To maintain foreign friends you need to have foreign thoughts and habits.
You love all things foreign. But despite the repeated olive-oiled anointing your pastor gave you and your passport, you failed to get a Visa. You failed thrice- to America, Canada and Britain. You lost a lot of money trying. After the long grueling processes, nothing. Not even when you genuinely secured admission to some small college in London. Or took loans to make your bank account like a solid how-the-hell-can-I-disappear-in-your-country account. God will judge those people who saunter into your country when they please but make you scream your life history at humiliating interviews through a glass that looks like those in prisons in American movies. If only they would have the decency to give you a Visa.
You thought of South Africa but after hearing about the deportation of an award winning writer going for the Caine Prize Workshop, you say to yourself, ‘God forbid that I let a fellow black man humiliate me like that’. Especially not one who until the 90’s still carried around a pass in his own country. God will look into the matter of the South Africans.
God knows you have tried.
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.
You need packaging. Don’t look like something they will be scared of. Wear nice clothes and nice foreign perfume. Something they can relate to. Have a business card that says you do something important or interesting. Nothing introduces you like a nice glossy business card. Work on reducing that heavy accent.
You need to know where to meet foreigners. I can tell you about Abuja at least. Go to play readings and art exhibitions organized by embassies. It doesn’t matter if you do not really care about plays or if you think Australian art is just a waste of space. Join the hash. The hash is plenty of white people running or walking, wearing similar colors, drinking plenty beer and doing things you will find very strange. Don’t be a bush person. Google the hash and learn their terms. Find out what ‘Hares’, ‘On-on’, or ‘Down-down’ mean. Sometimes there is a small fee you pay. Don’t be stingy. Pay up and mix with foreigners.
Watch foreign channels and foreign news to get great conversation starters. So say you meet someone from Belgium, begin by asking her if she is from the Flemish, French or German part. That tells her immediately that you know her country. Then add some random bit of news you recently Googled like, ‘So what’s this I hear about Brussels planning to fine offensive language?’ She will be pleasantly shocked and proceed to give you a lecture about her country, which will soften the ground for future engagements.
When speaking to a foreigner, don’t scare them away with your bush views and thoughts. To maintain foreign friends you need to have foreign thoughts and habits. When you meet British people for example tell them how much you love tea. Say it as if you have always loved tea, as if what you sucked from your mother’s breast was steamy tea. You will be shocked at how quickly you will bond. It doesn’t matter that it only recently came to you as a rude shock that neither Milo nor Bournvita is tea.
Do not do stupid things like admit that you really do not like homosexuals. You will be blacklisted and all hopes of getting a Visa, or foreign friends, will be lost forever.
Never ask for favors. That scares them away. Don’t ask for a job or a loan or a lift. As much as they may appear to be in this country to help poor black Nigerians, they do not want needy black friends. Buy your own drinks.
Say you are a poet. Apart from being sexy, a poet is always considered a higher human species. It does not matter that until you read this article you might have asked if Wordsworth was the name of a store. Don’t disgrace me. Read. You will see how their eyes will light up once they realize you appreciate the sophisticated things of life.
When you attend a social function organized by white people, do not show up like you do to your Uncle’s house, empty handed. Go with something. A bottle of wine. A box of chocolates. That is proper behavior.
Never, in a moment of frustration, talk about leaving the country. This is disastrous to any friendships you may want to cultivate. Especially if your target works in an Embassy. They will avoid you like flies avoid Kerosene. Pretend like if heaven was outside Nigeria, you couldn’t care less. They will feel safe.
Make statements that show you have respect for animals. If he talks about his pet or frets about not finding food for the cat, Archibald, that he brought from Connecticut, be attentive and sympathetic. Remember the cat’s name. The next time you meet ask, with a big smile on your face and a hand on his shoulder: ‘How is Archibald?’
While you are doing all this be sure to avoid fellow Nigerians, like cockroaches avoid light. They understand your hustle and will do their best to truncate it. You cannot afford that. You cannot afford some nosy Bulus telling your oyibo friend, Mr. Carter whose dog Quentin, you religiously ask after, that during Christmas in your village in Kaduna South, you routinely welcome visitors with peppered dog meat.
There is so much I can tell you, but try these. 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.
* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.