From Germany to Nigeria: Expatjournal

Published 2021-07-03 08:32:28
Manuel M. Murrenhoff - Credit:

My name is Manuel M. Murrenhoff, I was born in the USA to German parents, who were expats themselves at that time. We moved back to Germany when I was young. That is also where I grew up. During my Master's studies I went back to the US. From that moment on I had the expat fever. After graduation, I joined a globally acting company, which gave me the opportunity to live and work in Switzerland, Vietnam, Kenya and now Nigeria.

Why did you move abroad?
To experience the richness of life, to witness the diversity of our planet and to give my curious nature the room to flourish.

How have you been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis?
Yes. Business went down, many of my team and myself got Covid-19 (in Nigeria). In the end all went well. We are in growth mode again.

What sort of measures are in place in the country where you live?
In Nigeria official cases are very low although I know numerous people who got it. Nigeria had a complete lockdown in the beginning of Q2 2020 but afterwards life returned to normality pretty much. We still have a curfew starting at 12am but it is less and less enforced. In general, Nigeria has been spared from the massive and long lockdowns of other countries.

How do you make a living?
We help to feed the world with industrial scale grains and food processing solutions. We contribute to cover humans' needs for better mobility with our advanced material technologies. The food manufactured on our solutions touch more than 2 billion people's lives every day. More than 1 billion people benefit from our advanced technologies implemented in their everyday lives - from the smartphone till the car.

During Covid-19, I started a new assignment and relocated from Nairobi, Kenya to Lagos, Nigeria. In Kenya we worked from home for some time. In Nigeria this is not feasible since power supply and internet connectivity are a luxury that not everyone has. For me personally the crisis did not make much of a difference besides using more digital tools. In the end we adapt and life goes on - professionally and privately.

Lagos, Nigeria - Credit:

What is your personal opinion on the way the pandemic is currently managed by the country?
Nigeria and Germany couldn't be more opposite. Germany has a median age of 45.7 years, in Nigeria it is 18.1 years. The impact the virus has on the health of the population is completely different. At the same time the impact a lockdown has on the livelihoods of the population also differs. The majority of people in Nigeria live from hand to mouth. Stripping away their daily incomes has a detrimental influence on the stability of a country. If people cannot follow their trade or lose their casual jobs, crimes, violence, social unrest skyrocket immediately.

These dynamics have to be considered when coming to a reasonable and efficient response to the pandemic.

How do you manage the relationship with your family in your home-country?
I keep the same frequent and regular contact as before.

Without thinking about the current pandemic, what's your favorite thing about being an expat in Nigeria?
I love the thrill, the excitement and energy of Nigeria, especially Lagos.

In this extreme madness of a 24 million soul concrete jungle, things move forward every single day. The environment is tough, rough and yet ultimately rewarding. You only have to open your mind and heart to the dynamics of Nigeria.

Especially when living in emerging countries even mundane activities like grocery shopping, crossing the street, or ordering food become exciting everyday adventures. You literally feel like Alice in Wonderland. After four years living in emerging countries, I got used to the different dynamics, and still, I am amazed by the curiosities and experiences I am exposed to every day.

Manuel - Credit:

And what's the worst thing about being an expat in Lagos?
If you do not find peace, it will crush you. Seriously.

What do you miss most?
Regularly my loved ones. Occasionally good coffee.

Before the social distancing measures, what did you do to meet people in get familiar with your country?
I usually identify the 'hot spots' where the type of people I want to get to know and spend time with, hang out.

Part of it is always the Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba scenes - a hobby of mine that helps me to connect with people in any major city around the world. Human interaction and socializing is 'infectious'. The more you expose yourself, the more you go out and reach out, the more interesting people you will meet who then introduce you to other interesting people.

What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
No-trust environment, patrichary, very traditional gender roles, transactional relationships, show-off culture, extraction/exploiting mindset (corruption), bad customer service, missing understanding for maintenance, missing ownership and responsibility culture (naturally many try to push this up the hierarchy instead of taking decisions on their own).

There are many bad aspects one could focus one. But that is true for life in general. Instead of complaining about the things that are not working I constantly remind myself to focus on what works and what kind of positive impact - howsoever small - my presence and actions can have.

What is a myth about your adopted country?
That everyone is a scammer.

What advice would you give other expats?
Don't forget what you learned in your home country. But put it aside and relearn many things. Always stay respectful and grateful. Do not fall into the typical expat traps.

When and why did you start your blog?
I started it in 2019. I enjoy writing and would like to give people a glimpse at what expat life (especially in emerging countries) is about.

How is having a blog been beneficial?
I simply enjoy writing. Not more, not less.

Old container ship on a beach in Nigeria - Credit:

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