The novel shifts to follow Obinze’s time as an illegal immigrant in London. Obinze meets with two Angolan men who are arranging an illegal green card marriage for him. They take a down payment on his marriage. When Obinze meets Cleotilde, his bride-to-be, Obinze double-checks that she wants to marry him, assuring her that they’ll divorce as soon as he has his papers. She affirms that she’s okay with it and needs the money. They decide to meet up separately to get to know each other better. He is attracted to her but does not want to act on it until after they are married.
He thinks back to before he left for London, when he felt like a failure because all his plans had involved America. However, he cannot get an American visa due to 9/11 and heightened fears about terrorism. He also has a difficult time finding a job. His mother decides to bring him on a research trip to London. She lists Obinze as her research assistant, giving him a six-month visa and a chance to move forward in his life. Obinze is shocked that his honest mother would turn to deceit.
The next few chapters describe Obinze’s early London experiences. His first job in London is cleaning toilets, a humorous cliché. One day he finds a turd left on the toilet seat, clearly an intentional message for the company. Humiliated, Obinze leaves it untouched and storms off. That night, he gets the email from Ifemelu. He had been hurt and furious when he realized that she had been in touch with other people and not him. Her calm tone, combined with his shame at cleaning toilets, infuriates him, and he deletes the email.
Obinze lives with his cousin Nicholas and Nicholas’s wife, Ojiugo. In Nsukka, Nicholas and Ojiugo had been rebellious, glamorous college students. In London, they are models of respectability. Nicholas speaks to Ojiugo in the same tone of voice as he does his two children. Ojiugo claims that Nicholas’s attitude is because he only recently got his papers and lived in constant fear before that. When Ojiugo talks to fellow mothers, they spend the time comparing their children’s test scores. They gossip about a black mother who is surprised another black woman can afford to sign her children up for the youth orchestra. Obinze tells Ojiugo that his mother used to predict that Ojiugo would be a literary critic. Ojiugo explains that all her hopes are centered on her children now.
Emenike, Obinze’s college friend, now lives in London with his white wife, Georgina, and seems too busy to help Obinze. Another family friend of Obinze’s introduces him to a man named Vincent Obi, who will let Obinze use his National Insurance card if Obinze will give him a percentage of his salary. Obinze tries to haggle, but ultimately has no choice.
Obinze, using the name Vincent, takes a few jobs. He experiences hostility from white coworkers as well as camaraderie with fellow immigrants, who deal with white British people mangling their names. After hurting his knee at one job, his coworkers joke that he is a “knee-grow.” He finds a job making deliveries for a warehouse. His cheerful boss, Roy, likes him and gives him good hours. The other warehouse workers all share elaborate, lascivious stories about women, and they assume Obinze is a ladies man. When Obinze claims that he hasn’t been having sex because he has a girlfriend in Nigeria, Roy asks if she put witchcraft on him. One of his fellow drivers, Nigel, offers to sightsee with Obinze after deliveries. Obinze likes Nigel because he splits their tips evenly, unlike the other drivers. He notices that Nigel’s opinion of people often depends on how posh their accents are. Once, a Jamaican immigrant woman offers Obinze an extra tip and calls him brother.