Moving to another country – How does it feel and how does it change you?

Emily and her family have a lot of migration history, and she has asked them two things: How does moving to a different country feel, and how does it impact your identity?  


Most of us probably already wondered at least once in our lifetimes, whether we could and would want to move to another country to live there. But leaving the familiar, your family, the customs that you are used to and starting new in a foreign place seems like a tough decision to make. A lot of us also know people who came from different countries. But did you ever ask them, how it felt to move so far away from home? What were the hardships and what was the motivation? Do they regret it?

I happen to have a lot of migration background and I never asked them, but the new topic of our magazine “Identity” motivated me to do so now. My Mum’s from Poland, my Dad and uncle are half English and half Pakistani and my aunts from Austria. I’ve seen and heard bits and pieces of most of these countries and sometimes they seem like entirely different worlds. Also the word “foreigner” seems to have a negative connotation these days, which is sad to think about, because a person is so much more than the country they were born in. So, what I did was send them a few questions about their feelings about coming to Germany and there are so many interesting aspects of this subject, that right now I feel like I could write a whole book about it. So, I’ll do my best to outline it.

The motivations to move were quite different for my volunteers. They range from trying to find an own path, to work or to pure coincidence and finding love. Also, the process of adjusting differed a lot. While my mum and aunt adjusted very fast after they started working here, it took up to a few years for my dad and uncle, who came the long way from Pakistan. All of them faced some hardships. While the new language was a common problem, the amount of homesickness differed between my relatives. It must be noted that when they came here, the digitization wasn’t as developed as it is now. An advantage we have today is, that it takes a lot less time to send a WhatsApp-message, than to send a letter, so it is definitely easier to stay in touch after moving. Another challenge for my uncle was the Bavarian three-quarter format to express the time, but we can reassure him there, because half of Bavaria can relate.

Another question I asked them was, what they like about the new country and what they miss about the old. Good news is they all agreed that they liked the German tidiness and efficiency. They also praised the legal and social system. While my aunt sometimes misses the friendlier and cozier mentality of her home, my uncle is really craving for those English Pies and Pakistani Curries.

What they all agreed on, was two things. First, they all feel like moving to the new country changed them. Adjusting to the different culture influenced their characters in some ways. Some noticed a more structured nuance in their thinking and habits due to the German way of living. My mum even said her polish relatives sometimes laugh at her for her meticulous waste separating, because it’s not yet quite as established in their society. Others found themselves and what they wanted to do here. Again others said they actually felt the need to work harder as the people here to prove they were not worse at things just because they are „foreigners“. The second thing they agreed on was, that they are all happy with their decision to move to Germany.

In conclusion, I would say: Yes, there are some challenges when moving to another country. Like every decision in life, it has it’s ups and downs, but if you truly want it, it seems to always pay off in the end. Also, I would like to bring in another very important point that my aunt mentioned. In the future, especially because of the climate change, we have to expect an increase in migration. A lot of people do or will not have the privilege of choice that we have here. There is still a lot of space to improve integration from all sides. Especially in Germany. So please be kind and open-minded, because it is hard to adjust to a new culture and there are already too many problems in the world stemming from a lack of understanding and empathy.

If you now have been inspired or already have been thinking about moving to another country, here is some last advice from our experts:  Invest into learning the language, because otherwise you will find it very hard to adjust. Have respect for the culture and the people and don’t be afraid of the unfamiliar. If you put some effort in, you won’t have any problems with the new surroundings.

Now, if you are still unsure: I personally advise you to take a leap of faith and just go for it, because -as cheesy as it may sound- you actually do only live once.

(Except if you believe in reincarnation of course, but then there’s always the danger of being reborn as a stone.)

by Emily Shah-Abbas

Picture: Pexels (Nubia Navarro/nubikini)