In early 2015, my relocation journey continued with a move to the United States. Specifically, to the Bay area in northern California. I expected that my experience would be similar to my life in Germany. Looking back, I can confirm that no relocation experience is the same. However, we get to apply our learnings from previous journeys.
I have been living in the US for three and a half years now. As with all relocation journeys, there are good, bad and ugly. In this post, I will continue my relocation story. Starting with my first year in the US.
Over the next months as part of the "My Life in the US" series, I will tell my story in the following phases:
What made this relocation different?
The significant differences with my relocation to the US were that I had a Job, a partner and I was older and more mature. Often, I ask myself how I handled the transition to Germany at age fifteen.
Why did I decide to relocate to the US?
My honest answer is that I moved for “Love.” Germany had treated me very well, and I wasn't planning to leave any time soon. Some external factors and my career influenced the exact timing of the move.
Preparing for the move
In November 2014, I began making plans to move. By February I had a project and was relocating to the US. Thinking back, I now know that two months of planning is not enough time. As everything happened so quickly, I didn't have the time to plan out my relocation and settling into my new home.
So many forms to fill
Living in Germany where I had filled a form for every single official transaction, I thought I was prepared for filling my immigration forms for the US. Nothing could have prepared me for the mass forms I would have to fill out. Having to submit the same information repeatedly has become the norm. I feel like I'm an expert now.
Building a new community
My friends and family play a very significant role in my life. I have come to learn the value of also having a small local community. Luckily, I inherited my partner's social network in the beginning. Not having to start from scratch was very helpful. It made my experience in the US great from a social perspective.
Say my full name
I learned very quickly that my name was difficult to remember. People would always ask - what other name do you go by? At the beginning my response was - I only go by Marie-Christin. Often, I got called "Marie-Christian", "Marie-Claire" and many other names. I adapted to the new culture by allowing people to call me "MC" and it works well.
Lack of guidance, structure or efficiencies
Very soon after my relocation, I faced some difficulty understanding how basic needs like health Insurance and banking worked in the US. Every task seemed complex and inefficient. Things took much longer than I expected which caused a lot of disappointment and stress. Here, I definitely know that Germany spoiled me. My solution is to plan a lot of lead time for any tasks and practice patience.
Land of dreams
When I moved to California, I was impressed by how open people were to taking a step into the unknown boldly. Coming from Germany where you only did work you were qualified for, it was liberating to see people try new things. It inspired me to revisit some of my dreams and believe they can become a reality.
I'm very far away
I thought the distance between Germany and Nigeria was a lot until I moved to California. Now every country where I have family and friends is geographically far away. Technology has helped me keep in close contact with my family and friends. I'm now an expert in online communication and staying connected to people that matter.
Professional cultural differences
My assumption that project management is almost the same globally was very wrong. Of course, the fundamental principles are the same. However, I quickly discovered that I would need to adapt my style to the new culture in the US. The way I approached planning and communicating was met with some resistance. I didn't want to change who I was, but I had to learn to find a middle point to make my team and clients happy.
Top 10 Learnings