“She has a skin like me” – these were the words of my three-year-old niece as she described a friend she made at her new school. Children her age make friends quite quickly but for some reason, she was overjoyed about this one.
Her statement got me thinking a lot about how much impact inclusion can have in helping people integrate easily into new environments. As an introvert, I had a massive culture shock when I relocated from Lagos — the most populated city in Africa, filled with millions of people who had ‘skin like me’ — to Freiberg — a small town in East Germany with a few thousand people who were not the biggest fans of those with my skin colour. I treasured every experience that reminded me of home so much so that when a Nigerian joined my MBA class a year later, we ended up at the altar not too long after.
I’m thinking out loud about inclusion today because there are so many people like my niece and me who feel more at home in foreign lands when they meet people who look like them. I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly how to solve this problem but here’s my two cents on where to start: Whenever you meet someone from a minority group, make them feel welcome. And if you know two or more immigrants with similar backgrounds, ask them if you can make an introduction. Small gestures can make all the difference.