Friday, November 14, 2014

English Identity

     In class last week, we had an interesting discussion all around different cultures, and experiencing racism. One part of the discussion in particular, though, was about people who have immigrated to Canada, and whether or not it felt like home to them. When the professor asked if the towns or cities in which expats now lived in felt like home to them, I was somewhat surprised to find that just about all of them did. With the exception of me.

     I was born and bred in the United Kingdom and moved with my family to Canada at age ten. Although so young when the transition was made, I have somehow never identified with Canada, or the city surrounding me as "home". This doesn't mean to say that I haven't settled in, and adapted to the country. Alarmingly still, I find myself experiencing culture shock on a surprisingly regular basis. This may have something to do with me spending so much time with a British family at home. Though, what about those who moved from other countries to Canada? From China? From Afghanistan? From Bulgaria? The majority of these immigrants to Canada identify here as their home. From my own perspective, I find it difficult to understand how they became so well adapted to a new country, especially those who moved at a much later age than I did. On the contrary, those who left a country which did not harbour the same freedoms and rights as Canada may have instantly felt relief in living here. Of course, England is not much different from Canada, in that regard.

     Interestingly, all of my British friends and family who have come to visit Canada have all said more or less the following:  It's lovely but I could never live there. This leads me to wonder if there is something about being British, specifically, that holds this special identity. Perhaps it's the way in which the culture is preserved; the fact that you don't have to look in a textbook to see its history. There are castle ruins in the middle of old towns, centuries old iron gates still standing, cobblestoned streets, "haunted" cottages, and pubs that were built in the 18th century. Maybe it's the fact that the accent differs from region to region. England is known for being an island surrounded by the ocean, yet the climate is rarely appropriate for the sort of time you'd spend on a beach in America. Being British, I can confidently say that there is certainly a feeling I get when I'm there. The moment you step outside you can smell the dampness in the air. The roads are small and winding, and the hills of the countryside are like nothing you'd see anywhere else.

     Although sometimes I feel isolated, being the only one who doesn't call Canada my "home", I find comfort in the fact that I still hold on to this special identity, and I will always continue to do so.


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