Dr. Taco’s notes

My immigration story

México lindo y querido, si muero lejos de ti, que digan que estoy dormido y que me traigan a ti. Chucho Monge, 1945.

I think the immigrant life isn’t for everyone, yet I believe everyone who experiences it mutates into someone else, into someone completely different. More than eight years ago, I decided to move out from my Guadalajara, Mexico to Berlin, Germany. It was a ducking difficult decision. I wanted to study for a Ph.D. in Germany to pursue my dreams in academia (more of that in a different post). However, I knew already, that leaving Mexico wouldn’t be just for a few years until I finish it. I knew it would be a many-years-long (possibly the rest of my life) journey.

Before leaving Guadalajara, I tried to meet everyone in my family and friends circle, I went to eat in all my favorite places and was mentally preparing for it. Yet, it didn’t really prepare me for what it was like arriving in a new country, with a totally new language and without knowing anyone.

I arrived at the, now closed, Tegel airport in Berlin on October 5th, 2015, on a cold rainy morning via a Cancún-Dusseldorf flight. I didn’t have mobile internet and contrary to what I was expecting, there was no free Wi-Fi anywhere. After a rough encounter with the German culture when trying to buy a train ticket and with missing luggage, I made it safely to the apartment I was being borrowed as a student near Wittenbergplatz. All information I had, was written in some papers I printed before departing Guadalajara. Wet, hungry, internetless, I cried most of my first night in Berlin in an empty room, with only my laptop and a couple of clothes I had in my carry-on.

Over the months and thanks to the people at the German school I was attending, I found many things that helped me to survive. The cultural shock, the lifestyle, and the weather were very difficult things to adapt to (and I’m not sure whether I even adapted or just got used to after these years), but I think the hardest impact was on my expectations. Before coming to live here, I had all these expectations of how life, people, environment, and all here would be, but they were all based either on other people’s stories (who actually lived in Berlin before me) or on the knowledge of Germany on the other side of the Atlantic that is seen on TV, movies and so on.

I had so many expectations that in Germany everything would work more efficiently, the cities would be cleaner, the people would be more respectful, the healthcare would have higher quality, the cities would be safer, and the services would be better. Some things are better than in Guadalajara (and I’ll refer only to my comparison between Berlin and Guadalajara), in general it is much safer to walk the streets alone as a woman even during late hours of the night, but considering this is the capital of Germany, and not just a big city in Mexico, I have experienced quite a lot of harassment, xenophobia and dangerous situations while leaving here. Berlin is by far not a clean city, it is much greener than Guadalajara for sure, but streets and public spaces are not an example of pulchritude. Regarding the services, Germany is known for its crappy Customer Service — and it is a thing — where it is impossible sometimes to even reach a person to present your difficulty, and when you finally do it, probably they will blame everything on you, meaning you need to pay for anything you need. In Guadalajara, we have the good old American customer service, where the client is always right, and if you don’t like the service of a company, you have all the rights to get some compensation for the bad service or change without problems to another provider (it doesn’t always go as smooth as it should, but generally it works). On the last point, when talking of efficiency and healthcare, well, for the amount of taxes a contributor pays here, one would expect to get responses and appointments faster — at least — but the bureaucracy and an overload system make the exception that something works on time here.

I don’t think anything actually prepared me for what I have experienced here these years, and I think is mainly because the story of each immigrant is different, we all come here for different reasons, at different stages of our lives, with different circumstances and different dreams. When speaking to friends of mine about their own journeys and experiences here, we all have so many different things and feelings about it, for some people, this has become their new home country, and they feel happy to be here all the time, while for some others being here is not what they expected and they feel unhappy about their lives here.

There are also all the painful stories about abuse, violence, and loss that I have heard or read over the years, how many emigrated for love, to start a family here, and the love of their lives became a living nightmare.

In addition to the struggle of adaptation and finding a new support circle here, I think the pain caused by the loss of what I left behind has been the hardest to overcome. While things were difficult in Guadalajara (and sadly, they still are due to crime and violence), being away from my family, my lifetime friends, the culture I know, the food I grew with, and even the year-round sunny weather, caused pain in me. I can’t avoid to miss these things.

Yet, whenever I visit Guadalajara, I get the feeling that I don’t belong there anymore. My family and friends continued with their lives (as expected) and I’m so disconnected from what is happening with them there, the culture I know, now also feels strange to me sometimes, and in general, my lifestyle and mindset don’t feel adequate for Guadalajara anymore. This has given me the feeling that I don’t belong there anymore, but I also don’t belong in Berlin either. Here, I’m too exotic, too different, and sometimes even too talkative to fit in.

All this has always made me consider if I should go back to Guadalajara, or even move somewhere else (but more on that in a different post). However, I do have one thing clear now, it doesn’t matter where I go or stay, I need to accept that being an immigrant, has changed me for good, and transformed me into someone different over these last years. Sometimes it was very painful, but in general, it’s very rewarding to be this resilient and badass, because it has shown me what I’m made of.