The beauty of a mixed culture: An interview with Ruona Agbroko-Meyer
How did you meet your husband?
I met Michael in Aberdeen, Scotland, when I was sent to a shop by my sister to get some groceries. I felt someone’s eyes on me and turned suddenly to see a man in front of me.
“Why are you looking at me?” I asked him.
He turned bright red and I laughed. He saw this as a chance to ask for my number and I gave him a wrong one. Until months later when I ran into him in the street
“This time, I don’t want any Nigerian 419,” Michael said, insisting on getting my real cell numbers. The rest is history.
What peculiar attributes pulled you to him?
His unwavering encouragement and selflessness. We started off with him in Scotland and me living in Nigeria, as I continued to work there. If Michael says ‘I will call you,’ he will. He has never missed a call or text message in all these years. A day after our wedding in 2011 in Lagos, I returned to South Africa to work with his encouragement while my mother fumed at this “strange behavior.” Whilst at the Financial Times in London I cancelled three dinner dates with this guy to work overtime and learn on the j ob but each time he encouraged me not to worry, but to instead make the most of the experience. He will try every Nigerian dish and put up with or laugh off every Nigerian eccentricity around him not because he has to, but because he really sees everything about me as his’. I always said if any man limited my ambition I would walk fast, even if I was married ten minutes beforehand. With Michael I only hear “Go for it!”
How often do you visit home?
At least four times a year. This is due to work, and the fact that Michael made a promise to my mother that he would not take her daughter and disappear.
What’s the biggest impact living abroad has made on you?
It grounds me and reassures me that the work ethic I was brought up with is the right one. A lot of people in Nigeria, especially journalists I daresay, think the world ends with our country, where anyone rises not on merit but on who they know and how “sharp” they are. “Do you know who I am?” is a phrase Michael was very amused to hear when he first visited Nigeria and it seems people always need to say this at the airports, especially. This mind-set is very limiting, and every day I appreciate the standards that exist here; hardly anyone would even get the basic opportunities here without being professional, disciplined and straight. The Prime Minster, lawmakers, national broadcaster, celebrities get celebrated and vilified in equal measure whenever public opinion feels they need to he. No one cares what car you drive. There is a higher premium on what you have done, who you have made a positive impact on and that reiterates the way I was raised.
A lot of people in Nigeria, especially journalists I daresay think the world ends with our country where anyone rises not on merit but on who they know and how sharp they are
Was it difficult adapting with the lifestyle in a new world at the time?
The weather is one thing I can never adapt to, I am afraid. The fact that I go home so often doesn’t help! London is the most expensive but vibrant, inspiring city, compared to Scotland, where I once lived very briefly. Socially, adapting has not been difficult as I have lived in Lagos all my life. London is saner, I think!
Job-wise, it is very different, compared to when I first started visiting in 2008. Then, there were jobs somewhat for the picking in journalism, compared to what is happening with the recession and technology advancements meaning newsrooms are cutting down on hiring. But I have never been afraid to work twice as hard and just hope my best will put me ahead. I have been fortunate to gain work experience and by-lines with the Financial Times, and I’m now freelancing as a trainer.
Ruona Agbroko-Meyer is a London-based journalist and her work has been published in The Financial Times, Reuters, The Mail & Guardian South Africa and NEXT newspapers, Nigeria. Winning Reuters’ Niall Fitzgerald Prize For A Young Journalist in 2010, Ruona studied at Wits University South Africa, where she blogged for the journalism department and bagged a postgraduate honours degree with a distinction. Ruona was also commissioned to write a piece on die findings of her final project (on journalists’ use of FOI legislation) in journalism.co.za.
Ruona conducts training sessions in her birth country Nigeria, blogs and freelances as a ghostwriter and copy editor in her spare time.