This week I am in Manchester, spending some much needed family time with my sister and niece. Something happened though this afternoon and again i found myself perched in a corner zooming out and pondering on the topic that had been thrown at me.
The lifestyle choice of an immigrant.
We had driven down to visit this older Zimbabwean lady, who has lived and worked in England for years now. She has a great home, spacious, modern and tasteful and she was unapologetically Zimbabwean. From the minute we walked in, she spoke our Mother language in its original tone, no alterations whatsoever. She handled herself in an original manner, like a woman still at home. In a nutshell she has not allowed her geographical location to change her, she has adapted yes, but she is who she is. It got me thinking.
While l was still in awe of such strength to be unapologetically you, they started to talk about the behaviour of fellow immigrants who choose to isolate themselves from everything Zimbabwean and of how those individuals tend to fall prey to drug addiction, depression and all that mess which is considered a white people’s thing in our culture. Even though I don’t share the same sentiments, it got me thinking. It got me thinking of where I stand as a person.
So basically there is two lifestyle choice extremes for most immigrants and everything in between. You either get to a foreign land, adapt and integrate into the society and have your “white friends” ” white habits” and bury everything and anything that links you to your roots. I will call this extreme end one. At extreme end one you will find those individuals that take it to the deep end and are embarrassed and nauseated by being linked to their background in any way. And then there is the other extreme end, extreme end two, the one with immigrants who get to a foreign land but stick to their own, speak only their language, buy only from their shops and basically live in a foreign land as if they are still in their own country.
Both extremes have their positives and negatives, and I try not to judge either although I have my strong feelings towards both. I believe you should maintain a balance, be open-minded enough to adapt and integrate into your new environment but at the same time not lose your identity and uphold your roots. Or maybe that’s just a libra trait, always wanting to keep the balance.
Today though as they spoke, I wondered, so where do we draw the line. Where is the cut off point of the perfect lifestyle choice of an immigrant.
I perused through my immigrant chapters. During my time in South Africa, I never hid my identity but people always assumed I was a local, and this meant no control stops from the police for me. This even played in my favor as a safety net during the xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans at the time. So yea i noticed i was mistaken for something i was not and i let it be because it played out in my favor. And i am also aware of the hate speech given to individuals who act this way by my people and at that time i was willing to take the punch.
Fast forward to Germany… I would love to believe the years of dating my German ex were viewed as leaning more towards extreme end one. But yet again for me, the person in the situation, all I noticed was me adjusting my lifestyle to the compromise levels of a relationship needed to make it work. Everything had to be neutral enough for both of us not to be exposed to any dominant extreme. And after the breakup when I reverted to my habits at no compromise level, my connections from end one believed i had flipped to extreme end two. So it’s all a matter of perspective really.
So even though what people say is not relevant, because you live for yourself and not for people. For me, the question still stands, where does the perfect point lie on this curve?
How much of a foreign culture can I incorporate before diluting my own culture?
Up to what level do I mix in my indigenous flair?
Where is the perfect equilibrium? lf only there was an equation for this.
I havent found the answer yet, but hopefully one day I will strike the balance.