The Homes We Create

Maria came from Portugal to Berlin 7 years ago. She is 37 and she is a graphic designer, an illustrator and textile enthusiastic. She never imagined that she would one day live in Germany. 

She came to Berlin to look for a new start and new experiences. After living in Spain, the UK and India, her then-boyfriend got a job in Berlin and together they decided to come to Berlin. Seven years later, happily married with two little girls, they built their home here. 

However, when I asked Maria if she feels at home in Berlin I got a question in return. “I always ask myself that question: What is home?” asked Maria. I think many people immigrants in particular, cannot really define for themselves what home is, yet in relation to others to others. Maria shared her belief – that people could have several homes because different reasons induce the feeling of home, whether it is because of a place, or the people in it. 

I challenged her and asked – what makes you feel not at home? What is your biggest challenge? “The language”, she said immediately. “I even remember the first day I came to Berlin, it was such a horrible day, it was a gray day and raining in the middle of June. it suddenly dawns on me that I can’t understand any of the signs in the airport or the train, I was intimidated and overwhelmed at the same time”. The German language is still a challenge for her, “I feel the bigger Rita is growing so is the need for more complex vocabulary, and she is growing faster than I learn German. But it also encourages me to try harder, both in learning German and to be part of the community”.

a woman escape from German avalanche

When we talk about integration, Maria admits that she doesn’t feel completely integrated. Today she can speak German, she has a job, two kids and friends including german friends. She passed the integration course successfully, according to the German government she is integrated. But in her heart, she doesn’t feel 100% like she belongs. Why do you think it is? I asked, “I think it is because of the language, I think one part of it is because I don’t feel fluent in German, but the other part is how I am when I speak Geman. I also speak English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese –  in every language, I feel a bit different. Each language brings with it a slightly different Maria”.

a woman with 3 faces

Portugal lays at the west edge of Europe, beyond that spreads the Atlantic ocean, which Maria misses dearly. She also misses the Portuguese language and the ease that come with it. Don’t you have a few friends that speak Portuguese? I ask. “Not really”, says Maria, “Portuguese people are very private, we keep to ourselves. Also, the Portuguese community is very small, the majority of people, who speak Portuguese in berlin, are Brazilians. I don’t have a problem with them, but they have a completely different culture, talking to them doesn’t bring me the feeling of ease I miss”. 

What does bring you the feeling of ease here in Berlin? “The parks, I absolutely love the parks here and the way people keep them clean, it is like a breath of fresh air for me”.

Illustrated and written by Adi G.

Adi G. is a graphic designer and illustrator, she moved to Berlin 7 years ago with her cat. She still struggles to say Kichererbsen.

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