Nadia Lejaille
Latest posts by Nadia Lejaille (see all)

I came to Germany with my brother. In Cameroon, I worked as a hairdresser. Over time, the brain develops and with it the desire to travel. But the travel was not as I had imagined. I wished to go to Europe. Germany was not really a choice. On the way there were encounters, people give you tips where it’s easier, where it’s better. The trip from Cameroon to Spain was difficult and I can’t remember exactly how long it took. From Spain we took a bus and arrived in Germany.

I came to Germany when I was 32 years old. When I arrived, I took a German course for six months and was very committed. After that, I taught myself the German language. But the German language is hard. I speak German and so do my children.

You always hope that you can adapt, but the system in Europe blocks Africans and their freedom of expression. When you have children, you look at them and try to see what they are worth, what they can do. And you help and encourage them so they can develop. But in Europe, we’re often all put in one bag and we’re not helped.

It’s important to be able to express yourself and work. I get €329 a month, which is nothing. And I can’t work. Here they reduce you to a beggar, to someone who needs help. But I don’t really need help, I just need people to open doors for me. In Europe, everything works according to the hierarchy. There is a lot of hatred between people, but we need cooperation, good cooperation between people. It is important to learn the culture of others.

It is also important to tell others the truth, lying is wrong. Former Cameroonians who have lived in Europe for a long time should tell the truth and not sell dreams. They must show the good and the bad sides of life in Europe. On YouTube, the videos tend to show that life here is easy.

I have been trying to get my driver’s license for a year. I tried two driving schools in my village, but they rejected my registration. Then I found a driving school in Berlin that accepted my enrollment. I already paid, but after that a lady told me that you can only get your driving license in your village. Such rejections are bad for integration. It blocks you to move on.

I don’t understand a country that gives you a place to live and money, but doesn’t allow you to work and pay taxes. Nobody can just sleep and eat. But I think it’s a system because if you let everyone to do his thing, there’s no more work. The real problem, though, is the hatred and the malice. It’s the same in Africa, it’s not only in Europe. If there wasn’t this problem in Africa, we wouldn’t be here. This is a system that runs deep. But everybody should be free and respect other people.

For eight years, all I can do is eat and sleep. I can’t do anything. I’ve only been going to the integration course since six months. It is very interesting. It’s an openness that you don’t expect.

Can you fight for eight years without seeing a result, without seeing an end? It’s like they want to push you into a hole and keep you there. Look, even if you do an apprenticeship, it’s three years, and if you do a fast-track apprenticeship, it’s two years, and then it’s over. There is always a result for everything. But if there is no result, you can’t motivate yourself to get up early. Those who get up early are the ones who know what they are looking for in life. But even if you do the same as those people, it’ s not worth anything just because you are a migrant. What you’ve been doing for eight years is worth nothing. In Africa, at least I could open a market stall and sell things without asking permission. Here, there are always rejections.

In the center, neighbors do not say hello to each other. They are not mean, sometimes they are nice, but you can see right away when someone doesn’t want to be disturbed.

When I arrived, they gave me a room in the center. At that time, it was not yet the crisis with Ukraine, but with Syria. And all the Syrians I arrived with, they all left and found a place to stay. I was just taken to another home. This is the third one I’m in. After eight years here, it’s easier to move me to another refugee home than to give me housing. Those who get housing deserve it, I obviously don’t. What does it mean to be integrated? I don’t even have an address!

I have been asking for an apartment for a long time and I still do. I’ve been on Immo24, but I’ve reached the point where I don’t even get a response anymore. Sometimes they send me back the same ad, only more expensive. They know the job center will not pay, so they think you don’t deserve the house.

After a three-year struggle, I received a residence permit almost a year ago. It is important to show all sides of the coin, including the good ones. Thanks to this residence permit, I was able to go back to school by taking an integration course.

For the future, I would like to have an apartment and train as a hairdresser. I have already worked as a hairdresser in Cameroon and would like to work as a hairdresser again in Germany.

2 Replies to “Layanah, Cameroon”

  1. Joseph Takor says:

    Courage, Nadia. Reading your story nearly left me tearful. But like you say there at the end, there’s a bright side. All the best!

  2. Sandra says:

    Ok I’m from Cameroon & live in the United States. I’m American now & I lived in Europe before. I find it hard to believe in 8 yrs knowing u have skills making hair that u were not able to work from home or elsewhere. U need to be grateful u’ve had a place to stay and money given to u. I worked in Europe England odd jobs and in the US. I’ve worked the past 7 years without a break. Nothing is given for free. I pay my taxes. If nothing is happening it’s bc u don’t want it badly enough. Most Cameroonians abroad I know are extremely hardworking & I don’t know anyone who stays that long without working even part-time at least. There are factories, cleaning etc places that will hire u if u really want to. I’m now in the Medical Device industry but worked my way up while studying I did all sorts of odd jobs. Again if nothing is happening it’s bc u don’t want it bad enough. I have a friend who divorced her husband took all 3 kids single mom & built her hair business w people coming to see her at home. Works 8 12 hrs day but makes her money. If u want it bad enough u will do what u have to to make money. Starting is difficult but u will never achieve ur full potential by sitting and sulking.


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