This week’s post is another in the Expat Wisdom series. In case you’re new to my blog, each month I share the story of another expat and ask them to share their ‘expat wisdom’ with my readers! It’s a great way to build community, and I have certainly learned a lot by reading your stories!
This week’s story is from Tania Capel, an expat currently living in Germany. I really enjoyed reading her story because she wrote honestly about culture shock and how difficult she found it to move to a place that is so different from where she grew up. I think us expats could all learn a little from her experiences!
Remember, if you would like to be the next expat featured head over to this page. But, without further ado, here is Tania’s story…
Explaining my background is not as straight forward as I’d wish it to be and I think every third culture kid can relate to this. Sometimes when introducing myself in front of big circles I will use the line ‘My name is Tania and I am from Kenya’, if only it stopped there. I don’t necessarily look Kenyan so for that reason I always have to go into deeper explanations to clarify where I am ‘actually’ from.
I’ll give it my best shot here: my father is originally from a small city in the UK and my mother is originally from the coast of Madagascar, which is where they met in fact, while my Dad was on a job there. My Dad’s job required him to move around a lot and particularly to different African countries so that’s how they ended up in Kenya, where I was born. I have an attachment to this country that you will only understand once you visit. If you have watched the recent Lion King movie, you’ll understand – it gave me so much nostalgia. I was only a few months old when my Dad received a new job offer in Uganda so I spent most of my primary school years in Kampala as an expat child. I have such amazing memories of my time there, something about growing up in Uganda brought me humility and happiness that has never left me as a person. Once I finished primary school and it was time for my dad to move onto the next job, which happened to be in Botswana – another breathtaking African country. As an expat child, I really had little to complain about, sure you don’t get a chance to make long term friends, but safari two or three times a year is pretty good compensation! I grew up loving nature and the wild more than anything. However sadly after that, my Dad’s next job was back in his home town in the UK; this was a great challenge having grown in up in Africa, the dynamics and people’s attitudes are very different. It was no surprise that my family did not last long and after one year we ended back home – Kenya! Phew, I hope that gives a little insight into my background, I only just scraped the surface.
I am currently living in Germany as a struggling expat, I say struggling because I am here without my family, which is hard, and this country is a huge culture shock for me. I was brought here by the free education and an amazing social system, however, to keep my connection strong to Kenya, I travel home at least twice a year and honestly, that’s what keeps me moving. It took me a long time to integrate here, I was so far from the culture and the language. I have finally reached a point where I have forced myself into speaking the language, living like the Germans would, and I’d say integrating myself and putting myself in new situations. Since doing this, life has been smoother and I have to say, I am no longer struggling and feel much more empowered.
Currently, I am packing up my things to move to another German city. I’m glad that I’m moving to a much larger city where there will be more expats. And here’s my first expat advice – find a community of internationals/expats. I was fortunate to work in a millennial company in Germany where English is the first language, and how amazing it was to be among more people just like myself, pretty much all my colleagues are third culture kids and I felt completely normal for the first time in my life and our bond is unbreakable because we all have very similar understandings.
With moving comes the daily battle of fear and excitement, we all know that moving is a fresh new start that comes with lots of uncertainties, I suppose the older I get, the harder it is to make the decision to go into the unknown – even though yes, I’ve been moving all my life and it doesn’t make it easier. I am just starting to embrace that things are up in the air, but it leaves room for many opportunities. If you change your mindset, you’ll begin to see that this can actually be so much fun and that you can make a conscious effort to be ready for all the beautiful opportunities that will come your way.
With love, Tania