Photo Credit: Brittney Badji
The Black Expat: "When I First Arrived In Senegal, I Knew I Was Home"
February 2, 2022, was a special day for Brittney Badji, and not just due to it being a palindrome date (2/2/22.) It was the day the 36-year-old, Detroit-born, Atlanta-raised UX designer said goodbye to the United States to call Senegal home. She had first visited the West African country back in 2018, after winning an all-expense-paid trip with a group from New York.
“We arrived the day Black Panther came out. I felt like I was really visiting Wakanda. From the first day of the trip, I fell in love with the people, the food, and the culture. Senegal has what they call ‘teranga,’ which is similar to Southern hospitality, but on steroids. I knew I was home. Mind you, I’ve lived in other countries before that trip. I knew that I had to come back and truly make Senegal home.”
Many people leaving their home country to live halfway across the world experience some kind of shock or resistance from their families. However, Brittney’s family was not fazed in the least. They all knew that she would one day end up leaving the States to seek a life abroad.
My decision to move to Senegal
“My decision to move to Senegal wasn’t surprising to anyone in my family. They all knew that I never wanted to live permanently in the US. I’d even gone to college in London, England so this wasn’t odd behavior for me. I think they were only surprised at how fast I moved to Senegal.”
Brittney relocated to Dakar, a city located on a peninsula, surrounded by the ocean. This is one of the things Brittney loves most about her new home, as it allows for stunning views.
“The views are amazing, especially riding in a taxi. I also love the food. Yassa, Thiéboudieune, and Mafe are all my favorite dishes. I love food so this place is perfect. My other favorite thing about living in Senegal is that it only rains three to four months out of the year so there’s sunshine most of the year.”
Brittney also loves being surrounded by people who look like her all day, every day.
“Seeing restaurant owners, hotel owners, and elected officials all melanated individuals inspires me every day. Of course, I’d love to see that more in the US but that’s another story.”
In addition to the Senegalese natives, Brittney says there is a community of African American expats who live there. She is a member of several expat groups on Facebook as well as the Exodus Club, which is run by African Americans helping those who want to move to the Motherland.
“RJ and his wife Aaliyah really helped me a lot. They even helped me find my apartment, amongst other things. I’d love to see more African Americans visit African countries outside of Ghana, however, I’d like them to understand that Africa is NOT the US so please come with an open mind and heart.”
Getting assistance from those who have navigated the process of a US to Senegal relocation, and having access to a relatable community was much welcomed as Brittney navigated all the challenges that come along with getting in a new country. There were several things that certainly took some getting used to.
“Senegal is still pushing towards true independence from France so things are definitely not like the US. Some culture shocks were the squat toilets, the bargaining culture, and dealing with the markets. People will come up to you trying to sell items and they don’t take no for an answer. Sometimes they’ll even follow you through the market. I hate that. Another thing that shocked me, in a good way, was hearing Afrobeats blaring through the speakers of grocery stores, businesses, and taxis. I love it!”
Earlier this year, Brittney got married to a wonderful Senegalese man and she has been enjoying her new family. They are expecting their first child together and are looking forward to getting back to traveling again once the baby is born.
“The Gambia will be our first stop. It’s actually fully surrounded by Senegal and they speak English, so it will definitely be a lot easier for me. I’ll definitely be doing a lot more traveling within the continent. Unfortunately, traveling within Africa is expensive and not as convenient as we’re used to. For example, I want to visit Tanzania. To do so, I have to fly from Senegal to Mali, from Mali to Ethiopia, and then from Ethiopia to Tanzania, which costs between $900 and $1,200.
You can connect with Brittney on Instagram at @locsabroad.