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How To Make Foreign Friends
September 6, 2012 5:53 AM   Subscribe

How To Make Foreign Friends You can still mix with Americans. Imagination is a powerful thing. You can have a taste of Canada and all those creamy countries whose Visa’s you have coveted. All here in Nigeria. Granted, the foreigners who come here may not always be the cream of the lot, but beggars cannot be choosers. You will manage the ones here in Abuja. You will enjoy their company so thoroughly that your Visa rejections will cease to hurt. After all, is it not people that make a place? My job is to help you learn how to mix with and enjoy the company of foreigners from creamy countries, right here in Nigeria.
posted by modernnomad (60 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had to click into the bio to see if it was going to be written by a white America. It wasn't. I was glad.

The only thing missing in the piece is an end goal. Why go through that crap just to be around people you do not understand or like and who will cost you money? To what end?

Read more poetry is always good advice though.

Also, you don't need a VISA to visit another country.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:10 AM on September 6, 2012


Please tell me that was satire.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:12 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


>The only thing missing in the piece is an end goal.

isn't the end goal:

Before long you will have so many foreign friends, that memories of Visa humiliations will vanish from your consciousness. And who knows, you might even stumble upon someone- from the Visa section of a cool country- whom God will use to finally bless your hustle.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:17 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's a funny writer. check out how to Be a Nigerian Writer.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:19 AM on September 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


you don't need a VISA to visit another country.

Yes you do. Of course being without a line of credit abroad isn't a great idea either.
posted by Winnemac at 6:19 AM on September 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks for posting this! I also liked How to Be an Expatriate in Nigeria.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:27 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is this -- I mean, you know -- is it sarcastic?
posted by Mooseli at 6:29 AM on September 6, 2012


yes, it's satirical. i even included 'satire' as a tag for those of you confused.
posted by modernnomad at 6:31 AM on September 6, 2012 [9 favorites]



Please tell me that was satire.


I also had trouble picking out the tone of the article.

It's the "Christian Side Hug" of Nigerian journalism.
posted by beau jackson at 6:32 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where is the advice how to approach creamy people who sell items on foreign websites?

All I know is, when this creamy person tried to sell an iphone on craigslist and gumtree, I got the chance to get to know a fair number of Nigerians via email.
posted by C.A.S. at 6:33 AM on September 6, 2012


As someone of Nigerian descent, I died laughing at this article. Very funny and very true.
posted by RedShrek at 6:43 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Funny.

Cjorgensen, when I was in Jamaica, the big prize from the staff at our hotel was to get an invitation letter from someone from the States, as that is one of the requirements for getting a visa to the U.S., apparently.

You don't need a visa to get from the U.S. to many countries (just a passport to the UK, for instance), but you do for say, Brazil and China. Depends on the nature of your visit, but someone looking to stay long term in any country is going to need a visa. The gist is, make friends with foreigners in the hopes that they will invite you to visit them in their home country. Then you can get there and disappear. We used to have guys do this all the time from other countries -- they'd get off the plane in San Fran or Phoenix and poof! We'd never hear from them again -- until someone realized that handing young foreign people huge wads of cash for expenses was not a good idea, and switched to per diem payments.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2012


Marie Mon Dieu,

Maybe in Jamaica all you need is an invitation letter to get a Visa to the US but that is most surely not the case for Nigeria. An invitation letter will get you laughed out of the US consulate in Lagos that is if you would even be able to secure an interview. You need WAY more than an invitation letter.
posted by RedShrek at 6:54 AM on September 6, 2012


Metafilter: creamy
posted by Segundus at 6:54 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, you don't need a VISA to visit another country.
posted by cjorgensen


For most countries, you may not. But a Nigerian citizen most certainly does.

Welcome to the world. It isn't fair, but if you are born in a "creamy country", you are far luckier that you can't even imagine.
posted by Skeptic at 6:58 AM on September 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Looking through his columns, I have to say that Mr. John is pretty biting in his judgments of his countrymen.
posted by tdismukes at 6:58 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


RedShrek, I stand corrected, but the main thrust was that people wanted to escape, and I didn't blame them with the severe poverty I saw outside the resort.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:58 AM on September 6, 2012


Than you can even imagine.
posted by Skeptic at 6:59 AM on September 6, 2012


Understood.
posted by RedShrek at 7:04 AM on September 6, 2012


He's great!

While we hope however, we have also developed or identified practical tools to help us survive the horror that is Nigeria.

Motivational books. Every poor Nigerian who can write his name knows the value of a foreign motivational book. If you don’t have one, you are not a complete Nigerian.

posted by jeather at 7:08 AM on September 6, 2012


I don't know why I found this more depressing than funny; could be my coffee isn't working yet. The How to Be an Ex-Pat in Nigeria and How to Be a Nigerian Writer made me laugh, though. This guy's book is going to be golden.
posted by smirkette at 7:14 AM on September 6, 2012


smirkette, it's funny reading it but very maddening to experience it. In Nigeria, we often say that when some Nigerians see or interact with oyibo people (white people), their body starts to skate (they get excitable). I lived in Nigeria for a few years and I have seen Nigerians provide preferential treatment to ex-pats, especially White ex-pats, at the expense of their fellow Nigerians. It's something you have to see to believe.
posted by RedShrek at 7:20 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I meant to write 'shake' not 'skate'. Stupid typo.
posted by RedShrek at 7:21 AM on September 6, 2012


He also has North American pet naming conventions totally correct, and I am ready to name my next male cats Archibald and Hector.
posted by jeather at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


It took me a bit to clue in this was satire; it fits my stereotype of the hustling Nigerian so much. Embarrasses me to admit it, but I'm confessing it out of admiration for the author. I know nothing at all about Nigeria, which seems crazy. Enormous country, English speaking, relatively modernized. And all I know about it is the reputation for 419 scams. I wish I weren't so ignorant.

(btw, if you're confused about the "join the hash" part, he's referring to the Hash House Harriers.)
posted by Nelson at 7:28 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


And he did a really good, serious one: How to be Angry.
posted by jeather at 7:29 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The hash is plenty of white people running or walking, wearing similar colours, drinking plenty beer and doing things you will find very strange."

Never truer words were spoken. To be fair, the Hash Harriers are about staying sane as ex-pats, but, boy, does it ever come across as white man's burden sometimes.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:31 AM on September 6, 2012


This sounds all too familiar to us, non-creamy people from the third world.
posted by Tarumba at 7:33 AM on September 6, 2012


In terms of hustling and what can be the sheer unpleasantnesss of day to day life for many Nigerians, George Packer's The Megacity is an interesting read, although I do wonder how accurate a picture it paints of Nigeria. I sent a link to the article to a couple of Nigerian acquaintances who settled in Canada a few years ago, and they laughed it Packer's article as ridiculous and fantastic (in the worst sense of the word).

On the other hand, they were educated (he had gone to school for an IT degree) and kind of strange - the wife, upon meeting me just a couple of weeks after arriving in Canada, wondered why I did not attend church, and wouldn't I like to attend a Pentecostal church service? So they may not have experienced what Packer describes in his article.

Hopefully a MeFite knowledgeable about Nigeria and Lago can weigh in here!
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 AM on September 6, 2012


Should be:

On the other hand, they were educated (he had gone to school for an IT degree in London)
posted by KokuRyu at 7:38 AM on September 6, 2012


God will look into the matter of the South Africans.

God knows you have tried.


I laughed. It seems to me like he has a similar wit to Andrei Codrescu.
posted by muddgirl at 7:43 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


KokuRyu, I did read the George Packer article and I found it to be ok generally. The only part that I was not sure of was the part where he writes about being accosted by area boys while he was taking pictures. You see, in Lagos (at least when I lived there) that won't happen to an oyibo man. They may extort you for some money but they won't be violent towards you. I need to go back to the article to refresh myself but that was the one part that I remembered off the top of my head.
posted by RedShrek at 7:43 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, they were educated (he had gone to school for an IT degree) and kind of strange - the wife, upon meeting me just a couple of weeks after arriving in Canada, wondered why I did not attend church, and wouldn't I like to attend a Pentecostal church service? So they may not have experienced what Packer describes in his article.

from the FPP link:

When speaking to a foreigner, don’t scare them away with your alien views and thoughts. To maintain foreign friends you need to have foreign thoughts and habits.

posted by infini at 7:48 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is all really good.
posted by Danila at 7:59 AM on September 6, 2012


You don't need a visa to get from the U.S. to many countries (just a passport to the UK, for instance), but you do for say, Brazil and China.

The level of hoops a citizen has to jump through to get a tourist or work visa for a particular country is a perfect indicator of the relations and power balance between the two countries, based on centuries of treaties and trade agreements, plus a healthy dose of tit-for-tat.

I'm not sure if this is still happening, but there was a period when US citizens (and only US citizens) needed to give fingerprints and have photos taken for tourist visas to Brazil simply because the Brazilian government didn't like the new fingerprinting policy in the US. There's a handful of countries where the visa fees for US citizens are significantly higher than for other citizens due to tit-for-tat policies too.

On the flip side, countries with jobs and stability can use visa allocations as bargaining chips. For example, the US gives a special class of visa to Australians, supposedly due to trade agreements (but also likely due to logistical support for a particular war on terror).
posted by rh at 8:00 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, I guess my point is this: Nigerians should petition their government to open up the entire oil industry to US interests, build a couple of tactical US air force bases in Lagos and then - bingo! - immigrant visas for any Nigerian who can prove they have $500 in the bank and a second-cousin in Albuquerque.
posted by rh at 8:06 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Say you are a poet. Apart from being sexy, a poet is always considered a higher human species.

Technically, in the US, this is only true for foreign-born poets. US-born poets probably ought to get a job and stop with the writing in coffee shops. Those tables are for job creators!

In Nigeria, we often say that when some Nigerians see or interact with oyibo people (white people), their body starts to skate (they get excitable).

RedShrek, I know it was a typo (and that it's actually a serious problem/issues), but for one moment, I imagined something out of Xanadu or other 70s skate-themed musicals.... Now I am just mildly depressed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:15 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


My bad, man. My bad.
posted by RedShrek at 8:21 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Elnathan is great. Read his other stuff. Well worth the visit.

I wonder what kind of law he practices.
posted by entropos at 8:36 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Granted, the foreigners who come here may not always be the cream of the lot

As a foreigner who visited Nigeria back in 1980-81, I can testify that this is indeed true. No one would consider me the cream of the lot, not even back in my own creamy country.

Mmmmmm... creeeeeam....
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:40 AM on September 6, 2012


Did you visit Lagos?
posted by RedShrek at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2012


Did you visit Lagos?

No, RedShark. Entered Nigeria from the north (came through Algeria and Niger overland) passed through Kano, stopped in Ile-Ife long enough to see the coronation of the Ooni of Ife (which was freaking amazing), and lived in Benin City for 6 months, with frequent trips to Osogbo. Never set foot in Lagos.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nice. I spent some time in Benin City. When you where there, it was called Bendel State. Now, it's called Edo state.
posted by RedShrek at 8:55 AM on September 6, 2012


So, I guess my point is this: Nigerians should petition their government to open up the entire oil industry to US interests, build a couple of tactical US air force bases in Lagos and then - bingo! - immigrant visas for any Nigerian who can prove they have $500 in the bank and a second-cousin in Albuquerque.

Wont happen. No matter how much oil is sucked out.

my high school friend was posted there in your embassy for a while
posted by infini at 9:08 AM on September 6, 2012


What's that you say Mr. Ransome Kuti? That it's just part of the Colonial Mentality?

It be so.

(I wish I understood more of the lyrics better.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:28 AM on September 6, 2012


Also, you don't need a VISA to visit another country.

You're American right? For a taste, just a taste of what natives of other countries have to go through, may I suggest taking your next vaykay in Brazil?
posted by bonehead at 10:04 AM on September 6, 2012


I think there was a thread somewhere documenting the H1B application stories, not to mention the green card stories. I have one of those. I also have a third world passport with multi year multiple entry visas to the UK, Schengen and Singapore. Nothing beats the United States Department of Homeland Security, formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service for welcoming visitors. /hamburgerwithchips
posted by infini at 10:07 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even when DHS are trying to be friendly, I always have the lingering impression that they could, if they wanted to, have you thrown in a deep pit for a weekend and then shipped off to Syria. Just perhaps, but not today. It's a new(ish) thing too, it didn't seem to be that way prior to 2001 when they were just the plain old US Customs Service and not the newfangled DHS.

It's a vibe I just don't get off of Immigration from any other country I've visited.
posted by bonehead at 10:22 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


bonehead, *that* feeling is what peaked for me around the spring of 2007 and I moved out. I figured even South Africa'd be safer than that.
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on September 6, 2012


It's a vibe I just don't get off of Immigration from any other country I've visited.

Canadian here. We're flying out of Seattle in a couple of weeks (much cheaper tickets) and this will be the first time I have been to the States in about 15 years. I am a little freaked out, especially about what it's going to be like to take a taxi, and what it's going to be like to go through immigration and airport security.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:48 AM on September 6, 2012


I'm not sure if this is still happening, but there was a period when US citizens (and only US citizens) needed to give fingerprints and have photos taken for tourist visas to Brazil simply because the Brazilian government didn't like the new fingerprinting policy in the US. There's a handful of countries where the visa fees for US citizens are significantly higher than for other citizens due to tit-for-tat policies too.

This is still the case, I believe. (There was an AskMe like last week that led me to reading about Brazilian visas.) A number of South American countries charge Americans for visas and no one else in retaliation to the US charging for visas.

I seem to recall that Chile requires an HIV test (at least for certain visas), but doesn't seem to care if you're positive (it's not grounds for refusing a visa). I don't know if that was retaliation for the US travel ban or not, but it'd be interesting.
posted by hoyland at 11:08 AM on September 6, 2012


Satire is such a delicate art. Thanks for this, modernnomad!
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on September 6, 2012


May God bless my hustle.
posted by danl at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


May God not truncate my hustle.
posted by danl at 12:23 PM on September 6, 2012


It be so .

(I wish I understood more of the lyrics better.)


Here's a page with line-by-line pidgin-English-to-English translation of the song.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:40 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Waitwaiwait, beau jackson - Christian Side Hug was parody?
posted by gusandrews at 5:13 PM on September 6, 2012


I'm a US citizen and just got a Brazilian visa. Maybe it's worse for me because I'm in Mexico, but the requirements included: photos, a letter of reference from my bank or printouts of the last two months of account statements, a photocopy of both sides of a credit card, a letter on letterhead from the business that invited me that described what I would be doing, a letter on letterhead from my company explaining what I would be doing, and a fair amount of money (totaled more than $200).

All this had to be delivered IN PERSON to the consulate in Mexico City, which is very, very far from where I live. I was allowed to have a Mexican friend drop off the documents for me, for an additional fee. And when he had driven the two hours necessary to get there, he was told that I needed to provide another document that they hadn't bothered to include on their list, so he had to make a second trip.

When I finally got to Brazil, no, they didn't take my fingerprints. Argentina did that, though, as well as scanning my iris or retina or who knows what. The $160 fee that I had to pay Argentina as a US citizen was a "reciprocity" fee, which seems a nice way to say "vengeance." At least Argentina let me just show up at the border with a passport and a fistfull of US dollars.
posted by ceiba at 8:00 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should clarify that I had to go through all that to get the Brazilian visa so I could give a 1.5-hour presentation at a conference.
posted by ceiba at 8:38 PM on September 6, 2012


bonehead:
Even when DHS are trying to be friendly, I always have the lingering impression that they could, if they wanted to, have you thrown in a deep pit for a weekend and then shipped off to Syria.
I get that exact same feeling from CBP/CIS/DHS, and I'm a US citizen!

China, where I live until next week...:( just tightened its tourist and business visa rules--you now in addition a letter from your company explaining that you're there to do business in China, you also need an invitation letter from your chinese host/company/tour group, and a letter from their local police station. So you better have somebody on the ground with guanxi (connections) and/or hongbao (money in a red envelope).

Given the level of bilateral trade I can't imagine this level of ridiculousness will last long, but then again, let's see if the guy-who-promises-to-label-China-a-currency-manipulator-on-day-1 gets elected.

Also, to the OP's point, it's true, many of the things in the article will in fact endear you to most expats (particularly the NGO/diplomatic set), although he left out the crucial practice of helping the expat experience some kind of inoffensive but seemingly profound local culture. In China, it's tea, buddhism, chinese opera, noodles, etc. But definitely not cigarettes, majiang, baijiu, dog stew, KTV, and farmville knockoffs. OK, maybe baijiu.

Incidentally, here in China's southwest, it's totally fine to both have dogs as pets and to eat dog meat.
posted by joshwa at 1:08 AM on September 7, 2012


I'm a US citizen and just got a Brazilian visa. Maybe it's worse for me because I'm in Mexico, but the requirements included: photos, a letter of reference from my bank or printouts of the last two months of account statements, a photocopy of both sides of a credit card, a letter on letterhead from the business that invited me that described what I would be doing, a letter on letterhead from my company explaining what I would be doing, and a fair amount of money (totaled more than $200).

And yet, this is better than the process for getting a visa to India if you are Pakistani, and about on par with the process that the US and UK and EU put citizens of many many countries through.
posted by bardophile at 8:47 AM on September 8, 2012


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