Ifemelu’s friend Ranyinudo greets her at the airport in Lagos. At first, Lagos overwhelms Ifemelu, and she cannot figure out whether the country has changed or she has. Ranyinudo calls her “Americanah,” a teasing term for Nigerians who come back from America with American affectations.
In Ranyinudo’s flat, NTA plays a patriotic fluff story, which Ranyinudo mocks. Ranyinudo never watches NTA, and, in fact, rarely watches any Nigerian stations at all. Ranyinudo’s salary from her advertising job does not cover her rent, and she is dating a wealthy married man. She complains that her lover was supposed to get her a new car. The electricity has been off for a week, and Ranyinudo must run her loud generator until she goes to bed.
Ifemelu has a job lined up as a features editor at Zoe , a women’s magazine. The owner of the magazine, Aunty Onenu, loves the idea of having an editor who lived in America, and insists that Ifemelu visit her at home. Ifemelu finds this request unprofessional, but reminds herself that in Nigeria boundaries are blurred. She dreams of transforming Zoe into a great magazine, and shares her ideas with Aunty Onenu. Aunty Onenu is more interested in proving that Zoe is better than its competitor, Glass . Ranyinudo warns Ifemelu that if she hadn’t just come from America, Aunty Onenu would have fired her for coming in with constructive criticism.
In searching for a flat of her own, Ifemelu discovers being an Americanah opens doors. A landlord who only rents to expats is willing to make an exception for a returnee from America, even though she is Igbo. She pays two years of rent in advance, and then realizes that people take bribes because most people cannot afford to pay this much at once. When Ifemelu yells at tile workers for doing a subpar job and threatens not to pay them, Ranyinudo tells her she’s finally acting like a Nigerian.
Ranyinudo asks why Ifemelu did not call Obinze to ask him for help on getting a nice flat. Ifemelu realizes that for Ranyinudo, men function as objects to manipulate. She has not yet told Obinze that she’s back in Nigeria, although she replies to his emails.
Ifemelu visits her parents on the weekends. She lies to her parents and friends that she and Blaine are still together. Her friends talk about marriage often, and Blaine protects her from her married friends’ pity and from being expected to join in single friends’ jealousy.