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.