This year marks twenty years of me living abroad. To celebrate this significant milestone in my life, I am taking a moment to reflect on my journey so far. One thing I have been wondering is how my experiences living in various countries differed. My relocation journeys to Germany and the US have been quite different for many reasons.
In this blog post, I will share the factors that made my experiences different and the lessons that I learned. Check out my other Her Relocation blog posts about my experiences living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
When I moved to Germany in 2001, I was only 15 years old. Thinking back, I really do not know how I did it. When people ask me how I survived in a foreign country at such a young age, I tell them that I did not stop to think about it. I knew that I had to make it work. Fourteen years later, when I moved to the US, I was older and had more life experience. And more importantly, I was mature and knew what I wanted more.
What did I learn?
Being mentally prepared
Strangely, I was never asked if I wanted to move to Germany. It seemed like the natural next step when I graduated from secondary school (aka high school). I had no idea what I would experience and was not prepared for the journey that I was embarking on. When I relocated to the US, it was my decision, and I had some time to prepare for my move. The most important part was that I was mentally prepared and had an idea of what I could expect.
What did I learn?
Facing my fears and worries
When I moved to Germany, I did not have time to let fear stop me. Although I was afraid, I had to do everything I could to stay above water and survive. My worries mainly were around finances and being able to study successfully. On the other hand, with the move to the US, I had more to lose as I was in a different phase of my life. I was afraid that if the decision I made was not the right one, it would set me back a few years. I was leaving behind the successful life that I had built in Germany for a new life based on hopes and dreams.
What did I learn?
Adapting to cultural differences
When I moved to Germany, the cultural shock that I experienced was immense. The culture was vastly different from what I knew growing up in Nigeria. The language barrier made my experience even more difficult. Compared to when I moved to the US, there were still cultural differences. However, this time I spoke the language and was able to adapt a little easier. I also knew that I would experience some culture shock, so I was more prepared.
What did I learn?
Hoping for new opportunities
When I was going to Germany, I had no idea what opportunities I would have in this new country. It took a while after I moved for me to start to discover them. Coming to the US, I felt like my world was expanding, and great opportunities were available to me. I had learned how to create a plan before I embarked on my quest to start a new life. In addition, I now had the skill set that helped me go after the opportunities I wanted.
What did I learn?
Having great people in my life
When I moved to Germany, I had to navigate life on my own. The loneliness that I experienced in my first months kept making me want to go back to Nigeria. Thankfully when I moved to the US, I had my now husband here, and he had his established community that I was able to plug into. Having a companion on my journey made my move to the US more delightful.
What did I learn?
MC's Moment of Reflection
They say pictures speak louder than words. The first picture was taken when I moved to Germany in 2001, and the second one was when I moved to the US in 2015. I experienced so many ups and downs between those two pictures. However, one thing remained - my smile.
After 20 years of living in Germany and the US, I have learned many valuable lessons. The good and bad experiences have prepared me for where I am today. As I reflected on how our lives have changed over the past year, I realized that moving and living in different countries helped me survive during this pandemic.
In this blog post, I will share ten things that I experienced living in different countries that prepared me for living through a pandemic. Check out my "Her Relocation" blog posts about my experiences so far.
Lesson #1: Adapting quickly to unexpected situations
When I moved to Germany in 2001, I had no idea what my life would be like years later. I quickly learned that adapting to unexpected situations was necessary for me to thrive. I had grand plans on where I want to be in five years. If you have been following my journey, you know that my life in Germany brought many new experiences that I did not imagine. Fast forward to 2020, a year that made us all change our plans. I quickly accepted the situations and adapted to change, which was one key lesson I learned going through some disappointment and unexpected experiences.
Lesson #2: Missing family milestones and celebrations
Over the years, living in other countries, I have missed some major family milestones and celebrations. In the beginning, I used to get affected and be engulfed with wishing I was there in person to mark the occasions. I had to learn that I will miss milestones as part of living abroad, and it was ok. Coming to 2020, there have been many life events that we have not celebrated with our families. I still cannot believe that our families have not yet met our son.
Lesson #3: Adapting to spending holidays alone (or with my small family)
The first Christmas I spent alone in Germany was brutal. Coming from Nigeria, where holidays were a huge celebration, I was not ready for a cold and lonely time in Germany. It took me a few years to get used to the different holidays and build my own holiday traditions. I started really enjoying quiet holidays. When I moved to the US, my husband and I started spending a part of the holidays with our family in Southern California. In 2020, we did not get to spend any holidays with our family or friends. However, we made sure we enjoyed spending the holidays in a special way.
Lesson #4: Valuing your personal connections
The people that I have met on my journey have been one of the best parts of my life abroad. Especially in a year when everything was chaotic, I went back to the basics of what has helped me thrive on my journey. I reactivated my human connections, and they helped me through 2020. Reflecting on last year, I created some great memories with my friends and family virtually. I appreciate all the amazing people in my life.
Lesson #5: Create memories whenever you can
I strongly believe that the small memories that we make every day matter, not only the significant memories. My husband and I were very intentional about creating happy memories during the year. We wanted to be able to think back to 2020 and remember the small things that made us smile or brought us joy. As I have moved between cities and countries, I learned the value of keeping all my memories. I can still tell happy stories from my life in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
Lesson #6: Find the small things you enjoy and do them
Especially when you make huge changes in your life, the little things start to matter even more. Celebrating the little things has made my journey so far unforgettable. I learned to make every win count. When I moved to the US, I was more intentional and celebrated the good things in my life. In 2020, acknowledging the small, good things that were in my life became even more critical. By focusing on the positive, I was able to survive the more trying times.
Lesson #7: Having empathy for people in different situations
During the pandemic, we have seen many people go through different situations. As I have lived in different countries, I have gotten to know people from different backgrounds. Building those relationships has taught me how to care for others whose experiences differ from mine. Having empathy for people changed how I view the world and become more aware of how it is not always about me. I appreciate the perspective that I have been granted through my experiences.
Lesson #8: Believing in yourself
We have all had to do things that we never thought we could do over the past year. We discovered that we are stronger than we think. Leaving home at the age of 15 to move to Germany, I did not know the strength and resilience I had. Now looking back on my journey, I had what it took to succeed. Although I had no idea what 2020 would bring, my strength and resilience was put to a test and I learned that I could survive this situation.
Lesson #9: Be thankful and appreciate the good
Especially during uncertain times and situations that we do not feel we can control; it is easy to focus on what is going wrong. My husband and I remind ourselves of the good in our lives and the privilege that we have. Not complaining and dwelling on what we do not have, has given me peace over the last year. My mindset is to be grateful no matter what happens in your life.
#10: Finding joy wherever I find myself
For the first seven years of my life in Germany, I silently wished I was somewhere else. I wanted to be back in Nigeria around my family and my community. This mindset hindered me from settling down and enjoying my life. After seven years, I decided to enjoy myself wherever I find myself. It has been a life-changing experience. These days, I am intentional about finding the good in my life where I am today. I now know that I can be happy in whatever situation that I find myself in.
We may not always understand why we experience certain things. However, I am convinced that there is a reason for everything and a lesson to be learned.
Time for Reflection
One thing has been true for my time in the US; the time has gone by very quickly. I cannot believe that I have lived here for six years already. When I relocated from Germany in 2015, I had no idea how my life would change in only six years. So much happened in this year that I could not have imagined or planned for. The theme for my sixth year in the US was " even in the midst of chaos, there is hope for beauty to be created."
In this blog post, I will reflect on my sixth year in the US. This continues my "Her Relocation" series, where I talk about my experience living in multiple countries over the past 20 years. Check out my previous posts about My Life in the US - Year 1, Year 2&3, Year 4, and Year 5.
Hoping for a change in the government
Politics has never impacted my life directly as it has since I moved to the US. In my sixth year, I spent a lot of time hoping for the previous administration's end. Waiting for the results of the election was a very emotional time for me. I could not imagine reliving the past six years. Thankfully, I can relax a little and not worry about what policies will be made that will affect me as an immigrant in the US. Another good side effect is that I have learned so much about the American government over the past years.
Surviving a pandemic
In February of 2020, I traveled to Kirkland in Washington state, the epicenter of the virus outbreak. At that time, we had no idea how bad things would be. Initially, we thought things would go back to normal within a few months. Sadly, that was not the case. Seeing how long it is taking to get the virus under control is something that I could never have imagined. The pandemic's most significant impact on my life has been that I have not been able to see family in the UK and Nigeria.
Experiencing Racial injustice
The racial injustice uprising in the US over the past year has opened my eyes to many things around race and inequity. Interestingly, I have never been more aware of my race than I am living here in the US. My black experience has been different because of my bi-cultural background. I realized that in the past, I hardly shared my experience being a black woman in technology. This past year, I was given the opportunity to share my story, and I took it. Being vocal about the good and the bad experiences I have had living in Germany and the US was very liberating.
Especially with everything going on in the US this past year, I have been reminiscing about my life in Germany. While I watched the news and had conversations with my friends who still lived in Germany, I found myself missing the little things that made my years in Germany enjoyable. Do not get me wrong, I know that I am where I need to be. However, there are some little things that I wish can be part of my life here. I have been thinking about beautiful things like shopping in Aldi, visiting the Christmas Market, eating delicious bread, and being able to walk around. I guess there will always be a part of me that longs for some of the things I got to experience in Germany.
Having a Baby in a foreign land
When you move to a new country, some experiences impact your life in a major way. For me, having a baby in the US was an incredibly special experience. The norms and practices are quite different from Nigeria or Germany. My biggest fear was that the healthcare system would fail me because I had heard the horror stories from other people who had their babies here. Thankfully, that was not my experience. Everything went smoothly, and we have a healthy baby boy.
Enjoying my home
It is strange, but I feel like the past year helped me build more roots in the US. I just realized that I have not traveled to any other country since May 2018. We had a big trip planned to see family in 2020 but that did not happen. Without being able to travel, I found myself deepening my roots where I live today. Realizing that this is where I will be for most of the time helped me feel more settled. I have been having a nice time while I wait to be able to travel again.
Final Thoughts - 10 Lessons I learned
On August 9th 2001, I boarded a flight with destination Frankfurt Germany to start a new life. At that time, I could never have imagined that I would be where I am today. It's been 19 years of many experiences - some good, bad and ugly. Living in Germany for 14 years and now in the US for 5 years, I have experienced and learned many life-changing lessons.
In this blog post, I will answer five of the most common questions that people ask about my relocation journey. Check out my other "Her Relocation" posts for more of my story.
Were you scared to move to Germany so young?
I moved to Germany when I was 15 years old. Interestingly, I felt very prepared for the Journey ahead. Although I could never have imagined what life would bring, I was very hopeful and confident that I could face anything. Looking back, my attitude was one reason I was able to survive in the early part of my journey . This set the tone for how I approached challenges throughout my journey.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
In my first year in Germany, the loneliness from being away from my family was something I was not prepared for. My first Christmas, which was also my first winter was one of the saddest ever. I had been very used to celebrating the holidays with my family in Nigeria. The next set of challenges that I faced living in Germany was feeling that I did not belong. It took me about seven years to start feeling at home. And then another three years until I confidently felt that Germany was my home.
After 14 years in Germany, I was thriving and then I decided to make a huge jump by moving to the US. I left my sister, niece and close friends behind. It is still hard sometimes to be far away from them.
What lessons have you learned so far on your Journey?
I have learned many valuable lessons from my experiences on my journey. My top three lessons are the following:
What has been your favorite part of living abroad?
There have been many highlights on my journey so far. Some of which include the following:
Would you move to another country?
My answer is simple - absolutely. When the right time comes to move to a new country, I will embrace it fully. The great thing is that this time, I will be moving with my family. I am very grateful for all that I have learned on my journey so far. Moving to new countries has expanded my perspective on life.
The past 19 years have been a very formative phase of my life and I would not trade any of my experiences for anything. Sharing my story will definitely be a part of my journey. Watch this space for more on my journey. I am very excited for my future.
Recently, I have been reflecting on how my perspective on many aspects of life has changed after living in multiple countries. I count myself very fortunate to be on this journey.
In this blog post, I will share ten things that I see differently since I started living in Nigeria, Germany and the US.
#1: Home is wherever you want it to be
Especially when I moved to the US, I started asking myself the question, "where is my home?". This was a question that took me a while to figure out. At the end of my deliberations, I concluded that it's perfectly fine to have multiple places where you feel at home. I now see Germany, Nigeria and the US as my home. It's a little complicated, but I have accepted it. There are many things that I appreciate from the countries I have lived in.
#2: Being curious to learn about new cultures
There are so many great things we can learn from different cultures around us. I am more interested and curious about learning about the different traditions, norms and customs of the people I meet. I find the world is rich in culture and there is so much for us all to learn. When people share their traditions around food and celebrations, I am very intrigued. We are very fortunate to live in such a global world where we have exposure to so many different people.
#3: Accepting that there is so much to learn
As I go through my journey, I am learning that it is ok to not know everything or have things figured out. I always thought I had to have a plan for everything and think through all situations. Moving to a new country brings a lot of unexpected things and situations you will not be prepared for. Accepting that I am on a learning journey has changed the way I view new experiences and challenges.
#4: Accepting and celebrating differences in people
Almost every day over the past 18 years, I have had the opportunity of meeting people from different backgrounds. I have learned to appreciate the differences in the people I meet. When I see people with similar experiences as mine, I find it surprising. Learning to celebrate the differences of people around me has enriched my life. Being open and receptive to all the great things that people have to offer is something I aspire to continue doing.
#5: Having empathy for people
When I watch the news or hear conversations about people who are working to make a home and be successful in a new country, I have a lot of empathy for them. Although I have been fortunate on my journey, I never want to be that person that looks down on other people's path to a better life.
#6: Celebrating the little things that remind you of home
A few weeks ago, we found a store that sold a special type of fruit that we grew up eating in Nigeria. I should add that we discovered it in a city in California. It was very unexpected. We bought some, enjoyed it and made sure we sent pictures to our family. Thinking back on this little thing that made us so happy reminded me of the fact that the little things that remind me of home are very special. Don't get me started on the day I found soft pretzel knots in a local bakery very far away from Germany.
#7: Helping others find a community
One thing that is important to me today is to help people around me feel like they belong. Being able to find or build a community is an important part of feeling at home in a new country. Whenever I'm able to provide someone with some connection, I take the opportunity to support them. I strongly believe that we can all support each other on our journey to be at home wherever we find ourselves.
#8: Appreciating the experiences
Reflecting on my journey, I know that all the experiences were worth it. Often when you think about the negative experiences you don't really appreciate them. Well, I didn't enjoy them, when I was going through them but now I see the value of those experiences. For example, struggling and learning to live in Germany, made me very resilient. Now fast forward to living in the US, I am able to apply a lot of the lessons I learned and appreciate the amazing things happening in my life.
#9: Valuing the people
As I have moved to different cities and countries, I have been blessed to meet amazing people. I value the time that I get to spend with people on my journey. Although I am not in contact with everyone I would love to be connected to, I hold on very fondly to the great memories. I know for a fact that different people have made my journey worthwhile and exciting.
#10: Realizing that we all have unique and beautiful stories
When I hear people's stories or backgrounds and how they got to be where they are, I am always amazed. We all have fascinating stories. Sharing my story has helped other people share more with me. This has been the most rewarding part of my 18-year relocation Journey
Check out my other posts on my life in Nigeria, Germany and the US in the Her Relocation Posts.
On Feb 20, 2015 I boarded a plane from Frankfurt, Germany to the Bay Area in the US. I can't believe it's been five years already since I moved here. The last years have been very eventful. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had on my journey. The theme for my fifth year in the US was “thrive in uncertainty and celebrate the good.”
In this blog post, I will reflect on my fifth year in the US. This post continues my "Her Relocation" series where I share my experience living in multiple countries over the past 19 years. Check out My Life in the US - Year 1, Year 2&3 and Year 4.
Discovering that my relocation experience is different
Thinking back to my first five years in Germany, it was extremely difficult. Some of the differences include being financially stable, having companionship, having a clearer plan and being more mature. I was definitely able to deal with new experiences better than when I moved to Germany at the age of fifteen. There have been ups and downs on this journey, but I have felt more equipped to deal with them and thrive.
Realizing that time flies by very quickly
When I started writing this blog post, I was surprised at the speed at which time has gone by. I guess it's true when they say, "time flies when you are having fun". So many things have happened since I moved to the US. There have been lots of lessons learned, experiences had, people met, and dreams realized. I'm looking forward to my journey over the next years.
Learning that stability is cool too
One thing that I realized recently is that this is the longest time I have spent in a single house and city for all my life. I have been living here for five years straight. Although I enjoyed moving around on my relocation journey, it does feel very good to be stable. Having a stable home and loving partner has made my time in the US amazing. I have had some practice adapting to new cities and homes over the past 19 years. However, I am now learning the valuable skill of building my life and home in a stable environment.
Accepting things that are outside of your control
One of the most challenging parts of my journey in the US was waiting for my immigration status to be updated. As an immigrant for the past 19 years, I have gotten used to having to go through the immigration process. This time it was different, there were a lot of things going on outside my control and all I could do was check the website regularly and wait. After months of waiting and being anxious, I was able to complete my immigration process. It definitely took a lot of mental and emotional energy to stay calm through the process.
Living out my passion is fulfilling
In my previous posts, I have shared that one of my favorite parts of living in the US is that I finally got to make my dreams a reality. Over the past year, I really leaned into the work that I had started with following my passion. In my fifth year I took on new challenges and continued to build on the strong foundation.
Overcoming a challenge and thriving professionally
I kicked off my 5th year in the US knowing that I needed to transition to a new role. It wasn't something I planned but I knew it was necessary. One big part of moving to different countries is that I have learned a lot about myself. I know when it is the right time to pick up myself and move. Change has been constant in my life. When the time came to change my role unexpectedly, I reminded myself of all the change I have weathered in my life and how I have succeeded in the past 18 years. It was all worth it in the end. I'm growing and thriving.
Final Thoughts - 10 Lessons I learned
Call to Action
What is one thing you won't have been able to do if you didn't move to a new city or country? Celebrate the opportunities
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?