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
On August 9, 2001, I embarked on a journey that will change the course of my life forever. This week, I’m celebrating 17 years on my relocation journey. About four months ago, I started writing about My life in Germany. Reflecting on my story has empowered me and given me a great appreciation for how I got to where I am today. It has been a great learning experience for me. I am very proud of all my achievements, failures, learnings and experiences.
In this post, I will summarize my highlights, learnings and share tips for everyone on a similar journey. When I started telling my story, I had three objectives - to remind myself of some of the challenges I overcame, to support other women who are on a similar journey and share tips, learn from one another to succeed on our relocation journey. I am delighted that I have been able to achieve these objectives and much more.
What did I learn about myself?
We keep hearing about how reflection provides you with power for the future. I must say, I am now a believer. Three things that I learned about myself during my reflection include:
Highlights from my Journey
To summarize my story, here are some personal highlights.
Year 1 and 2
10 things I wish someone told me before I moved to Germany
Top 10 tips
Summarizing the greatest lessons I learned on my journey that could help you too.
Thanks for coming with me on this reflection journey of my life in Germany.
In 2015, my relocation journey took me to the US. Watch out for "My life in the US: Year 1" story. Follow my developing relocation story as part of the Her Relocation series.
Your support & kind words
When I started telling my story, I had no idea what types of doors it'll open to me. The feedback I received was above my expectation. As a symbol of my appreciation and I want to share some quotes with you.