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12 invaluable lessons learned as a woman moving back to Africa (for work) | Episode 2: Love and other surprises

Posted in Africa, and Women Empowerment

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Back in 2014, while I was working in Paris as a consultant, I received a phone call from a headhunter. He made me an offer for me to quit my job in France to move back to Cameroon and run an ecommerce company.  I eventually said yes, and started the richest and most intense experience of my professional and personal life. I have since moved on to new opportunities, but wanted to share the lessons I have learned in the process with you.  I hope you find here answers and inspiration for your own journey to Africa.

Have you read our last episode? If not click here to catch up!

Last time, we spoke about the importance of finding you purpose before moving -back- to Africa, as it might help you bounce back from any challenge you may encounter along the way.  Some of these challenges may be related to your love life, whether you are in a relationship or single person. We will also address a less juicy but still very critical topic of your health and what you should be prepared for before moving back.

As a disclaimer, please be aware that my lessons a drawn from my own perspective, and may be more appealing to women looking for -or who have found- their purpose in a cause, business or career. I apologize in advance if my experience doesn’t resonate with you, but I would like us to keep the conversation going by you sharing your views in the comment section!

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Lesson 3: Take care of your health.

Mount Cameroon – Buea

Moving back to Africa reminded me that being sick goes way beyond the occasional flu/cold and stomach bugs that I have been used to in the West. Malaria, Typhoid and not so nice STDs are very present, in a place where the health system is far from being 100% reliable. I have listed here few points to be aware of, which could help you stay focused/healthy/alive enough to achieve whatever you to moved back to Africa for, and enjoy a happy life in the meantime. Please do keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and while sharing tips to raise your awareness, I strongly recommend you to seek further advice from a medical practitioner.

– Make a serious checkup prior to your departure, as it is better to move back being aware of any hidden health condition. If you can afford to travel to the West once a year or more, you can even make it a yearly routine.

– I personally believe in prevention and vaccination. I therefore highly suggest to update all your vaccines and if needed add some for typhoid, tuberculosis, tetanus, meningitis, hepatitises, etc. You can start even start the process so before having a set date for your move back to Africa, in order to avoid bombarding your body with all at once shots of all nature.

– If you have a chronic disease that requires a particular kind of care, consider carefully the reliability of the health system of the country you are moving to. Try to avoid relying on a local drugstore/medical center that may turn out to be out of stock of a product you would critically need in case of an emergency. Having a buffer stock at home by requesting a long-term subscription from your doctor before your departure may help mitigate such risk.

– Protect yourself from infectious diseases such as malaria as much as possible. Mosquito net, repellent spray, long sleeves and even menthol (for the persistent and painful black flies, aka Moutmout) will be your best friends to keep the enemies away. Also pay a visit to the hospital every time you feel weaker or more subject to headaches than usual, just in case.

– If you can afford it, subscribe to an international health assurance that would allow you to seek medical assistance abroad in case -knock on wood- you have a complex health issue to deal with. In any case, make it non-negotiable to have a local health insurance for you and your family.

– This tip will make you look very westernized but always have a bottle of drinkable, clean water handy, and/or a drinkable water dispenser at home.

– Staying fit might be more challenging than you expect.  If you can, try to avoid spreading your active time only between your car commute, your desk and eating delicious Ndole/Attieke/Jollof rice/water makes your heart sing. Remember the time you spent running after a bus/train, walking in the park, doing your laundry? Because of poor public transportation systems, safety issues, or because of your more comfortable African life, you will probably not burn as many calories as you used to. So, if you don’t want to look too “success-full” (aka gain weight) try to find some balance in your diet, and adjust your workout routine to your new life/budget.

–  Sub-Saharan Africa bears a disproportionate burden of infections such as HIV. Unless you are actively trying to have a child with your partner, try to have protected intercourse as permanently as possible. People do not always have the best judgments when they are in the secrecy of a bedroom, and you don’t want your life to be threatened by the consequences of someone else’s poor decision. Unfortunately, it happens more than we think. You may not always be able to protect your heart, but try to protect your life.

On a lighter note, this actually a perfect transition to our following lesson!

 

Lesson 4: Carefully assess the impact on your love life

© Candace Nkoth Bisseck

As any big change would, moving back will have an impact on your personal life. As the American motivational speaker Denis Waitley said, Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”

If you are in a relationship, moving back can be the ultimate way to awaken the power couple in you, sharing a new sense of purpose and an exciting project together. Given that you are clear about what you want as an individual and are aligned with your partner, life in Africa could be the beginning of an exciting and fulfilling adventure. Expect the best!

However, your partner may not be willing to follow you in that new chapter of your life. He or she may have no intention to move (back) to Africa and put you in the position to choose your calling and your relationship, which is not easy. Once again, in this case, having a clear sense of purpose may help to make the best decision.

Not sure of what your purpose is? Get in touch with me and we could work on it together. 

Ladies, if you are thinking about moving back with your husband, be aware that life in Africa may put more pressure on your couple than your previous life in the West, especially if you are moving to his home country.

– Extended family, friends, neighbors may invade your personal space and time if you don’t set clear boundaries.

– Your bae might be more subject to temptation from women -at work, in your family, in the neighborhood- with a hidden agenda, flexible morals or weaker personality.

– He may also change, and not necessarily in a good way, influenced by the behavior of business partners, friends, male family members. You may change as well.

– Your family in law can be loving and supportive or the total opposite, questioning your background, your ethnicity, your age, your home keeping skills, or the number of boys you should have given birth to.

People sometimes say they want to move back to help to build Africa, only to end up seeing their relationship or family destroyed. For your peace of mind and as stated above, know your purpose and plan for the worst, just in case.

If you are single, you are one lucky girl. You are free; you can invest in yourself and enjoy your friends and unlimited well-deserved me-time outside of work. However, it may also have its downsides.

– Stepping into a social event, subconsciously wondering if you will meet Mister right has the same effect on your mental batteries as a phone with Wifi and Bluetooth mode on, when you don’t even have a network or device to connect to. It’s draining.

– You may also deal with occasional loneliness, haunting memories from your past, and well-meaning loved ones who do not miss an occasion to ask you “Why aren’t you married yet”? To my humble point of view, it is an un-sensitive, less than smart and slightly sexist question. However, I actually have read an amazing book that could help you answer that question for yourself, instead of justifying yourself to others for something you have very little control on.

So, as very few people want to b single forever, you may think about looking for a boo in the motherland. To be honest, be aware that the struggle is going to be very real!

– Local brothers may find you too westernized/independent/ambitious. Others might have questionable intentions, like abuse your generosity, try to marry you only to change their passport color, or simply cheat on their official partner with an exotic distraction (and yes, that might be you) without letting the aforementioned distraction be aware of her real status. Some may be not open minded enough for some of you globe-trotters. Him: “Sushi? Why would you position yourself to eating uncooked fish? Uncooked fish? What white nonsense is that?” (True story).

– You may also think about your single repatriate fellows, but they are not so easy to identify, and some of them may be too busy entertaining younger and/or more impressionable local sisters. After spending years in a Western city where being a black man is not always an advantage, sometimes coming back to a country where women worship your exoticism may be a serious source of distraction for the male repatriate. You don’t want to compete with that.

– Maybe you could think outside of the box and try Tinder, OK Cupid, or any decent dating app or website, especially if you are in an English-speaking country. Just like in real-life, there might be a fair share of frogs, but at least you will have the satisfaction of having an actual dating life without taking too much time from your empire-building activities. That being said, make sure you will not be too uncomfortable in the eventuality of a client, an uncle or your boss finding you on such apps. Whatever they do in their personal life, many people in Africa tend to have a very conservative or negative judgment on online dating. If you are not willing to bear that risk, you can alternatively choose to date only when you will be on vacation away from the city/country you live in, depending on your willingness to engage in a possible long-distance relationship.

– You could also invest more time in whatever activity that makes your heart sing. In the best case, you may meet a great gentleman with similar passions/values as yours and start a lifelong fulfilling relationship. In the worst case, you will be happy.

– You can also take that opportunity to stay celibate, i.e. be focused on yourself and your future, and protect your heart (and your intimacy) until Mr. Right crosses your path. It sounds like a long process, but if getting married in the next 6 months was your top priority you probably would not be thinking about moving to another continent anyway. If it’s something you would consider, there is also an interesting book written by a celebrity couple on the topic.

Whatever your single story is,  keep working on being your best self, keep smiling and never lower your standards. I can personally tell you that amazing women with purpose are very often blessed with amazing happy endings, it is just a matter of faith and self-confidence. Prepare to be surprised, and in the meantime enjoy the journey!

Don’t hesitate to check my brand new book section 📚to find additional inspiring resources.  And if you still are doubtful after that, simply check this Instagram post from Sarah Blakely, about her own journey as a single woman in her twenties and her thirties, and how she managed to build an empire and a family, eventually. You will love it.

Good luck!

Doual’art Gallery – Douala

I hope you have enjoyed this episode, and that it has given you valuable insight for your personal journey. What have been the most impacting lesson for you so far? Tell us in the comment section below! Please stay tuned for the next episode,  we will be talking about having a backup plan, among others. In the meantime, do not to forget to subscribe to my newsletter, and share this article with your Facebook and Whatsapp Friends!

Take care!

Candace

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