This is a guest post from Gina Vazquez, who is a Mexican living in Canada. Her blog Let’s Talk Languages is about languages, diversity and the experience of living abroad.
A few days ago I was writing in my blog how we immigrants are a totally different breed. First of all, we have the courage of leaving our whole lives behind to embark on the adventure of adapting to a totally new environment, which entails a new culture, a new language (in most of the cases), a new currency, etc. And we are so optimistic about this change! However, it doesn’t end there, after all that we have to cope with identity issues and feelings of not belonging to a particular place anymore.
I am at that stage now. It is very small day-to-day things that I experience, that remind me I am not 100% Canadian. For example, language issues, my English is not bad (I have to say), however, no matter how well I speak it, I have a hard time understanding humor or sarcasm, people just stare at me waiting for me to start laughing at something “funny” they have just said and I just can’t get the meaning of it! Sometimes it is not even language related, it is culture related, which makes it even worse. Getting directions is another reminder, when people mention streets or avenues with such familiarity and I have no clue where they are.
Another thing that always comes up in reunions or gatherings is references to old TV shows, as much as I try to participate in the conversation, I just feel completely left out. And these conversations can go on for hours!
The problem now is that when I go back home (to Mexico, that is) and get together with friends, they also start to talk about things they have done these past few years that I haven’t been a part of and I feel just as left out.
Every time I have traveled to Mexico I have experienced different feelings. I remember one of the first times I was so happy to come back, I really felt like I was coming “home”. But what does “home” mean? Of course, coming back from a trip and thinking you will be able to sleep in your bed and see your loved ones makes it feel you are actually coming home… but shouldn’t “home” be more than that? I am convinced that Canada is the place where I want to be (at least for now) and fortunately in my case it was my choice to come here, but will I ever feel truly Canadian? And my son, who was born in Canada and will most probably grow up here, will he ever feel at all Mexican?
As time goes by I will get passed this stage and I will probably start feeling like I belong here, in one month I will be able to apply for the Canadian citizenship and I am sure that will help. For now, I can say that this cross-cultural experience has changed me as a person and the way I see things and I am sure that it will influence the way I raise my child, hopefully, he will be able to understand and be more sensitive to cultural differences.
For all these reasons I started by saying immigrants are a different breed, “home” for us is where our heart is and for some (like me) where our loved ones are. We have such a great capacity to adapt that we end up laughing at humorous comments that in our own culture people would find boring; we do our research before the party to learn about old TV shows, and we spend our weekends traveling through the city to get familiar with streets and avenues. I guess we are the clear example of globalization (and I am just speaking about the positive aspects of it) and we are the ones responsible for cultural exchange. We make the workplace more fun and the lives of others just as rich as they make ours.
It is great privilege to be a citizen of the world.
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