Immigration & Identity

I read a Daily Mail article on Mo Farah this morning and I could tell from the tone, how proud the writer was to call Mo British. Despite being born to Somali parents and spending the first 8 years of his life in Somalia, if you took a poll today, I suspect that only a small minority of people in Great Britain would consider him a foreigner.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he has set the record books blazing with his performance at the 10k men’s final and the olympic gold medal hanging round his neck.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he has seemingly embraced the culture of the Nation (while remaining muslim) and chosen to put himself forward as a representative of Great Britain.

Sir Mo, the TV pundits have been calling him…and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name on the next honours list. A great prospect for a man who couldn’t speak a word of English when he first touched down in London.

Like many immigrants, by his own admissions, he never felt accepted by British society and it wasn’t until he heard 80,000 people screaming his name in the Olympic stadium while he stood on a podium with the British anthem playing, that he finally felt accepted, like he belonged.

An immigrant myself, I know too well what not belonging feels like.

Twenty-eight years ago I was born in London to Nigerian parents who promptly shipped me back to Nigeria as soon as I was fit to travel.I spent the first 16 years of my life in Lagos after which my mother packed my bags and shipped me back to London. I have now lived in London for round about 12 years.

I go to Nigeria and much as I enjoy being there in spite of all the madness, I no longer feel like I belong there. In theory, it’s home but honestly, I feel like a square peg in a round hole. It no longer fits.

I come back to London and even though it’s been home for the last 12 years and I have built my life here, every now and again something happens that reminds me that happy though I am here, I’m not quite British.

I have become  a hybrid of two cultures.

I had a conversation with a British-Indian friend that made me realise I’m not the only one that feels this way. Even though he has never been to India, his parents have done a great job of keeping him connected to the culture, so much so that he shares my dilemma.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. Are you a hybrid of two cultures and how do you deal with this? If you have dual nationality and had the opportunity to represent a country at an event, how would you decide which of your countries to represent?




  1. I think a lot of people feel this way….It’s like you’re a limbo. neither here nor there.

    Truth is if Naija is one of the countries, its an easier choice, pick the other country. Naija does not appreciate its own. Some of the Nigerians at the Olympics representing other countries have a story to tell on how they were let down, disappointed by the naija sports administration/government. Vexed enough that they switched camps…..Sad!!


  2. I would represent Team GB… despite having the “John Smith” of Yoruba names…. I feel most at home in England. Born there and lived there for 11 years before spending 5 in Nigeria and promptly heading back to England.
    There is zero limbo for me I must admit.
    Nigerian people always call me “Oyinbo” and when I state my origin as being from a Nigerian family- there are gasps of suprise “really I would never have guessed that” is the usual response from non Nigerians.
    Funniest is my son technically three nationalities and simply watching the Olympic games has made him decide that if given a choice it would be TeamUSA- “look at all the medals they have!!! They must be the luckiest team ever.”
    With maturity he will see that the “luck” is grit,training and discipline.



    See people with IDENTITY ISSUES….I have never ever been “confused” about my identity, not even for a split second.

    My Father comes from Benin and my Mother is from Effurun. No confusion there whatsoever!

    So because some of you managed to spend more than 5 minutes living abroad, your heads are now spinning about your identities.

    I see Kolo Mentality is rife here 😉


    Mo Farah is from Somalia, is African and will always be African. The ONLY REASON he is lauded today is OBVIOUS.

    Did ANY OF YOU LISTEN to the commentary as he ran that 10,000m final race???

    The commentator said,”MO FARAH TAKING ON THE MIGHT OF AFRICA” in reference to the other African athletes.

    As if he is not African himself!!

    Oyibo people love to CO-OPT anything of value. It is their way.


  4. I understand how you feel, being a US migrant and all that. I don’t deceive myself however: I am Nigerian above all else. Ekiti to be precise. I am most comfortable at home in Nigeria where I do not feel the weight of the stares of strangers.


  5. I feel like this a lot too and oten push the feeling aside and focus on the nows and enjoy what i can. In terms of representing a country for the olympics, unfortunately, Nigeria doesn’t have a track record of supporting its athletes. I guess it would depend on what my motivation is. Am i doing it because I want to represent my country (Nigeria) or am I doing it because it is a sport I love and cherish and I need all the support I can get to get there (GBR). Doing it for Nigeria would just be for sentimental reasons on my path.. except the show me the appreciate my efforts.

    plus another question is this.. when people say where are you from, what is the correct answer?


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