Over the past 21 years, I have had the privilege of living in the US and Germany. I have been reflecting on my journey living abroad and thinking about things I do not talk about often. I acknowledge that there are many experiences of immigrants that I will not be covering because not all experiences are the same, yet we have many similarities.
In this blog post, I will share things about my experience and other immigrants that I have come across on my journey. We could talk about this topic for a very long time. Check out my other Her Relocation blog posts about my experiences living in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
#1: You will always stand out
If you live as an immigrant in another country, you will undoubtedly stand out. It is a massive adjustment to now be noticed, especially for those who have lived in countries where we blended in. The status of an immigrant follows you everywhere you go. I have learned to accept that as part of my life experience.
#2: You always think about your differences
As immigrants, we have many differences from the majority of the people in the countries we live in. The differences range from race, ethnicity, language, social-economic, religion, background, and many others. We are very aware of our differences every single day.
#3: You live with the thought of being denied a visa/stay and having to go back to your home countries
Part of most immigrant journeys starts with a temporary visa or approval to stay for a limited time. With that comes the knowledge that your stay could be revoked, and you may be asked to return to your home country. In fact, even after you get a passport from your new home country, the thought stays in the back of your mind.
#4: You don't have access to a lot of things
When I went to university in Germany, the access differences from my German counterparts were very noticeable. I always wished I had the knowledge, networks, financial support, and access that other students had. We make it work, but the path there is more challenging.
#5: You do not know some systematic structures and processes
I still think back to when I arrived in the US and faced challenges getting a credit card because I did not have credit. This was totally new to me as Germany does not have the same financial structures. I have a very long list of things I wish I had known early. Even after living abroad for over 21 years, there are still some things that I don't know and learn.
#6: Finding a place to get your hair done might be a challenge
Immigrants who have a different hair texture from the predominant group in the country they now live in will understand this. My friends did my hair for many years because I could not find a place to get my hair braided when I moved to Germany. This contributed to me deciding to cut my hair low because it helped me.
#7: You will miss food and other things you enjoy
This was actually the first thing that came to my mind. My immigrant experience would not be complete without me talking about food. It is one of the things that connects me with my culture. 21 years ago, when I started my journey as an immigrant, food from different countries was not as readily accessible. Interestingly, till today, there are some foods that I have not eaten since I left Nigeria.
#8: You may face discrimination
This post would not be complete if I didn't mention the fact that many immigrants face discrimination for their race, ethnicity, language, social-economic, religion, background, and other differences. A lot of immigrants do not share their negative experiences. My hope is that people will have more inclusive experiences.
#9: People often underestimate your abilities
The status of an immigrant and someone who is different sometimes makes people think that you are unable to achieve big goals. Every time I hear about immigrants that have paved their way and are doing great things, I am very proud. I have had the opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds who are amazing at what they do.
#10: Your view of the world is multifaceted
One of the things I appreciate the most about being an immigrant is that my perfective has been enriched by every country I live in and all my experiences. There is something special about learning new cultures or languages and building a new life from scratch in a new country.
Our world is more multi-cultural now than at any other time in history, and it's a beautiful thing. Seeing fellow immigrants makes me appreciate my journey even more. A lot of people experience good and bad things daily. Please contribute to making the world a place where everyone, irrespective of their background. To all the immigrants out there, keep being great!