Witchcraft in Germany, a diaspora culture shock 

 Witchcraft in Germany, a diaspora culture shock 

A rather innocent move to shift to Germany under Au Pair program turned very scary when Elsie was asked by her host family to take care of their snake.

When Elsie secured her Au pair programme visa for Germany she never imagined she would have to live with a snake. 

An au pair is normally a young person who travels to a foreign country to provide childcare services for a host family and learns their language and culture in exchange for boarding and a stipend.

Elsie landed in Germany on a cold winter day. Although she had seen the forecast before travelling, so she came prepared with warm jacket, only to learn very coldly that the winter in Germany was nothing she had imagined and her jacket was only good for a warmer spring day

Freezing and struggling to cope with a new environment, Elsie managed to board a fast train to the countryside to a place called, ‘black forest’ where she was met with her host family and they headed to their home.

The name itself should have raised her antennae, but being white people, it did not, nor did the mystery of the old but huge family home in the country with a vast compound and no neighbors in sight. She chose instead to focus on the spectacular views on that part of the country.

But once home, the rusty furniture and hanged animal heads started to crawl her skin and she fearfully marveled at other strange objects on the walls. 

Her host family was small. A divorced couple who had a young child, a dog and wait for it… a snake! They also lived with the host father’s sister, a creepy middle-aged woman. 

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Elsie later learned the home was passed down the family for generations and initially it belonged to the great grand parents, who started the practice of witchcraft, a practice that was also passed down generations. They family was well known for witchcraft in the whole region. 

“There should have been some information about this on the contract at least. To make it worse, the family assumed since I was from Africa, I was also somehow associated with ‘voodoo’ and even hoped I would assist in their rituals,” she said.

Elsie says the experience was so scary she had to sleep with her room locked. Definitely not what she thought her first time in Europe would be like. 

Moving to a new country can be overwhelming and scary for various reasons. Leaving your hometown, family, friends, culture, and in essence a reality that you have known and experienced for your whole life up to this moment is no small feat.  

For Elsie, this move came just after she had completed her high school education. She was set to travel abroad through the Au pair programme.

Prior to traveling, she had taken language classes for three months at the Goethe Institute in Nairobi and was confident about her skills. But even this did not prepare her for spoken German and when she landed abroad, it seemed like they were speaking an entirely different language from what she was taught. 

“Akiuliza what’s your name , uko tu zile za ‘what’ …you feel stupid actually” she says. 

And the strange experiences did not end there, before allowing her to care for their child, her hosts took her to their private doctor for tests, even though they were already done in Kenya prior to her travel. 

Soon, she was also caring for the dog and doing house chores, contrary to the contract. And just when she thought it could not get any worse they asked her to care of the slithery reptile as well. 

It was not long before she was determined to look for a way out and as soon as another opportunity presented itself,  Elsie jumped on it and out of here. She resigned and went to another host family, this time in the city, hopefully a better fit for her. 

For a new person in the country, she could already notice the clear cultural differences. The directness, extreme sense of punctuality, a lack of closeness/togetherness among them, racism, language, the weather and the most prominent, the paperwork!

Her first few months were overwhelming. With feeling homesick, exhausted from all the chores, mental strain, uncertainty and crashing self-confidence, surely life in majuu was not as simple as she thought. 

About a week later with her new host family, government officials came knocking at their door, looking for her. They had a report from her previous host family that claimed she had decided to run away and hide in the city. They were there to start the process of her deportation for breaking the law. 

Luckily, the first thing she did when she got to the city was to register herself in the mayor’s office, decalring where she is staying and who she is with and she had all the paperwork. She also had a copy of her resignation later signed by her former host family. The officials fined the family for false information.

Now her biggest worry was her Visa. She was on the clock and needed to find ways to extend her Visa. She preferred to join school, however, she couldn’t get accepted unless her bank account had enough funds to facilitate the entire course plus stay.

This was not possible since she was barely earning enough upkeep money to pay for her language course, transport and put something aside to send back home. It was hard to explain she was broke back home because how can she be and yet she lived ‘majuu’. As Africans we generally believe if someone lives abroad they are doing well in life, at least financially. 

“I just wish wangewacha hii mentality ya ukiwa huku ukona pesa, Juu expenses pia si cheap, on top of the mental strain na physical exhaustion, ata utapata people fall into depression very easily juu ya all the pressure, it’s too much“ she says 

Her host family was kind enough to extend her stay for another year where she continued her language classes and she was registered as a student allowing her to extend her visa. 

After the year was up, she got another au pair opportunity in Austria with better pay but more work. She later moved back to Germany for volunteer work, and joined school while working and paying taxes. After a few years she qualified for permanent residency! 

Elsie says that one thing the whole experience has taught her is that people are complex, and life is not easy anywhere, she is grateful that she has learned to be independent and proud of how hard she has worked and how far she has come.



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