When I think back on my 18-year relocation journey, I am very grateful to all the great people I met along the way. My story would not be complete without these people. Reflecting on my journey, I have learned the art of building and re-building my personal and professional community.
Fun Fact: This week in 2001, I left Nigeria to embark on this journey. I had no idea where I will be in 18 years. Read more of my story in the "Her Relocation" blog posts.
In this blog post, I will share my experience with communities while I lived in Nigeria, Germany and the US, the five types of communities everyone should have on their relocation journey as well as strategies to help you build them.
In my first year in Germany, I lived in a small village with about 1000 people. Until then, I lived in Kaduna, Nigeria, which was a large city with over 6 million people. One of the biggest challenges I faced was that I missed my community. Growing up, I had family, friends who were an essential part of my day to day life. I had not thought about the impact of losing my community and having to build one from scratch. It took me about two long years to build my community in Germany. They became a very crucial part of my life in Germany. Even when I moved to different cities, I was able to find new people and stay connected with my great community.
Moving to the US and leaving my German community behind was challenging. At this time, I was in a phase in my life where I needed to focus more on building my professional community. As I was new to the country, I had to start by learning about the professional culture and then connecting with people in my field.
5 types of communities everyone needs
The communities and networks that helped me be successful on my relocation journey include the following:
Your "Taste of Home"
These are the people that help keep you connected to your home country or remind you of home. Personally, I connected with great people from other African countries in Germany. This group of people understood my experiences and were able to provide some comfort. A lot of my favorite memories were around us trying to find ingredients to make some African dishes we enjoyed. I met most of them in unconventional places like the bus or train station.
Strategies to consider
Especially if you recently relocated, you will need people who help introduce you to your new home country. They are there to help you adjust to your new life and share knowledge of what it takes to succeed in your new country. I did a better job of ensuring I had more of these people in my community when I moved to the US. My integration into my local community was easier with the help of my "integrators."
Strategies to consider
Your Professional Networks
In my experience, this is typically a community that we forget to build early when we move to a new city or country. Especially if you are in your early or mid-career, you need to prioritize building your professional community. It is a continuous process that you want to continue as you grow and transition in your career. Within my first months in the US, I joined the Project Management Institute local chapter. It helped me meet great professionals in my space and provide insights into the US professional culture.
Strategies to consider
Your Passion Groups
Remember that it is vital to continue to grow different aspects of your life. If you have hobbies or a passion project, you want to connect with people who share your interests. This group of people will help you find balance and not lose yourself. I started building these networks about two years into being in the US. My social and professional networks were set before I started looking for people that were working on similar dreams as mine. I decided to start Mastermind groups because I wanted to provide this community for others as well.
Strategies to consider
Your "Philanthropic" Community
To feel fulfilled in your life, you need to give back to your community as well. Identify the group of people whom you want to give back to. There are a lot of female students, the less privileged, job seekers, or professional women who can benefit from your knowledge and expertise. My community in the US has offered me many opportunities to give back. I enjoy speaking at universities, volunteering at events, and mentoring young women. It is essential for me to not only receive from my community but also give back.
Strategies to consider
Call to Action
Making a new city or country your home is a huge task. Some things are easy to adjust to; then other things take a longer time to accept while others you never adapt to. I have been on a journey to explore what those are for me.
Over the past year and a half, I have been sharing my experience living in different countries as part of the Her relocation series. The fantastic conversations I have had with other women who have similar experiences motivates me to reflect and share more.
In this blog post, I will share some of the things that I am still adjusting to and the ones I have accepted that I may never adapt to. The list ranges from food, language, culture and more.
#1: The Food
When I lived in Germany, I missed Nigerian food and had to find a way to cook some of my favorite dishes. Now I am in the US, and I miss German bread. It seems to be the norm; when I move to a new country, I still miss the different dishes I enjoyed in my other home countries.
#2: The Sayings or Adages
Especially when you are learning a new language, one of the last things you connect to are sayings in the new language. Often it is not that you don't understand them, it's because your brain doesn't automatically make the connection. I find myself still trying to decode German sayings and thinking to myself - why do they say that?.
#3: The Local Dialects or Accents
It takes a while to learn a new language. After you have mastered it, you then start hearing new accents or dialects spoken in different parts of the country. Even after 14 years, I was still discovering new words German dialects and getting used to different accents. And now I am exploring the multiple accents in the US.
#4: The Music
Although I lived in Germany for 14 years, German folk music is still a mystery to me. When I'm in a celebration or sentimental mood, I go to Nigerian music. The warm feeling I get when I hear songs from my childhood is indescribable. Over the years living in different countries, I had added some other genres of music to my repertoire. However, Nigerian music is still home to me.
#5: The Stories or Historical references
Given that I spent my childhood in Nigeria, I am very unfamiliar with German or American historical references. Often when I am in conversations, and people make references I don't know or understand, I ask clarifying questions.
#6: The Stores
If you know me, you know that I'm a huge fan of ALDI, a great grocery store in Germany. I shopped there nearly every week for 14 years. It got to a stage where I knew the store very well and noticed if they rearranged the store or added a new product to their stores. I had to provide some deep context to drive home to point. After four years and many new stores to explore in the US, I still miss grocery shopping in Germany. I'll give it ten more years and see if I adapt to the stores in the US.
#7: The Holidays and Celebrations
I should start by saying I am very grateful for having time off. With 4th of July holiday this week, I am reminded of the fact that this is a new holiday for me. Apart from enjoying the sun, what else do we do? Also, some of the holidays observed have very interesting traditions that are foreign to me.
#8: The Measurement System
Ok, this one is specific to living in a country like the US that chooses to use a different measurement system. After being in the US for over four years, I still can't figure out the temperature in Fahrenheit or the weight in pounds or distance in miles. I have gotten to a place where I memorize the conversion to the values I use often.
#9: The Weather
When I moved to the bay area, I was confused about the fact that it doesn't rain in summer. Almost everywhere I have lived, summer has been the major rain months. I have grown to enjoy the cooling rain after a very hot day in Cologne. Rain showers are a part of a great summer for me. However, that's not the case here. I keep waiting for the rain, and I'm reminded that I have to wait until winter.
#10: The People
Although I am very happy to be where I am today, I still miss my family and close friends in Germany. The most challenging part is missing key milestones and experiences. I have learned to make use of technology and other ways to stay connected with the people I care about.
Call to Action
What are some of the things you are still getting used to?
After years of living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US, I am celebrating all the lessons I have learned so far. The objective of this post is to appreciate lessons I learned from the good and not so good experiences that I have had.
This post continues my Her relocation series, where I share about my life in Nigeria, Germany and the US. In this post, I will share the top three lessons I learned in each of the Countries I lived in. To see a quick summary of my relocation journey, check out my video.
3 Lessons I learned living in Nigeria
I spent my early childhood until the age of 15 in Kaduna, Nigeria. Some of the lessons I learned include:
#1: Enjoy good food
At any moment, you can ask me the types of snacks or meals I enjoyed in Nigeria, and I will have a quick response. I am delighted that I got to experience delicious Nigerian food. I think very fondly on the times I spent with my family enjoying and exploring native dishes. Even after living in other countries for a long time, I still cook and enjoy great Nigerian food.
#2: Care for people
The importance of the family unit and relationships is one that is emphasized in Nigeria. The values I learned around caring for people is one that has influenced my personal and professional life. Being able to connect with people and be warm has helped me, especially as I build new social networks.
#3: Celebrate your culture
Growing up, I enjoyed the days when we got to wear Nigerian attire to school. Being able to see all my friends represent the different parts of Nigeria made me appreciate our cultural heritage. Now when I see people celebrating their culture, it makes me proud of my cultural identity as well.
3 Lessons I learned living in Germany
Living in Germany during my late teens and early adulthood, I learned many valuable lessons that formed my character and identity. Some of the lessons I learned were:
#1: Be independent
Being comfortable on my own and not depending on others was a very valuable lesson I learned in Germany. I learned how not to need people but to want them in my life. Being the owner of my happiness and driver of my destiny was huge for me. I wouldn't be where I am today in my personal growth if I didn't learn to be independent.
#2: Use your voice
One of the first things that impressed me in Germany was how comfortable people were with sharing their unpopular opinions. It was more about speaking up rather than worrying about what people thought about it. I learned to be very outspoken in Germany. I went on a journey of finding myself, what I care about, and then sharing it. The freedom to speak my mind was one that helped me grow into who I am today.
#3: Be disciplined
Some of the values I learned in Germany include keeping your commitments and being consistent. These principles guide me in everything I do today. If I give you my word or make a plan to complete a task, I make sure I do it. The discipline I learned has helped me achieve my personal goals.
3 Lessons I learned living in the US
In the last 4,5 years living in the Bay Area, I have experienced immense personal and professional growth. Some of the lessons I learned are:
#1: Dream Big and live out your dreams
In my previous blog posts, I shared how I found the courage to start my business after I moved to California. Seeing other people start their businesses and hear their stories inspired me to take the leap. The freedom to try out ideas and search for what works is definitely promoted here.
#2: Take a break and do something fun
I was amazed at how much people would do over the weekend and share on Monday. To be honest, this is a lesson I am still learning. I'm slowly getting better at making time to do things that I enjoy. There are so many fun things to do in the sun here.
#3: Talk about yourself and your achievements
Before I moved to the US, I was convinced that my work would speak for itself. Over the past four years, I have learned the importance of celebrating my achievements and talking about them. The more I talk about my accomplishments the more I appreciate my journey.
Call to Action
What lessons have you learned on your journey so far? Celebrate your learnings.
Am I Nigerian, German or even American?
For the longest time when people asked me about my cultural identity, I did not know what to respond. The simple question "where are you from?" left me wondering and uncertain. At this point in my life, I have lived in Germany, Nigeria and now in the US.
When I started sharing my story as part of my Her relocation blog posts, I received a lot of questions and comments that helped me reflect on my journey. One of the questions that stuck with me was "‘at what point does one stop being an immigrant?". This spoke to the most profound feeling of belonging and identity that I had battled with for a long time.
In this post, I will share a little bit of my experience and the five lessons I learned about my cultural identity over the past 18 years living in three countries.
My cultural identity has always been a topic of discussion. Initially, I laughed at the questions and did not think much about it. However, the questions increased with my most recent move. I needed to spend some time thinking about how I define my cultural identity.
The first time I ever used the phrase German-Nigerian to describe myself was when I moved to the US. While I lived in Germany, I identified as Nigerian which is interesting given my mixed heritage. I wonder if I will become German-Nigerian-American when I move to my next country.
On my exploration journey, some of the questions I asked myself were?
I once heard the phrase from an Asian lady who said her background is Asian, but her culture is black, based on where she grew up in LA. This was the best way I had ever heard someone speak about their cultural identity. For me, my food culture is Nigerian, and my professional culture is German. I am smiling as I write this.
Over the years, I have learned that being multi-cultural is an asset, not a weakness. I make it a priority not to let anyone talk about it as a disadvantage. Yes I have an interesting accent, yeah I look different, and I absolutely can't be put in a cultural box. This is what makes me unique.
Lessons I learned about my cultural identity
In my 18-years of living in Germany and the US, I learned the following about whom I identify as.
#1: You define your identity
People around you will try to define your cultural identity based on how you look or sound. However, the real person that determines your identity is you. Choose what feels right to you.
#2: Your identity will change
The experiences you have in the different countries you live in will influence you. Accept the evolution of your identity. This will help you avoid identity crisis and feel comfortable with who you are.
#3: You will feel out of place (sometimes)
We go through phases of feeling like we do not belong in the country we are in. Sometimes it happens because of a negative experience. I want you to know that feeling out of place from time to time is perfectly normal.
#4: You will see different sides of identity
Different parts of your identity will be highlighted in different countries or situations that you face. Adapt to your environment and put your best foot forward. Choosing to show one side more does not make you become less of the other side of you.
#5: You will need to inform others about what you identify as
Often, people decide they know my identity by judging my looks or accent. I make it a point to let people know more about my cultural background and Identity. If you don't inform them, you can't be upset when they misidentify you.
Call to Action
What is your cultural identity? Celebrate your multi-cultural identity.
Check out my previous posts on my relocation story living in Germany and the US.
While I was reflecting on my first 4 years in the US, a few things came up that I still don't fully understand. In the post, I'll be sharing some "special" things about living in the US. I'm building on my previous post 10 things I wish someone told me before I moved to the US.
This is a fun post. I needed a good laugh. And so you know - I have been having a great time so far in the US, I just feel like there are a few things that we need to address. Am I the only one the feels this way?
#1: Why is there always some sports events on TV?
I wonder when the sports seasons start and end. It seems like there is some sporting event ongoing all the time. From American football to basketball to baseball and all others. There is definitely an excess of sports compared to Germany where the Bundesliga takes breaks in summer and winter.
#2: Where are all the good bakeries?
On some days all I want is a delicate slice of cake or hearty German bread. All of which cannot easily be found here. You may think this is trivial, but after four years I am still looking for my favorite Bakery. Living in Germany spoilt me with all the great bakeries on every street corner.
#3: How can you say something is a "world" event when it's only celebrated in the US?
Let me just start with "World series for Baseball" - who is the world referenced here? Recently people were talking about an event that happened in the US that the whole world heard about – and my response was "I was in Germany, and I didn't hear about it." I make it a point to remind people the US is large but not the world.
#4: What do these sports metaphors mean?
If you use a sports metaphor in a meeting, you are assuming we all have the same background and enjoy sports and much as you do. Does hitting a home run mean our project is successful or that we are running around the field. I smile every time someone expects me to understand a sports metaphor. In my defense I know - "it’s a goooalllll" means we are winning.
#5: When will banking be brought to the new digital age? :)
All banking transactions should be available online including International transfers, and bank transfers should be instant within the same bank at least. If I have to fill out a paper form for a bank transaction, you lose me. I still don't get the concepts of cheques. Every time I get a cheque I feel clueless.
#6: Why is this country so big?
In my four years here, I have visited only 4 of the 50 states. I wonder if I will ever be able to visit all the states. California on its own is so big and provides a variety of things to see. I'm blessed to live where I do, and I want to see it all. I just don't know how.
#7: Why is the milk jug that big?
This one is on this list, most likely because we are a two-person household. I'm still shocked when I see the size of the milk jug in the stores. I always wonder who is able to drink a whole gallon of Milk. I'm more comfortable with the one-liter packs. Don't get me started on the size of grapes or apples here.
#8: Why does the University you went to matter?
Especially since I studied in Germany, I really can't contribute to conversations about colleges or universities. I wonder if the knowledge and experiences you gathered should matter more than where you got trained. Especially with the recent events in the news, it may help for us to get to a place where it no longer matters.
#9: Why don't we use universal metrics?
It should be easy for me to tell you the temperature. No, it's not that easy if temperatures in Fahrenheit mean nothing to you. I am comfortable telling people the temperature in Celsius and letting them convert for me real time. Knowing miles versus kilometers is one I thing I can get the hang of. However, pounds versus grams is one I still have to think about every time I buy meat.
#10: Why do political campaigns take so long?
When I moved here in early 2015, the campaigns were just kicking off for the 2016 election. I was sure the elections were in Nov 2015 because of how many conversations were being had. And now it's all happening again. Politicians are touring the country with about 22 months to the 2020 elections. It is all in my face 24/7 and I don't even get to vote here.
Call to Action
What are some things you don't understand about the place or culture you live in?
Continuing my relocation story with year 2 and 3 in the US. The theme of this phase was "shaking my foundation and new beginnings." A few weeks ago I completed my fourth year in the US. Looking back I'm amazed at how quickly time has gone by. While my focus in the first three years was getting settled, situated in my new home and growing my career, in year four I made a significant professional change.
In this post, I will share my experiences, learnings, and insights in my fourth year of living in the US. If you missed the first three years of my journey, read My Life in the US - Year 1 and My life in the US - Year 2 and 3 posts.
Going back home to Nigeria
Earlier last year, I traveled back to Nigeria. After living in Germany and now in the US, my life has changed a lot since I moved from Nigeria in 2001. In my three weeks there, I enjoyed great Nigerian food and reconnected with family I had not seen in years. Read more about my experience in my blog post. My trip to Nigeria after 12 years.
Going back home to Germany
In addition to going back to Nigeria, I also attended a family event in Germany. Spending a week in Saarbrucken a city I spent my first years in Germany brought back many memories. I had not spent this much time in Saarbrucken since I moved away in 2007. Showing my family my favorite pasta, kebab and breakfast spot was amazing. I was shocked at how much I remembered about a city I spent six formative years in.
Politics impacting my real life
When I started my journey in Germany as a student, dealing with visa applications was a very regular part of my life. Moreover, here I was again after 17 years of living in different countries; I had to make some changes. Being a legal immigrant working in the US, I was made aware of how policies that the government makes affects me. I've been blessed not to have any huge issues.
Growing my business
One of the things I have valued the most about living in the bay area is the idea of "you can do anything." This mindset helped me take a bold step and start my blog and business. There is something electrifying about being surrounded by other entrepreneurs who share their experiences and knowledge. Living in Germany, I am not sure I would have been bold enough to make such a big move.
Exploring my new home
Even after three great years, there were still somethings I had not yet experienced. I had the opportunity to travel more and enjoy California more. This is really one of the greatest places I have lived from the perspective of nature. In addition to traveling a little more, I also explored the sports culture by going to see my first basketball game.
Growing my network and community
Thinking back on last year, I was able to build my local network both professionally and for my business. I attended a lot of events and trainings that helped me expand my network. Meeting great women and business owners broadened my perspective. As I think back on one of the most exceptional experiences I have had so far in the US, it would have to be building a network of people who encourage you to do the big things you dream about.
As someone who has interviewed for Jobs in Germany and now in the US, I can definitely say there is a huge difference. I interviewed at four great companies on my quest to find a new job. Going through the preparation process and interviewing helped me be more confident about my skills and professional experiences. I had the opportunity to introduce myself professionally to about sixteen people. Interviewing in the US has a huge component of self-marketing which I had to learn to succeed.
Starting a new job
Professionally, I made a significant change last year. After being with the same company in Germany for eight years in total and in my first three years in the US, the time came for me to join a new company. I have learned a lot through the process of starting a new job in the US. As with every new thing we start, there have been a mix of good and bad experiences as well as many learnings.
Top 10 Lessons learned
Over the four years of my relocation journey to the US, I have learned so many valuable lessons, that I would like to share with you.
Call to Action
What is the biggest lesson you have learned living in a new country? Reflect on your experiences, document your lessons learned and share them
Continuing the Her Relocation series, with some of the lessons I learned working in Germany and now in the US. As I reflect, I realize that the countries I have lived and worked in have influenced my career in significant ways. My portfolio and skill set are very diverse. Which I'm now learning is one of my unique selling propositions.
Looking back, I appreciate the opportunity to have started my career in Germany and continued my journey in the US. The combination of all my experiences has helped me achieve great career success. In this blog post, I'll share some of the professional lessons I learned so far.
Lesson #1: Be culturally aware
My experience as an immigrant and working with people from diverse cultures prepared me to manage global projects. Learning from some of my negative experiences, I appreciate and respect diversity. Building inclusive teams where everyone feels valued is a priority for me.
Lesson #2: Gather knowledge and learn new skills
In Germany, I learned the value of setting a solid foundation with theoretical knowledge. Early in my career, I got a project management certification, and since then I have continued to keep my skills fresh. This has helped set me apart and prepare me for the big tasks I have worked on.
Lesson #3: Promote yourself
A valuable lesson I learned working in the US is that it is not enough to do great work - You need to talk about it. Initially, I struggled with talking about the great work I was doing. After observing my peers do an amazing job talking about their experiences, I started working on finding a way that worked for me. Honestly, I'm still learning and practicing self-promotion.
Lesson #4: Your relationship with your co-workers matters
We spend a significant amount of time with our co-workers. I learned the value of taking a proactive approach to building a relationship with my team when I moved to the US. Partly because I was a new member of the team. Spending time getting to know my team members on a more personal level helped me integrate into the team well.
Lesson #5: Move and re-invent yourself
Typically, in Germany people stay at a company for a very long time. Working in the US changed my perspective, it's ok to move around and re-invent yourself. I now see starting new jobs or changing roles as a normal part of my professional journey.
Lesson #6: Be organized and structured
Especially as a program manager, being very organized has many benefits. With everything that I juggle and manage concurrently, it is essential for me to be structured. I like to say I enjoy to bring structure to chaotic situations.
Lesson #7: Plan for flexibility
One of the most significant changes for me, when I moved to the US, was the need to adapt to changes very often. I was used to having some changes on the projects I led. However, I was not prepared for the level of flexibility I would need to accept and plan for in the US. Adaptability and agility were skills I needed to learn very quickly.
Lesson #8: Know your worth and ask for what you want
At the time when I moved to the US, I didn't feel empowered to voice my needs and ask for what I was worth. I learned valuable skills from observing others, reading books and learning how to think about myself more. The first lesson I learned was that if I don't know what I'm worth, I'll never ask for it or get what I deserve.
Lesson #9: Build your professional network/community
Since my move to the US in 2015, I have attended so many events and joined some great professional groups. Thinking back, I started questioning how I went through my career in Germany without building my network.
Lesson #10: Do good work and let your work speak for you
Doing great work is a lesson that I learned as a child. My skills were honed and refined in Germany. The quality of the work you do speaks on your behalf. I learned many valuable techniques for ensuring I did great work when I worked in Germany.
Lesson #11: Think big in your career
The concept of setting aspirational career goals was amplified in the US. Striving to do things and take steps that don't feel entirely logical was a valuable lesson I learned. Not limiting myself or being extremely logical about all of my career moves, is the only reason that I'm where I am today.
Lesson #12: Share your knowledge and expertise
Both Germany and the US have contributed to my passion for sharing my experience. I enjoy the different opportunities I have to share my knowledge and learn from others.
Call to Action
What countries have you worked in and what valuable career lessons have you learned? Please share with your community and me.