We rarely talk about a reason why people relocate, and that is cultural displacement. For instance, you find yourself in a country whose values, norms and culture no longer resonate with you, and so you look to other climes. Rapaille covers this topic extensively in his book, Move Up.

Many Americans grew tired of consumerism and emigrated to Europe, while in Europe, those seeking capitalist success began the opposite trek.

Read the Signs

Cultural displacement sneaks up on you but there are signs. You’re annoyed by the mainstream conversations around you and angered by a system that punishes you for not towing the popular line. The resources you need for a niche career take a lot of work to find. Then, your spirit rejects the prevailing belief systems. One day, you wake up and boom! You have become an anomaly in a country where others appear normal.

The Resilience of Youth

When you are young, your preferences evolve as you have not yet discovered yourself or gained awareness. You’ve not formed specific tastes or personal convictions. Life is a grand adventure with inconveniences that can be easily brushed off. But at some point, you become particular.

Four things tend to cause cultural displacement: experience, knowledge, mentors, and exposure.

Let me Give an Example of Life Experiences

I studied at the University of Ilorin. At the time, I was a bright-eyed 18-year-old, leaving Lagos for an extended period. I’d had an earlier choice of going to a military boarding school in Jos but turned it down in favor of a day secondary school. I wasn’t the type to accept hardship willingly.

I was the first to move into my university dorm – A Block to be precise – a room for 8 that quickly ballooned to 20 humans in proximity. On my first day, rats rained down from the ceiling due to missing panels. Then came the odoriferous toilet facilities, days without running water and my quick introduction to hand-pumped boreholes.

But it was an adventure, and I embraced new discoveries with wonder. However, by my fourth year, I was done with that shit and paid for a bed space in Abuja Hostel, with only four people.

My personal preferences evolved in 4 years and I wanted better-maintained toilets, water that flowed consistently and much fewer roommates. Others with the same option preferred to remain in the raucous embrace of A Block, but I felt displaced and chose to leave.

Knowledge Shifts Your Axis

As a young graduate, Fortune Magazine and Forbes were introduced to me. This meant that I prepared myself for global business very early on. I learned to denominate transactions in Dollars, not Naira. When I went abroad for the first time, it felt familiar because I’d already traveled several times in my mind. Today, that girl that used to read magazines is now a member of the Forbes Business Council.

Mentors Are Invaluable

The right mentor will invite you to a world you never knew existed. My mentor introduced me to good taste as he had a design background.

If you grow up in a typical lower-middle-class African home, there is no design there. Instead, you’ll find piles of plastic from several weddings, Chinese dishes reserved for occasional guests, garish religious posters and mismatched bedding.

But this mentor insisted that I develop a taste for alignment, minimal typography, and clean design. I learnt about formal dinners and how to knot neckties and bowties – skills I have long forgotten. But yet another displacement occurred.

Exposure Can Determine Your Fate

You will never realize you are a big fish swimming in a small pond until you jump into the sea. It’s like when you visit some Asian countries and see cutting-edge technology. You’ll realize how far behind the West is.

In 2009, I met people like me from different parts of the world during my Nigeria Leadership Initiative fellowship. After that mind-fest, I proceeded to attend a few courses outside my country.

My brothers and sisters, if you are deeply cerebral and are lucky to be in the company of like-minds, your life will never remain the same. Afterward, you will begin to spend less time on African social media, as you can no longer stand the pedestrian fights about cooking, gender and politics.

You will wonder how Africans are stuck in the 70s when the world is building the future. You will run for dear life, lest you fail to achieve your God-given potential.

Since then, I have paid my cultural exposure forward. I mentored 20 young people every quarter. In addition to introducing them to my business network, every cycle, I gifted a mentee a ticket to a foreign country. It was my way of opening their eyes to new possibilities that were best experienced first-hand.

Don’t Ignore the Feeling of Displacement

My dears, cultural displacement can happen. It’s subtle but insistent. Don’t squash your feelings of not belonging. They are valid. Thankfully, the world is your stage and you are not rooted like a tree.

Best wishes.

For more, please read Be True to Yourself

Life is a grand adventure with inconveniences that can be easily brushed off. But at some point, you become particular. Click To Tweet

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