Not all who wander are lost

I moved to Germany over 7 years ago. It was the hardest and the best decision I ever made. Did it go as I had planned? No. Did it go wrong? No… Germany has given me lemons and I love lemonade. 

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was in the middle of the grocery store, standing in front of a gigantic fridge full of meat, having what could only be described as an anxiety attack.  

I was trying to find smoked turkey breast and had no idea what it is called in German. The supermarket had no mobile service, so I had no access to my translating app to look it up. I stood there for what seemed to be hours. I picked ‘Schinken’ as it was very close to chicken… German is very close to English, they said. I went home and decided to double-check … ‘Schinken’ is Ham. It is one of those stories you would jokingly tell your friends … not for me, not then.  I did not return it because that meant interacting with people and the mere thought of it made me feel sick. I just got rid of it as fast as possible (I do not eat ham because I am a Muslim). I remember the tears welling up in my eyes and overwhelming feelings of frustration and shame taking over. 

… I couldn’t even make a sandwich. 

I was so embarrassed I couldn’t even tell my husband about it. He will probably know about this story when he reads this post.  

So many questions were rushing through my brain. What have I done? When was it going to get easier? Why is it so hard? 

 I still ask myself some of these questions to be honest.  

Back then, I had no idea what was going on. None of this was new to me. I have lived in other countries, adapted to new norms, made new friends… but life in Munich was something else.  

What was new … was to move to a new country where I didn’t speak the language and with no clear plan. I was 28 and I had just left a promising job in one of the biggest companies in Morocco to find myself in the middle of a Munich supermarket not able to buy smoked turkey…  little did I know, this was only the beginning.  

Everything seemed so hard. It wasn’t just about the language or the weather (do not underestimate what the long gloomy winter and autumn months can emotionally do to a Mediterranean plant like me) it was much deeper but I did not have the vocabulary or the words to describe what I was going through.  

Moving from Rabat/Casablanca to Munich wasn’t only about leaving my former social circle and lifestyle but also about losing my identity and this was emotionally exhausting. The culture shock was so subtle and slow I did not see it coming. Munich is a tricky city. It is the third biggest city in Germany, but it somehow feels like a village. The transition is neither straightforward nor painful, but it can be violent. Nothing about Munich is impressive but it is one of those cities that swallow you. 

It makes me smile now, but Germany has challenged me in every possible way … and it still does. 

I still need to give myself a pep talk from time to time and I still send my husband the ‘let’s get the hell out of here’ text a few times a year but I consider myself lucky. I keep an open mind and embrace every challenge and every experience. I live outside my comfort zone but that’s where the magic happens right?  

I have come a long way in the last 7 years, and I am still taking it one tiny step at a time. I have learned that when things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have gone wrong. If you can’t always control your circumstances, you can control how you deal with change.  

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