban Cryptocurrency? Yes. Why? Because Suya and Kilishi >>>>> Technological advancement. It’s quite simple really. 2) “Over raw” best in world rankings […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 1, 2019

Twitter is buzzing right now, bringing a new conversation to the concept of cool vs not-so-cool, especially in relationships. If you’ve been thinking about how much of a red flag you are, why don’t you let this quiz help you decide once and for all?

November 22, 2019

It can be very stressful when you’re trying to find the love of your life, but you only keep meeting people that are exactly like your yeye ex. To help you be more aware of that problem, we’ve created a quiz that lets you know the kind of people you are attracting. Take it to […]

December 3, 2019

Are you a professional Yoruba demon? Are you walking around in search of whose life you can wreck at any given time? Well, this quiz knows exactly how many hearts you’ve shattered to date, and before you lie that your result is inaccurate, just remember that Zikoko is never wrong. Now, take it and be […]

October 10, 2019

2019 is certainly Burna Boy’s year, but, if we are being honest, so was 2018. Since his transcendent mixtape, Outside, the afro-fusion star has refused to get his foot of our necks — dropping a string of fantastic singles and then capping it all off with his career-best album, African Giant.  So, in a bid […]

November 30, 2019

With No Nut November FINALLY coming to an end, we’ve decided to mark the torturous month with some more horny content. After quizzes that guessed how many people you’ve slept with, how good you are in bed and who you’ll sleep with next, this one will guess when next you’ll get lucky. Take it to […]

More from Citizen

June 15, 2021

The Future of Hiring Lawyers During COVID-19 and Beyond for 200 Million Nigerians With the spread of COVID-19, most industries have adjusted their standard practices of conducting business. The legal profession is no exception, with TalkCounsel at the helm redefining the legal experience for countless Nigerians. TalkCounsel’s digital workspace hosts vetted lawyers that offer a […]

June 13, 2021

June 12 Protest: Yesterday, after months of planning, Nigerians took to the streets to protest against bad governance, abuse of human rights, worsening insecurity, and other forms of maladministration and mishandling of democracy in the country. Coincidentally, this protest happened one week after the Nigerian government’s sudden and unconstitutional Twitter ban. Yesterday was also Nigeria’s […]

June 12, 2021

By Doyin Olagunju If you were on social media on 27th May 2021, you must have seen a viral video involving Remi Tinubu, a former first lady of Lagos State and a current senator representing Lagos Central senatorial district, in a heated argument with another woman over the fact that Ms Tinubu called the woman […]

June 8, 2021

It’s been more than 72 hours since the federal government ordered the Twitter Ban, a decision that has denied millions of Nigerians without “You-Know-What” access to the social media platform. The question on everyone’s mind is “how much longer will this ill-thought-out and  extralegal decision hold?” The answer remains to be seen.  However, the Nigerian […]

June 7, 2021

Twitter Ban: The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, in a statement issued today has ordered all Nigerian broadcasting stations to delete their Twitter accounts. The letter to the broadcasting organisations terms it as “unpatriotic” for any broadcaster in Nigeria to continue to use Twitter as a source of information gathering and dissemination in Nigeria. Different variations of […]

June 5, 2021

The Nigerian government’s decision to suspend popular social media platform ban will hit Nigeria’s teeming youth population, for whom Twitter has become a source of escape from the hard-hitting Nigerian situation. Many use the platform to find job opportunities, companionship and networking. It will also prove to be disastrous for small and medium scale businesses […]

June 5, 2021

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has directed that people violating the Twitter ban should immediately be prosecuted. Yesterday, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture announced through a Twitter thread that it had indefinitely suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria. The suspension came after Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X