As we get into the festive season, I have been reflecting on my relocation. I have been very fortunate to celebrate Christmas and holidays in Nigeria, Germany, and now in the US. The celebrations are very different, and my experiences have been diverse. Each country has provided me with things I enjoy and value during this season.
In this blog post, I will share my experience in the three countries I have lived in and some of my favorite memories.
What is important to me during the holidays?
As I start planning my Christmas celebrations this year, I have been thinking about the three things I'm really looking forward to.
Christmas in Nigeria
The sights and sounds of the holidays in Nigeria seem as if it was yesterday, although I haven't been there in 18 years. I still remember the excitement in the air as December progressed. The Christmas carols and events leading up to the holidays were filled with music and theatre plays. Growing up, with all the joy and excitement, also came some concern about if we will have something special for Christmas. Sometimes we were unsure if we would have the festive clothes we wore on Christmas day, let alone gifts.
My highlight during Christmas time in Nigeria was spending time with my extended family. My cousins were all in town; we enjoyed great meals together and built great memories. Christmas celebrations seemed to last longer when I was growing up in Nigeria. Till today, the delicious meals I cook during Christmas are inspired by what I enjoyed growing up.
Christmas in Germany
My first Christmas in Germany remains engraved in my memory. It was the first time I saw so much snow and low temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius. In addition to the extremely cold weather, this was the first time I spent the holidays without my family. It was very difficult to adapt to new traditions and culture.
Another major shock for me was that the 24th, which is Heilig Abend, is the main celebration day in Germany. For me, it felt like a day to prepare for Christmas, not to actually celebrate it. Honestly, this was something I never really got used to.
My favorite part of Christmas in Germany was going to the Weihnachtsmarkt, aka Christmas markets. They bring together the best regional snacks, meals as well as arts and crafts. Every year, I made it a point to visit the Christmas markets multiple times with family, friends, and coworkers. I miss the special sausages and fresh waffles a lot. The scent of winter spices reminded me of the special time of the year.
Thanksgiving and Christmas in the US
Interestingly as I write this post, we are on our way to spend Thanksgiving with family. Until I moved to the US about five years ago, Thanksgiving was a foreign concept to me. To be honest, it still comes as a surprise every year. It definitely feels good to have a long holiday weekend in November, and then four weeks later, we get another break. The weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with songs and nice decorations.
Christmas in California is very different. One of my favorite parts is that the weather is beautiful and sunny in December. I have come to the realization that I really enjoy Christmas now. I believe it is mainly because I have my own family, and we are creating our lite Christmas traditions.
I have learned that I can influence how much I enjoy the holiday. The five things I remind myself of during this season include the following:
Call to Action
How was Christmas while you were growing up or living in a different country?
What are your favorite holiday traditions?
What is one thing you'll do for yourself this Christmas?
When I reflect on my 18-year relocation journey, I wonder if anything could have prepared me for it. I started thinking about things I wish people told me about living in different countries. Who knows how different my journey would have been? In service to people who just moved or are thinking about moving to a different country and city, I am sharing some things to help them prepare better and enjoy the journey.
Continuing the Her Relocation series, in this blog post, we will discuss ten things people never tell you about living abroad or in a new city. It is crucial to know these things as it will help you address them heads on and increase your happiness in your new home.
It gets lonely sometimes
Leaving your social network behind when you move to a new country or city can be very difficult. And the truth is that it takes a lot of effort to build your new social network. At different phases on your relocation journey, you will miss people in your life.
MC's Tip: Make it a priority to build a new social network when you move.
The search for the food you enjoy will take more effort
Food is an integral part of feeling at home in a new environment. If you have followed my previous posts about my relocation journey, you know that finding food that I really enjoyed when I moved to Germany and the US was a priority.
MC's Tip: Find your favorite meals early.
There may be hurdles on your way
Settling into life in a new country may not be as smooth as you expect. The truth is that there will be some unexpected challenges that you may face on your journey. Even with very good plans, reality may look slightly different.
MC's Tip: Remind yourself of the good that is happening to you.
Your experiences may differ from previous experiences
For a while, you might be trying to draw parallels between your current relocation journey and prior experiences. When I moved to the US, I kept expecting my experience to be like when I moved to Germany about fourteen years before. I can now confirm that there are some similarities, but some experiences are very new.
MC's Tip: Accept that your relocation journey may be very different
People will ask you questions you are not prepared for
In my recent video titled Questions not to ask an Immigrant and Questions to ask an Immigrant, I discuss the different questions people have asked me in the different countries I have lived in.
MC's Tip: Guard your happiness by assuming the best intentions with the questions people ask you.
You will eventually adapt
The good news about change is that eventually, you will adapt to your new life. Especially at the beginning, it's hard to think about things improving. However, as you learn more about your new home, you'll grow to enjoy it.
MC's Tip: Be patient and hopeful. It gets better with time.
There will be things you don't get used to
In the previous point, I stated that you would eventually get used to your new life. While that is true, there are still somethings that you will never adapt to. In my post titled "10 Things you never get used to when you move to new countries" I share some of the things for me.
MC's Tip: Accept the fact that somethings may remain foreign.
You will continuously learn something new
Even after many years of living in a place, there is still so much to learn about your new home. Live each day with an open mind to learn new things about the people, culture, food and environment.
MC's Tip: Be open to learn and expand your perspective continuously.
You will have many opportunities to learn about yourself
The best way to grow personally is to take yourself out of your normal situation. When you move to a new environment, you are pushed to spend a lot of time getting to know yourself. With the right focus and having a growth mindset, you will become a better you.
MC's Tip: Spend time getting to know yourself and your boundaries
It could potentially be the start of a great future
The change associated with your relocation may be the well-needed beginning of a successful future. From my experience, I can confidently say that moving to new countries has propelled my life in the right direction and brought me a lot of success.
MC's Tip: Seek out new opportunities and make the best of them.
Call to Action
What are some things you wish you knew before you moved?
What has been your favorite moment of your relocation journey so far?
Today marks Nigeria’s 59th Independence Day. Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Nigerians. I am excited to celebrate one of my home countries and all that it has given me.
In today's blog post, I will be sharing about growing up in Nigeria with the help of some inflection points. We moved to Nigeria when I was 18 months old, and I lived there until I was 15 year's old.
My earliest memories with Family
I grew up in a town called Kaduna in northern Nigeria. My childhood was spent with my twin sister and my mum. We also lived in the same city as my mother's family. A significant part of life in Kaduna was spent with my cousins, uncle, aunts, grandma, and extended family members. I particularly remember time with family around holidays or family events.
In Kaduna, we had very distinct seasons. The rainy season and dry season also called harmattan, were very different and enjoyable in their own ways. I remember thinking the cold during harmattan was really cold. After living in Germany, I now know that 18 degrees Celsius is not that cold. When it rained in Kaduna, everything felt very calm, and the smell of the wet sand remains in my memory till this day.
The seasonal Foods
With the different seasons came different seasonal fruits and foods. I was always on the lookout for some of my favorite fruit and vegetables. My grandma was an expert on what was in season and the best time to buy certain foods. I wished we had my favorites all year round. And now living in the US, I am very spoiled by the fact that we have the same fruit all year round.
The rich Culture
In all the countries I have lived in, no one can match Nigeria in terms of diverse cultures. Nigeria has many ethnicities and languages that are culturally rich and very different. I count myself fortunate to have grown up in a city that had people from the different parts of Nigeria.
Christmas and other family celebrations in Nigeria were very special. It was a time for close family and friends to enjoy each other's company and great food. I still remember how different my first Christmas in Germany was. Today, I invest a lot of time in recreating some of the Christmas traditions from my childhood.
I think very fondly of the people I grew up with. We had amazing family friends, schoolmates, and people in our community. The warmth and quality of the relationships I had growing up provided me with a firm foundation. I prioritize relationships with the great people around me till this day.
The 14 years, I spent in Nigeria gave me a lot. I am reminded daily that I would not be who I am today if not for the solid foundation I got from living in Nigeria.
Learn More about my Nigeria
As I moved around and lived in different countries, I have learned many valuable lessons. In the past two years, I have been reflecting and sharing about various aspects of my experience living in Nigeria, Germany, and now in the US.
I appreciate the opportunity to learn how to overcome challenges on the way and thrive.
Continuing the Her relocation series, in this blog post, I will share the ten things that will help you thrive and grow in your new home.
#1: Find your people or squad
One of the most important parts of settling into a new city or culture is the people you surround yourself with. Spend time building a tight community. In my blog post titled "The impact of community on my relocation journey," I share more about the five types of communities, everyone needs to thrive.
#2: Embrace your cultural identity
On my journey, I have learned that your cultural identity evolves and changes as you live in different societies. Accepting this fact sometimes takes a while. I shared my personal experience in a video titled "Discovering my Cultural Identity."
#3: Make this new place your home
Especially if you just moved to a new city or country, you may think it's impossible to ever feel at home there. Take it from someone who has been doing this for 18 years; it is possible to make any place your home. Personally, the moment I started taking steps towards making a new country my home, the happier, I was overall. I stopped fantasizing about leaving and started enjoying my new environment. Check out my video about the time "I almost left Germany."
#4: Accept people’s differences
There have been times when I didn't feel welcomed in the country I was in. This helped me see the importance of accepting people the way they are and striving to build a welcoming environment for others around me. We all come from different backgrounds, and we all need to do better at accepting and appreciating our uniqueness.
#5: Find your food
If you are like me, being able to enjoy food that you grew up with is a priority. In Germany, I was on a mission to cook and enjoy Nigerian food. And now in the US. I am still trying to find good German bread. There is an element of comfort that good food can provide while you navigate the complexity of living in a new country.
#6: Learn about your new country and culture
Making time to explore your new environment, the people and culture will help you thrive. Even after living in Germany for 14 years, there were still some aspects of the country and culture that I did not learn about. Another thing I wish I did more of when I lived in Germany was travel more. This point is a reminder for me to do more now that I live in the US.
#7: Be patient with yourself
When you move to a different country, you go through a lot of changes. No matter how much you prepare, there will be some surprises. Take as much time as you need to adapt. Also, remember that you may not get used to everything. I shared the "10 Things you never get used to when you move to new countries" in a previous blog post.
#8: Adapt to a different professional culture
Many aspects of your professional life are different when you work in a new country. Prioritize learning about the professional norms in your new home. Sharing some insights, I gathered in my blog post the "Lessons I learned working in Germany and the US."
#9: Reflect on your Journey & learn
After moving to the US in 2015, I had much time to reflect on my experience in Germany and Nigeria. Sometimes when we are trying to settle in, we don’t see how fortunate we are to be on this journey. I celebrate my experience, which I shared in previous blog posts, “How growing up in Nigeria prepared me for life" and My Life in Germany – Connecting the dots."
#10: Share your story
If you have lived in different cities and countries, you are a hero. Since I started sharing my story, I have had the opportunity to hear other people's experiences as well. Sharing your story serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps you appreciate your accomplishments more and secondly, and it encourages others who may be going through the same thing. I summarized my story in "My Relocation Journey" video.
Call to action
What is crucial to provide you the best experience? Get to know yourself and your needs.
How are you going to make your experience in your new city or country exciting? Create an action plan.
When I think back on my 18-year relocation journey, I am very grateful to all the great people I met along the way. My story would not be complete without these people. Reflecting on my journey, I have learned the art of building and re-building my personal and professional community.
Fun Fact: This week in 2001, I left Nigeria to embark on this journey. I had no idea where I will be in 18 years. Read more of my story in the "Her Relocation" blog posts.
In this blog post, I will share my experience with communities while I lived in Nigeria, Germany and the US, the five types of communities everyone should have on their relocation journey as well as strategies to help you build them.
In my first year in Germany, I lived in a small village with about 1000 people. Until then, I lived in Kaduna, Nigeria, which was a large city with over 6 million people. One of the biggest challenges I faced was that I missed my community. Growing up, I had family, friends who were an essential part of my day to day life. I had not thought about the impact of losing my community and having to build one from scratch. It took me about two long years to build my community in Germany. They became a very crucial part of my life in Germany. Even when I moved to different cities, I was able to find new people and stay connected with my great community.
Moving to the US and leaving my German community behind was challenging. At this time, I was in a phase in my life where I needed to focus more on building my professional community. As I was new to the country, I had to start by learning about the professional culture and then connecting with people in my field.
5 types of communities everyone needs
The communities and networks that helped me be successful on my relocation journey include the following:
Your "Taste of Home"
These are the people that help keep you connected to your home country or remind you of home. Personally, I connected with great people from other African countries in Germany. This group of people understood my experiences and were able to provide some comfort. A lot of my favorite memories were around us trying to find ingredients to make some African dishes we enjoyed. I met most of them in unconventional places like the bus or train station.
Strategies to consider
Especially if you recently relocated, you will need people who help introduce you to your new home country. They are there to help you adjust to your new life and share knowledge of what it takes to succeed in your new country. I did a better job of ensuring I had more of these people in my community when I moved to the US. My integration into my local community was easier with the help of my "integrators."
Strategies to consider
Your Professional Networks
In my experience, this is typically a community that we forget to build early when we move to a new city or country. Especially if you are in your early or mid-career, you need to prioritize building your professional community. It is a continuous process that you want to continue as you grow and transition in your career. Within my first months in the US, I joined the Project Management Institute local chapter. It helped me meet great professionals in my space and provide insights into the US professional culture.
Strategies to consider
Your Passion Groups
Remember that it is vital to continue to grow different aspects of your life. If you have hobbies or a passion project, you want to connect with people who share your interests. This group of people will help you find balance and not lose yourself. I started building these networks about two years into being in the US. My social and professional networks were set before I started looking for people that were working on similar dreams as mine. I decided to start Mastermind groups because I wanted to provide this community for others as well.
Strategies to consider
Your "Philanthropic" Community
To feel fulfilled in your life, you need to give back to your community as well. Identify the group of people whom you want to give back to. There are a lot of female students, the less privileged, job seekers, or professional women who can benefit from your knowledge and expertise. My community in the US has offered me many opportunities to give back. I enjoy speaking at universities, volunteering at events, and mentoring young women. It is essential for me to not only receive from my community but also give back.
Strategies to consider
Call to Action