Parade of Nations in our school
Two weeks ago I got to cross out one more item from my bucket list, I got to attend a multi-cultural all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink party at the Lagos Motor Boat Club. At that event I was able to sample haggis and smoked salmon on bread from the Scottish booth, bratwurst and sauerkraut from the Germans, while my husband enjoyed Italian, Indian, Greek, and South African food.
Compared to Bangkok and Islamabad where we previously lived one of the things I like about living in Lagos is the opportunity to meet and be exposed to other cultures. Maybe it comes from teaching at a school with over 50 nationalities. When we analyzed the student population we learned that majority of our students are Nigerians and Americans, of course, followed by Indians, South Africans, and Israeli. We have teachers from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Egypt, Canada, Paraguay, India, Australia, and Trinidad-Tobago. What is interesting is we have many Nigerian students who were not born here, and several students of other nationalities like Italians, Lebanese and Cypriots who practically grew up here. We also have students who have not “lived” in their home countries, being only able to visit these on holidays. That includes our Pakistan-born son.
This richness in foreign influences is a tapestry reflected in the outside community. This year I met two Filipinas and a Lebanese who were born and raised here. Sometimes they see themselves more as Nigerians. The Lebanese married an Italian who came to Nigerian when he was only a baby. My Filipina colleague has been here for over 20 years. Wherever you go shopping, there’s a good chance the grocery is owned by Indian or Lebanese families, especially if it’s located in Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Ikeja where many expats reside. This is good to know, because these kind of shops carry a lot of spices like thyme, cloves, cardamom, cinamon bark, as well as Asian staples like beans, noodles, rice, chapati or flat bread.
I particularly like the fact that everytime we miss Pakistani” cooking we can buy chicken tikka, palak paneer, and curry at Park N Shop or order home delivery from Spice Bar. There are Lebanese restaurants where you can enjoy shawarma, pizza, hummus, and shisha. But if you want Italian style pizza, then Manuela’s is the place to go or dial. But your choices are not limited to these alone. There are also Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, continental, fusion, and sports bars. We like going to Step Inn, an English pub/sports bar for their fish and chips, and South African steaks (ostrich steak also available).
More important are the people and events that foster that sense of community. There are two major events that brings many expats together: the “Sail Around the World” at the Lagos Yacht Club in November, and Small World by the International Women’s Organisation for Charity in March. The two are similar, but my friends say “Sail Around the World” involves dancing with live band (music), while “Small World” has cultural performances by different country groups. Though I missed both events I highly recommend you try to attend these.
There are numerous smaller events and it helps to make friends to know about them. Each community have their own celebrations and get-togethers all the time, but always welcome other nationalities. The American, British, and Lebanese women have their annual bazaars, for example. I have been to a Diwali celebration. Because there are so many Indians in Lagos, you’ll know it’s Diwali when the fireworks start. Lastly, the Filipinos also meet regularly and have their own bazaar and family days. When I attended one in Apapa they had basketball tournaments.