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
Making a new city or country your home is a huge task. Some things are easy to adjust to; then other things take a longer time to accept while others you never adapt to. I have been on a journey to explore what those are for me.
Over the past year and a half, I have been sharing my experience living in different countries as part of the Her relocation series. The fantastic conversations I have had with other women who have similar experiences motivates me to reflect and share more.
In this blog post, I will share some of the things that I am still adjusting to and the ones I have accepted that I may never adapt to. The list ranges from food, language, culture and more.
#1: The Food
When I lived in Germany, I missed Nigerian food and had to find a way to cook some of my favorite dishes. Now I am in the US, and I miss German bread. It seems to be the norm; when I move to a new country, I still miss the different dishes I enjoyed in my other home countries.
#2: The Sayings or Adages
Especially when you are learning a new language, one of the last things you connect to are sayings in the new language. Often it is not that you don't understand them, it's because your brain doesn't automatically make the connection. I find myself still trying to decode German sayings and thinking to myself - why do they say that?.
#3: The Local Dialects or Accents
It takes a while to learn a new language. After you have mastered it, you then start hearing new accents or dialects spoken in different parts of the country. Even after 14 years, I was still discovering new words German dialects and getting used to different accents. And now I am exploring the multiple accents in the US.
#4: The Music
Although I lived in Germany for 14 years, German folk music is still a mystery to me. When I'm in a celebration or sentimental mood, I go to Nigerian music. The warm feeling I get when I hear songs from my childhood is indescribable. Over the years living in different countries, I had added some other genres of music to my repertoire. However, Nigerian music is still home to me.
#5: The Stories or Historical references
Given that I spent my childhood in Nigeria, I am very unfamiliar with German or American historical references. Often when I am in conversations, and people make references I don't know or understand, I ask clarifying questions.
#6: The Stores
If you know me, you know that I'm a huge fan of ALDI, a great grocery store in Germany. I shopped there nearly every week for 14 years. It got to a stage where I knew the store very well and noticed if they rearranged the store or added a new product to their stores. I had to provide some deep context to drive home to point. After four years and many new stores to explore in the US, I still miss grocery shopping in Germany. I'll give it ten more years and see if I adapt to the stores in the US.
#7: The Holidays and Celebrations
I should start by saying I am very grateful for having time off. With 4th of July holiday this week, I am reminded of the fact that this is a new holiday for me. Apart from enjoying the sun, what else do we do? Also, some of the holidays observed have very interesting traditions that are foreign to me.
#8: The Measurement System
Ok, this one is specific to living in a country like the US that chooses to use a different measurement system. After being in the US for over four years, I still can't figure out the temperature in Fahrenheit or the weight in pounds or distance in miles. I have gotten to a place where I memorize the conversion to the values I use often.
#9: The Weather
When I moved to the bay area, I was confused about the fact that it doesn't rain in summer. Almost everywhere I have lived, summer has been the major rain months. I have grown to enjoy the cooling rain after a very hot day in Cologne. Rain showers are a part of a great summer for me. However, that's not the case here. I keep waiting for the rain, and I'm reminded that I have to wait until winter.
#10: The People
Although I am very happy to be where I am today, I still miss my family and close friends in Germany. The most challenging part is missing key milestones and experiences. I have learned to make use of technology and other ways to stay connected with the people I care about.
Call to Action
What are some of the things you are still getting used to?
After years of living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US, I am celebrating all the lessons I have learned so far. The objective of this post is to appreciate lessons I learned from the good and not so good experiences that I have had.
This post continues my Her relocation series, where I share about my life in Nigeria, Germany and the US. In this post, I will share the top three lessons I learned in each of the Countries I lived in. To see a quick summary of my relocation journey, check out my video.
3 Lessons I learned living in Nigeria
I spent my early childhood until the age of 15 in Kaduna, Nigeria. Some of the lessons I learned include:
#1: Enjoy good food
At any moment, you can ask me the types of snacks or meals I enjoyed in Nigeria, and I will have a quick response. I am delighted that I got to experience delicious Nigerian food. I think very fondly on the times I spent with my family enjoying and exploring native dishes. Even after living in other countries for a long time, I still cook and enjoy great Nigerian food.
#2: Care for people
The importance of the family unit and relationships is one that is emphasized in Nigeria. The values I learned around caring for people is one that has influenced my personal and professional life. Being able to connect with people and be warm has helped me, especially as I build new social networks.
#3: Celebrate your culture
Growing up, I enjoyed the days when we got to wear Nigerian attire to school. Being able to see all my friends represent the different parts of Nigeria made me appreciate our cultural heritage. Now when I see people celebrating their culture, it makes me proud of my cultural identity as well.
3 Lessons I learned living in Germany
Living in Germany during my late teens and early adulthood, I learned many valuable lessons that formed my character and identity. Some of the lessons I learned were:
#1: Be independent
Being comfortable on my own and not depending on others was a very valuable lesson I learned in Germany. I learned how not to need people but to want them in my life. Being the owner of my happiness and driver of my destiny was huge for me. I wouldn't be where I am today in my personal growth if I didn't learn to be independent.
#2: Use your voice
One of the first things that impressed me in Germany was how comfortable people were with sharing their unpopular opinions. It was more about speaking up rather than worrying about what people thought about it. I learned to be very outspoken in Germany. I went on a journey of finding myself, what I care about, and then sharing it. The freedom to speak my mind was one that helped me grow into who I am today.
#3: Be disciplined
Some of the values I learned in Germany include keeping your commitments and being consistent. These principles guide me in everything I do today. If I give you my word or make a plan to complete a task, I make sure I do it. The discipline I learned has helped me achieve my personal goals.
3 Lessons I learned living in the US
In the last 4,5 years living in the Bay Area, I have experienced immense personal and professional growth. Some of the lessons I learned are:
#1: Dream Big and live out your dreams
In my previous blog posts, I shared how I found the courage to start my business after I moved to California. Seeing other people start their businesses and hear their stories inspired me to take the leap. The freedom to try out ideas and search for what works is definitely promoted here.
#2: Take a break and do something fun
I was amazed at how much people would do over the weekend and share on Monday. To be honest, this is a lesson I am still learning. I'm slowly getting better at making time to do things that I enjoy. There are so many fun things to do in the sun here.
#3: Talk about yourself and your achievements
Before I moved to the US, I was convinced that my work would speak for itself. Over the past four years, I have learned the importance of celebrating my achievements and talking about them. The more I talk about my accomplishments the more I appreciate my journey.
Call to Action
What lessons have you learned on your journey so far? Celebrate your learnings.
Am I Nigerian, German or even American?
For the longest time when people asked me about my cultural identity, I did not know what to respond. The simple question "where are you from?" left me wondering and uncertain. At this point in my life, I have lived in Germany, Nigeria and now in the US.
When I started sharing my story as part of my Her relocation blog posts, I received a lot of questions and comments that helped me reflect on my journey. One of the questions that stuck with me was "‘at what point does one stop being an immigrant?". This spoke to the most profound feeling of belonging and identity that I had battled with for a long time.
In this post, I will share a little bit of my experience and the five lessons I learned about my cultural identity over the past 18 years living in three countries.
My cultural identity has always been a topic of discussion. Initially, I laughed at the questions and did not think much about it. However, the questions increased with my most recent move. I needed to spend some time thinking about how I define my cultural identity.
The first time I ever used the phrase German-Nigerian to describe myself was when I moved to the US. While I lived in Germany, I identified as Nigerian which is interesting given my mixed heritage. I wonder if I will become German-Nigerian-American when I move to my next country.
On my exploration journey, some of the questions I asked myself were?
I once heard the phrase from an Asian lady who said her background is Asian, but her culture is black, based on where she grew up in LA. This was the best way I had ever heard someone speak about their cultural identity. For me, my food culture is Nigerian, and my professional culture is German. I am smiling as I write this.
Over the years, I have learned that being multi-cultural is an asset, not a weakness. I make it a priority not to let anyone talk about it as a disadvantage. Yes I have an interesting accent, yeah I look different, and I absolutely can't be put in a cultural box. This is what makes me unique.
Lessons I learned about my cultural identity
In my 18-years of living in Germany and the US, I learned the following about whom I identify as.
#1: You define your identity
People around you will try to define your cultural identity based on how you look or sound. However, the real person that determines your identity is you. Choose what feels right to you.
#2: Your identity will change
The experiences you have in the different countries you live in will influence you. Accept the evolution of your identity. This will help you avoid identity crisis and feel comfortable with who you are.
#3: You will feel out of place (sometimes)
We go through phases of feeling like we do not belong in the country we are in. Sometimes it happens because of a negative experience. I want you to know that feeling out of place from time to time is perfectly normal.
#4: You will see different sides of identity
Different parts of your identity will be highlighted in different countries or situations that you face. Adapt to your environment and put your best foot forward. Choosing to show one side more does not make you become less of the other side of you.
#5: You will need to inform others about what you identify as
Often, people decide they know my identity by judging my looks or accent. I make it a point to let people know more about my cultural background and Identity. If you don't inform them, you can't be upset when they misidentify you.
Call to Action
What is your cultural identity? Celebrate your multi-cultural identity.
Check out my previous posts on my relocation story living in Germany and the US.
While I was reflecting on my first 4 years in the US, a few things came up that I still don't fully understand. In the post, I'll be sharing some "special" things about living in the US. I'm building on my previous post 10 things I wish someone told me before I moved to the US.
This is a fun post. I needed a good laugh. And so you know - I have been having a great time so far in the US, I just feel like there are a few things that we need to address. Am I the only one the feels this way?
#1: Why is there always some sports events on TV?
I wonder when the sports seasons start and end. It seems like there is some sporting event ongoing all the time. From American football to basketball to baseball and all others. There is definitely an excess of sports compared to Germany where the Bundesliga takes breaks in summer and winter.
#2: Where are all the good bakeries?
On some days all I want is a delicate slice of cake or hearty German bread. All of which cannot easily be found here. You may think this is trivial, but after four years I am still looking for my favorite Bakery. Living in Germany spoilt me with all the great bakeries on every street corner.
#3: How can you say something is a "world" event when it's only celebrated in the US?
Let me just start with "World series for Baseball" - who is the world referenced here? Recently people were talking about an event that happened in the US that the whole world heard about – and my response was "I was in Germany, and I didn't hear about it." I make it a point to remind people the US is large but not the world.
#4: What do these sports metaphors mean?
If you use a sports metaphor in a meeting, you are assuming we all have the same background and enjoy sports and much as you do. Does hitting a home run mean our project is successful or that we are running around the field. I smile every time someone expects me to understand a sports metaphor. In my defense I know - "it’s a goooalllll" means we are winning.
#5: When will banking be brought to the new digital age? :)
All banking transactions should be available online including International transfers, and bank transfers should be instant within the same bank at least. If I have to fill out a paper form for a bank transaction, you lose me. I still don't get the concepts of cheques. Every time I get a cheque I feel clueless.
#6: Why is this country so big?
In my four years here, I have visited only 4 of the 50 states. I wonder if I will ever be able to visit all the states. California on its own is so big and provides a variety of things to see. I'm blessed to live where I do, and I want to see it all. I just don't know how.
#7: Why is the milk jug that big?
This one is on this list, most likely because we are a two-person household. I'm still shocked when I see the size of the milk jug in the stores. I always wonder who is able to drink a whole gallon of Milk. I'm more comfortable with the one-liter packs. Don't get me started on the size of grapes or apples here.
#8: Why does the University you went to matter?
Especially since I studied in Germany, I really can't contribute to conversations about colleges or universities. I wonder if the knowledge and experiences you gathered should matter more than where you got trained. Especially with the recent events in the news, it may help for us to get to a place where it no longer matters.
#9: Why don't we use universal metrics?
It should be easy for me to tell you the temperature. No, it's not that easy if temperatures in Fahrenheit mean nothing to you. I am comfortable telling people the temperature in Celsius and letting them convert for me real time. Knowing miles versus kilometers is one I thing I can get the hang of. However, pounds versus grams is one I still have to think about every time I buy meat.
#10: Why do political campaigns take so long?
When I moved here in early 2015, the campaigns were just kicking off for the 2016 election. I was sure the elections were in Nov 2015 because of how many conversations were being had. And now it's all happening again. Politicians are touring the country with about 22 months to the 2020 elections. It is all in my face 24/7 and I don't even get to vote here.
Call to Action
What are some things you don't understand about the place or culture you live in?
Continuing my relocation story with year 2 and 3 in the US. The theme of this phase was "shaking my foundation and new beginnings." A few weeks ago I completed my fourth year in the US. Looking back I'm amazed at how quickly time has gone by. While my focus in the first three years was getting settled, situated in my new home and growing my career, in year four I made a significant professional change.
In this post, I will share my experiences, learnings, and insights in my fourth year of living in the US. If you missed the first three years of my journey, read My Life in the US - Year 1 and My life in the US - Year 2 and 3 posts.
Going back home to Nigeria
Earlier last year, I traveled back to Nigeria. After living in Germany and now in the US, my life has changed a lot since I moved from Nigeria in 2001. In my three weeks there, I enjoyed great Nigerian food and reconnected with family I had not seen in years. Read more about my experience in my blog post. My trip to Nigeria after 12 years.
Going back home to Germany
In addition to going back to Nigeria, I also attended a family event in Germany. Spending a week in Saarbrucken a city I spent my first years in Germany brought back many memories. I had not spent this much time in Saarbrucken since I moved away in 2007. Showing my family my favorite pasta, kebab and breakfast spot was amazing. I was shocked at how much I remembered about a city I spent six formative years in.
Politics impacting my real life
When I started my journey in Germany as a student, dealing with visa applications was a very regular part of my life. Moreover, here I was again after 17 years of living in different countries; I had to make some changes. Being a legal immigrant working in the US, I was made aware of how policies that the government makes affects me. I've been blessed not to have any huge issues.
Growing my business
One of the things I have valued the most about living in the bay area is the idea of "you can do anything." This mindset helped me take a bold step and start my blog and business. There is something electrifying about being surrounded by other entrepreneurs who share their experiences and knowledge. Living in Germany, I am not sure I would have been bold enough to make such a big move.
Exploring my new home
Even after three great years, there were still somethings I had not yet experienced. I had the opportunity to travel more and enjoy California more. This is really one of the greatest places I have lived from the perspective of nature. In addition to traveling a little more, I also explored the sports culture by going to see my first basketball game.
Growing my network and community
Thinking back on last year, I was able to build my local network both professionally and for my business. I attended a lot of events and trainings that helped me expand my network. Meeting great women and business owners broadened my perspective. As I think back on one of the most exceptional experiences I have had so far in the US, it would have to be building a network of people who encourage you to do the big things you dream about.
As someone who has interviewed for Jobs in Germany and now in the US, I can definitely say there is a huge difference. I interviewed at four great companies on my quest to find a new job. Going through the preparation process and interviewing helped me be more confident about my skills and professional experiences. I had the opportunity to introduce myself professionally to about sixteen people. Interviewing in the US has a huge component of self-marketing which I had to learn to succeed.
Starting a new job
Professionally, I made a significant change last year. After being with the same company in Germany for eight years in total and in my first three years in the US, the time came for me to join a new company. I have learned a lot through the process of starting a new job in the US. As with every new thing we start, there have been a mix of good and bad experiences as well as many learnings.
Top 10 Lessons learned
Over the four years of my relocation journey to the US, I have learned so many valuable lessons, that I would like to share with you.
Call to Action
What is the biggest lesson you have learned living in a new country? Reflect on your experiences, document your lessons learned and share them
Continuing the Her Relocation series, with some of the lessons I learned working in Germany and now in the US. As I reflect, I realize that the countries I have lived and worked in have influenced my career in significant ways. My portfolio and skill set are very diverse. Which I'm now learning is one of my unique selling propositions.
Looking back, I appreciate the opportunity to have started my career in Germany and continued my journey in the US. The combination of all my experiences has helped me achieve great career success. In this blog post, I'll share some of the professional lessons I learned so far.
Lesson #1: Be culturally aware
My experience as an immigrant and working with people from diverse cultures prepared me to manage global projects. Learning from some of my negative experiences, I appreciate and respect diversity. Building inclusive teams where everyone feels valued is a priority for me.
Lesson #2: Gather knowledge and learn new skills
In Germany, I learned the value of setting a solid foundation with theoretical knowledge. Early in my career, I got a project management certification, and since then I have continued to keep my skills fresh. This has helped set me apart and prepare me for the big tasks I have worked on.
Lesson #3: Promote yourself
A valuable lesson I learned working in the US is that it is not enough to do great work - You need to talk about it. Initially, I struggled with talking about the great work I was doing. After observing my peers do an amazing job talking about their experiences, I started working on finding a way that worked for me. Honestly, I'm still learning and practicing self-promotion.
Lesson #4: Your relationship with your co-workers matters
We spend a significant amount of time with our co-workers. I learned the value of taking a proactive approach to building a relationship with my team when I moved to the US. Partly because I was a new member of the team. Spending time getting to know my team members on a more personal level helped me integrate into the team well.
Lesson #5: Move and re-invent yourself
Typically, in Germany people stay at a company for a very long time. Working in the US changed my perspective, it's ok to move around and re-invent yourself. I now see starting new jobs or changing roles as a normal part of my professional journey.
Lesson #6: Be organized and structured
Especially as a program manager, being very organized has many benefits. With everything that I juggle and manage concurrently, it is essential for me to be structured. I like to say I enjoy to bring structure to chaotic situations.
Lesson #7: Plan for flexibility
One of the most significant changes for me, when I moved to the US, was the need to adapt to changes very often. I was used to having some changes on the projects I led. However, I was not prepared for the level of flexibility I would need to accept and plan for in the US. Adaptability and agility were skills I needed to learn very quickly.
Lesson #8: Know your worth and ask for what you want
At the time when I moved to the US, I didn't feel empowered to voice my needs and ask for what I was worth. I learned valuable skills from observing others, reading books and learning how to think about myself more. The first lesson I learned was that if I don't know what I'm worth, I'll never ask for it or get what I deserve.
Lesson #9: Build your professional network/community
Since my move to the US in 2015, I have attended so many events and joined some great professional groups. Thinking back, I started questioning how I went through my career in Germany without building my network.
Lesson #10: Do good work and let your work speak for you
Doing great work is a lesson that I learned as a child. My skills were honed and refined in Germany. The quality of the work you do speaks on your behalf. I learned many valuable techniques for ensuring I did great work when I worked in Germany.
Lesson #11: Think big in your career
The concept of setting aspirational career goals was amplified in the US. Striving to do things and take steps that don't feel entirely logical was a valuable lesson I learned. Not limiting myself or being extremely logical about all of my career moves, is the only reason that I'm where I am today.
Lesson #12: Share your knowledge and expertise
Both Germany and the US have contributed to my passion for sharing my experience. I enjoy the different opportunities I have to share my knowledge and learn from others.
Call to Action
What countries have you worked in and what valuable career lessons have you learned? Please share with your community and me.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel back home to Nigeria. When I left Nigeria in 2001, I never expected that I would only be back twice in seventeen years. As I write this post, I still can't believe it took me so long to go back to my original home country. I spent three beautiful weeks in the country that gave me a great childhood where I lived for fifteen years.
On this trip, I spent time in Abuja and Calabar, two cities that were new to me. The primary purpose of my trip was to celebrate my friend's marriage. I experienced many firsts on this visit.
In this blog post, I'll take you on a reflective journey of my trip to Nigeria after twelve long years.
How did I prepare?
In the months coming up to the trip, we spent time thinking of small things we could do to make the trip special. We created a list of food and snacks that we wanted to enjoy. It was essential for us to reserve something fun for ourselves. I can report that we were successful with the food goals we set.
What was my first impression?
Going back, it almost felt like I was in a new country. After a very long journey with the best travel companion ever, I was very excited to be in Abuja. The airport ordeals were very familiar. The additional luggage and immigration checks we had to endure, reminded me of past experiences. Also, hearing people speak Hausa made me feel at home immediately.
What were my highlights?
Spending time with my mum as an adult was very special. Until then, I had not spent longer than a few days with my mum over the last twelve years. We learned a lot about one another. Another highlight was experiencing my friend's wedding. This was the first Nigerian wedding I was very involved with. There were many valuable lessons learned to say the least.
What surprised me the most?
Nigeria is a very different place from the country I left seventeen years ago. Globalization is very evident. It feels like almost everything is available now. Staying connected was much easier than I remembered.
What was the same?
I still felt at home with family and friends. Being able to enjoy meals with family and close friends whom I hadn't seen in many years was special. Not that I had any doubts, but the food was as amazing as I remembered. I enjoyed sugar cane, furah, waina, and some fantastic suya.
What was very different?
The last time I visited Nigeria, I was twenty years old trying to find my place in the world. On this trip, I became more aware of how my perspective of what is important to me has changed. I was able to navigate uncomfortable situations better and enjoy the small good things even more.
What did I enjoy the most?
The simplicity of life in Nigeria was a welcome break from my life now. Partly because I was on vacation and not working, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. I was constantly reminded of the importance of enjoying life and being present in the moment.
What didn't go so well?
The story won’t be complete if I don’t mention the not so good things I witnessed during my visit. The main thing I didn't enjoy was the pressure to be married. Especially from extended family members, I met. There was detailed questioning about when I was going to get married. I attempted to redirect questions to share the fact that I was happy with where I was in life and very successful. I'm hopeful that we can change the view of what the vision of success is for a Nigerian woman.
What do I wish I did?
The two and a half weeks I spent went by too quickly. I would have loved to visit Kaduna, the city I grew up in. That's definitely on my list for my next visit with my sister. Hopefully, my next trip would be in less than twelve years :)
What was the most embarrassing experience?
There was a common theme of these moments. Meeting people who knew me but I could not recognize them or remember their names. Am I the only one who doesn’t recall everyone they met more than seventeen years ago?
What was my most significant learning?
On this trip, I was reminded of the importance of the people in our lives. I enjoyed reconnecting with people I haven't seen in many years and building new memories with my special companion.
In my recent blog post How growing up in Nigeria prepared me for life, I summarized the top 10 principles Nigeria taught me that prepared me for life. Let's wrap this post with the principles that were confirmed on my trip
Read more of my journey as part of the "Her Relocation" series.
Recently at an event, I shared my story and how I celebrate my two cultures - Nigerian and German. From when I was eighteen months old to the age of fifteen, I lived in Kaduna, a lovely city in northern Nigeria.
I am continuing my journey with this appreciation of a country that taught me a lot and contributed to who I am today. In this blog post, I will share the top 10 principles Nigeria taught me that prepared me well for life.
#1: Appreciate your community
I grew up in a mid-sized extended family and a large community. I have so many lovely memories with people I'm related to and others that were very close to my family. Often, I wasn’t sure who was a blood relative versus a very close family friend. The saying that it takes a village to raise a child was very evident in the way I grew up.
#2: Work with what you have
From observing the people around me growing up, I learned to be very resourceful. The concept of making the best with the resources that were available is one that I fully embody today. I know that I have something that can be used to make bigger things.
#3: Enjoy good food
My fondest childhood memories are associated to meals with my close and extended family. The times we spent together bonding over meals are engraved in my mind. Till today, I still love to cook and eat with my loved ones and friends. Nigerian food is definitely my go-to food.
#4: Be kind to everyone
In Kaduna where I grew up, almost everyone was connected in some way. We knew that if we met someone, we had to be nice to them because we never knew when our paths might cross again. On my journey so far, being kind and respectful has opened many doors and connected me to great people.
#5: Share what you have
The ability to share with people around me is one that I learned from the great examples I observed. Growing up, many people were open to sharing food, space, knowledge, and experiences. Seeing the sacrifices others made for me, I’m happy to share with people around me today.
#6: Laugh a lot
My smile and laughter are deeply rooted in my Nigerian upbringing. When I think back to my favorite moments growing up, there was a lot of laughter. One thing I carefully guard today is my happiness.
#7: Celebrate life events
It seemed like there was always a party or celebration around us. Whether it was births, weddings, graduations, birthdays, there were many occasions and reasons to celebrate. In my life today, I have translated this principle into celebrating achievements as much as I can.
#8: Appreciate diversity
Growing up in Kaduna, I had the unique opportunity to be surrounded by people from different regions of Nigeria. I learned how to respect different languages, food, religions and cultural norms. Going on to live in different countries, I have been able to build upon the solid foundation I had.
#9: Be positive and hopeful
As I make progress in life, I appreciate the lesson I learned about being hopeful. My faith continuously fuels my aspiration for a better future and hope that everything will work out for good.
#10: Be a strong woman
In my family and community, many strong women worked hard to cater to their families. They were a core inspiration for the woman I am today. I'm very fortunate to have had some great role models in my life.
Continuing my relocation story, with year 2 and 3 in the US. The theme of this phase was learning and developing especially professionally and financially. Looking back on this time in my life, I can see the immense growth and learning that I experienced. While my focus in year one was getting settled and situated in my new home, in year two and three, I was able to focus on other parts of my life such as my career. There were many firsts and doing things I never thought I ever would.
In this post, I will share my experiences, learnings, and insights from my second and third year of living in the US. If you missed the first year, read my previous post My Life in the US - Year 1.
Settling into my new life
By my second year in the US, I started feeling more at home. Compared to my experience in Germany, I felt more settled in a very short time. The fact that there was no language barrier was a huge win. Also, not being alone here was great for my transition. Looking back, I'm very grateful that it didn't take seven years to feel at home like in Germany.
Learning and professional development
At this stage in my career, it was crucial for me to expand my knowledge and improve my skills. I was ready to grow my career and take on new responsibilities. Taking classes at UC Berkeley extension provided me not only new knowledge but also budding professional network. I learned what was necessary for professional success in the US.
Growing my finances
Moving to the US helped me increase my income. This new phase created the need for me to educate myself of ways to grow my finances. It's been an exciting journey learning more about managing my wealth. I was already proficient in the basics of financial management, so I needed to concentrate on the next level which was investing and making wise money choices. I'm still exploring and learning more about financial planning.
Making new connections
Attending events and courses helped me grow my professional network a lot. As I was new in the US, being able to learn from other people's experiences was important to me. I'm still in regular contact with some of the great people I met during this time. Building a new community has been a continuous task on my relocation journey.
Staying connected to my family and friends
Especially when you live so far away from your family, it is crucial to stay connected to the people that matter the most to you. I have been extremely fortunate to keep in contact with my niece who is growing up very quickly.
The communication tools that are now available are amazing. Staying in touch with my family and friends was a very crucial part of me feeling at home in the US.
After being in the US for two and a half years, I finally visited Germany for my Niece's first day of school. The first thing I did when I landed in Frankfurt was to buy a pretzel. Speaking German and knowing where everything was, made me feel at home again. I missed being in Germany where I had lived for fourteen years. Interestingly, on this trip, I discovered that you could feel at home in multiple places at once.
Preparing for new roles
My career grew exponentially in my third year. I made it a priority to say yes to new projects and roles. Often, I stoped to assess how far I had come and how incredibly grateful I was for the opportunities I had been given and accepted. Looking back, I'm delighted to have worked on some amazing projects and learned so much.
Exploring new cities and countries
Travel used to be a very stressful experience for me. So, when the opportunity to travel for work came, I wasn't too pleased. However, I decided to take this opportunity to learn how to make travel work for me. Traveling provided me with the excellent opportunity to explore more places in the US and new countries. Looking back, I have great memories of my adventures.
Making time for things that matter
The greatest lesson I learned was the importance of finding time for the things that matter the most in my life. With everything I was doing, I neglected some key relationships and self-care. Thankfully, I was able to rebuild relationships and take care of myself more before it was too late. Now, I set boundaries around the things that matter the most.
Rekindling my passion
Living in the US provided a safe space for exploring ways to make my dreams a reality. Seeing people live out their dreams and passions motivated me to go back to the things I always wanted to do but didn't think I could. For the longest time I thought about starting my coaching business and launch my blog. In 2017, I finally believed that I could and took the first step.
Top 10 Tips and Lessons
Over the three first years of my relocation journey to the US, I have learned so many valuable lessons, that I would like to share with you.
In early 2015, my relocation journey continued with a move to the United States. Specifically, to the Bay area in northern California. I expected that my experience would be similar to my life in Germany. Looking back, I can confirm that no relocation experience is the same. However, we get to apply our learnings from previous journeys.
I have been living in the US for three and a half years now. As with all relocation journeys, there are good, bad and ugly. In this post, I will continue my relocation story. Starting with my first year in the US.
Over the next months as part of the "My Life in the US" series, I will tell my story in the following phases:
What made this relocation different?
The significant differences with my relocation to the US were that I had a Job, a partner and I was older and more mature. Often, I ask myself how I handled the transition to Germany at age fifteen.
Why did I decide to relocate to the US?
My honest answer is that I moved for “Love.” Germany had treated me very well, and I wasn't planning to leave any time soon. Some external factors and my career influenced the exact timing of the move.
Preparing for the move
In November 2014, I began making plans to move. By February I had a project and was relocating to the US. Thinking back, I now know that two months of planning is not enough time. As everything happened so quickly, I didn't have the time to plan out my relocation and settling into my new home.
So many forms to fill
Living in Germany where I had filled a form for every single official transaction, I thought I was prepared for filling my immigration forms for the US. Nothing could have prepared me for the mass forms I would have to fill out. Having to submit the same information repeatedly has become the norm. I feel like I'm an expert now.
Building a new community
My friends and family play a very significant role in my life. I have come to learn the value of also having a small local community. Luckily, I inherited my partner's social network in the beginning. Not having to start from scratch was very helpful. It made my experience in the US great from a social perspective.
Say my full name
I learned very quickly that my name was difficult to remember. People would always ask - what other name do you go by? At the beginning my response was - I only go by Marie-Christin. Often, I got called "Marie-Christian", "Marie-Claire" and many other names. I adapted to the new culture by allowing people to call me "MC" and it works well.
Lack of guidance, structure or efficiencies
Very soon after my relocation, I faced some difficulty understanding how basic needs like health Insurance and banking worked in the US. Every task seemed complex and inefficient. Things took much longer than I expected which caused a lot of disappointment and stress. Here, I definitely know that Germany spoiled me. My solution is to plan a lot of lead time for any tasks and practice patience.
Land of dreams
When I moved to California, I was impressed by how open people were to taking a step into the unknown boldly. Coming from Germany where you only did work you were qualified for, it was liberating to see people try new things. It inspired me to revisit some of my dreams and believe they can become a reality.
I'm very far away
I thought the distance between Germany and Nigeria was a lot until I moved to California. Now every country where I have family and friends is geographically far away. Technology has helped me keep in close contact with my family and friends. I'm now an expert in online communication and staying connected to people that matter.
Professional cultural differences
My assumption that project management is almost the same globally was very wrong. Of course, the fundamental principles are the same. However, I quickly discovered that I would need to adapt my style to the new culture in the US. The way I approached planning and communicating was met with some resistance. I didn't want to change who I was, but I had to learn to find a middle point to make my team and clients happy.
Top 10 Learnings