It’s already five years since I moved to Germany and almost three years since we moved to a bigger apartment and the Wohnung is still totally chaotisch. Boxen everywhere, kitchen still at war, stuff where they shouldn’t be. Interior design obviously isn’t our strong suit.
But I love it! It was a new start for us, moving to our first big apartment together. May not seem like much but for me it was alles. Our first home was one room basement flat with a kitchen and one bathroom. We are growing together, making our own family history together and it’s beautiful.
Moving is a very tough decision especially when it’s across the continent and I was scared that I was not going to see my family and friends for a while. But excited to begin a new life, start another journey and build experiences as well.
Ok, so you are Nigerian and you what? Got yourself a job in Germany? Got admitted to do a masters degree? Moving to be with your husband? What are you, crazy?
No, not at all. Just making a good life for yourself, full of big adventures and crazy experiences that would probably become a fairy tale one day. But here is a not so short list on some of the simplest ways you can integrate without being overwhelmed. Tips to help you stay focused on the other more relevant issues of immigration.
Nigerian And Goddamn Proud.
I moved to Germany right from Portharcourt in Rivers State. Hell, I went to school there and I couldn’t wait to get out (long story). Anyways I remember thinking how excited I was but in all that excitement I didn’t think about basic Nigerian needs I may want to stick with. Sure I had my box of indomie but that was it. Besides, box of indomie isn’t hard to find. Every afro shop sells it from 12 to 15€. You can pack up as much dry food as you feel is necessary (no such thing) but depending on where you do get to live, these things are easy to come by. The only thing that drives me nuts is the price tag. But you do get used to it after a while because really, even back in Nigeria, “oyibo” food wasn’t exactly cheap. So hey….
African And Bloody Natural.
Before my move, I was schon natural and didn’t know a bloody thing about grooming afro hair. I lived in blissful ignorance then and lived on ignorantly blissful after. It wasn’t until 2014/15 that I learned about the Natural Hair community. Even then I didn’t go in with a bang and that’s because I’m just a lazy soul. I created my own regimen which a lot of people condemned me for it because in their world, natural hair has rules. As if! Of course personal regimen is now synonymous with black hair. So, if you are natural and moving to Germany, you best load up on all possible products because gurrrrrllll it ain’t cheap. Forget what you see American and English naturals non chalantly show you on you tube. Hair products for afro hair are bloody expensive. Ain’t no sugar coating it. Expensive, costly, teuer, o dara onu (did I write that correct ye igbo sisters! ), plenty ego!
I did arrive with a big bag of Dudu Osun bars plus the updating my sister did for me so I basically have 2 to 3 years supply. Why? Dudu osun is my all natural shampoo. I mix that dark brown goodness in warm water and boo yah! A bar can make me probably a 1000ml but I like to break up it up and just make 100 to 250ml until the whole bar is done before I tear open a new pack. Here, I saw a pack on amazon (was that eBay? I can’t tell these days) for 5€ and knew I was never going to buy that here. 5 euros ke? Are they gaming me?
I am not selling the idea of black soap shampoo to you. My point is whatever products you use on your hair, go all out with them, knock yourself out and get as many as can fit into your suitcase. Shea butter (Ori to us Nigerians ) is another product you might want to arrive with. It’s the natural hair truth and the one product that works for 90% of the community. So get to Mile 3 market just a few blocks away from the University and patronise those old ladies who sell you the original product and hold it close to your heart!
Natural hair products are totally expensive here in Germany, I can’t stress that enough and this is due in part to the international trading laws with the US. Have you tried posting stuff from USA to Deutschland? It’s crazy. So I can very well understand the need to put a posh price tag on these products. But in the end, it completely shuts down the very idea of natural hair being cheap to maintain.
This is exactly why I started the challenge with Isana. Which I must confess I have slacked on. I recently cut my hair again so I guess we will be bringing Isana back.
I’ve Got Hair game
I used to go to a hair salon to get my hair done and it was expensive. We were living on one salary at the time, I was learning the language and trying to build up my closet so I knew I had to do something fast. I got on YouTube and began taking hair lessons from various channels(God segne you all). I started getting my own hair done and even got paid to make hair????????❤️. But there are various ways to tackle that hair expense and many people who can make hair but not theirs have gone into partnership with other hair making friends. You make mine and I make yours. Of course if you are down with having to pay a stranger do your hair, that’s fine too. Whatever works for you is the message here. It can get frustrating sometimes but when is life not tiring oder?
No joke, the German language isn’t a walk in the park. It will pick you up and flip you over the moon three times and start all over again. Especially if you aren’t a language enthusiast like me who used to be content with just English. But in truth, one language is so yesterday. A lot of Nigerians speak more than one language. Hell, Nigeria has over 400 languages and some people speak all of the major ones. My mum spoke her native language igbo, hausa, ibibio and of course English. All of my sisters speak igbo and ibibio. I seemed to be the only one who couldn’t say a single word in either of our two local languages. But I spent months after my arrival in classes being taught to speak German as part of my integration course after we got married and I shockingly passed all of my tests once. Except for that B2 Beruflich Deutsch I had to write a second time. I needed one point to make it to the pass level but of course I didn’t get it. I needed to retake the test a few weeks later. Which is one thing I miss most about Nigeria. Most professors will award you that damn point especially when they know you to be a hardworking student. God forbid they be the reason you don’t step forward. I mean of course they aren’t but….
The deutsche Sprache ist echt nicht einfach and imagine that dialects are even harder to understand. But luckily all you need is hoch deutsch so you goooooood. ???????? So whatever reason you have for moving here, understanding the language is one of the best things you can do to make your life easier.
I’m not much of a social bird and don’t do Discos or frequent bars enough to add something meaningful to the Thema, but from what I have seen, Germany does have a bubbling night life. It may not be Ibiza or even Lagos but it’s an adventure, one singles should explore and it’s also a great way to learn some German cultures. Beer anyone?
I can’t discuss food without first mentioning the German bakery. I mean, it probably deserves its own topic away from the term food because the bakery in this country is so damn impressive I could sit in one all day or until they toss me out. There are roughly 600 varieties of bread in this country and more than one thousand pastries in God knows how many bakeries. That whiff of warm freshly baked goods on your way to work through the Hbf, across the street from the bus station, inside the mall and it is heaven I tell you. Heaven. I can’t even begin to mention all the different breads from the pretzels to the Mandelweckchen to the cinnamon loaf or the black bread and the all time fave, the weizen Brötchen. Deutschland is truly the master of bread. And I mean breakfast is always a pleasure. Kamps is a huge fave of mine.
But listen, I’m not a huge fan of traditional German food. Pommes, Schnitzel (of which it took me a while to appreciate), potato salad, Auflauf and certain sausages are about as much as I can handle. Rotkohl I can handle fresh in my Döner but that’s it. The barbecue is actually quite amazing too. It ain’t no Ram suya but chuck that down with traditional beer and you are dancing like no one’s watching. As much as I love Germany, I’m not big on some of their meals. Oh they can have an amazing smell. Walking past my neighbor’s door, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to knock and nicely demand a plate of whatever they are cooking????. So don’t feel weird or overwhelmed if you haven’t picked up a love for German cuisine. You have the rest of your life to do that. Find an Afro store and buy you some Nigerian food items. Don’t be afraid to ask any African local to give you store addresses.
Finding A Place To Live
I do not have a personal experience with this because the Mr usually does the search and then together we go sign the lease. But I have heard three accounts of how difficult it can be as a black single person to talk with possible Vermieter. Some people even go as far as getting a local to help them with the search because most seasoned landlords or ladies don’t want to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak basic German and as much as I understand them, I still think it’s unfair to base someone’s potential as a tenant by their ability to speak the language. Some Germans don’t even speak two languages and the truth is the possibility of you not needing German outside Germany is extremely high so they need to cut foreigners some slack. So don’t be afraid to ask your fellow classmates or your coworkers etc to make first impression with the Vermieter. The three people I spoke about this with are positive it has to do with your being black but I actually don’t think it’s racism. My opinion is that it is just the language but I could be wrong. Like I said, no personal experience.
Ankara Bespoke Fashion
I’m a huge fan of Ankara outfits and still teaching myself in my spare time to sew but the one thing I regret is not getting someone before my move to make wax print outfits I could wear in spring and summer. If you can’t sew to save your life and you love wax prints fashion, then don’t be like me, get your local seamstress to whip out a few designs for you. Remember that an expensive tailor doesn’t equal quality. My last trip to Port Harcourt, I gave two women photographic designs to create. The one who people raved about did a terrible job on the one dress I paid 4,000naira for while the lady I paid 1,000 naira made the most beautiful dress. Both didn’t actually stick to the style but the cheaper one came out even better than the original design. It’s very expensive here in my city at least to get someone to make you something or even generally buying off the rack from an independent black owned business which I’m in support of. But truth is we can’t all afford 50-200€ for an outfit. 1407 is an up and rising designer in Lagos who went to university in Rivers State and I’ve ordered a few items from him. Check out this post about his unisex designs.
As clichéd as this may seem, it is the truth. A lot of us Nigerians have people we help out once a while with cash. When my mum was alive I used to send her cash through this amazing app and what I love about it is that it’s quick and the cash goes directly into the recipient’s account. No crazy bill, no hassle of heading to the bank to verify the transaction with secret questions and serial numbers. And it’s not only for sending cash to family or friends. I’m in the process of getting my transcripts from school and I use the app. I also use it to pay off debts when people buy stuff with naira for me. It’s convenient and it’s safe and it is the new western union????????????????.
For Android users, this is one of the best Voip call apps ever. I’ve been using it for three or so years now and I find the rates very reasonable. For a Germany to Nigeria call, there’s a fee of 86¢ per minute. Of course it used to be cheaper and I hope they don’t plan to raise it again. It’s even better if you want to call the US. Whenever WhatsApp is on one of its tantrums, I simply use Telbo to talk with my sister for as long as I want. At 12¢ per minute! Sure, social media has made communication very easy but for friends and family you can’t connect with on that platform, this helps.
I always tell people that the best place for accurate information is the Amt. Be it the Ausländebehorde, the Arbeitsamt or the Jugendamt. Hell, even the Jobcenter is available too. If they can’t answer your questions, they are obligated to send you to the right spot. Sadly, some of the workers are so rude and come off most times as disrespectful but those offices are the best for questions the locals can’t help you with. Sometimes, even the Ausländer know more about certain topics than the locals so never shy away from asking fellow foreigners questions and no matter how annoyed the workers at the Amt are, keep asking your questions until you are satisfied with their service to you. Don’t just rely on social media info. If the Amt websites are still not clear, call or just go there first thing in the morning.
There are a million and one ways to smoothen the path to integration and it’s one of the beauties of life, discovering cultures and traditions different from yours, trying to blend in without loosing yourself. I’ve learned things, I’ve experienced a lot of things that I would not have living in Nigeria or Houston and I’m not going to tell you that there are no difficulties because that would be a lie.
All I can say is I love it here and I am still working on full on integration.