From a previous article, ‘Immigration with purpose: who gets to go and who gets to stay..’ the consideration points were drawn from my own experience. Adjusting the focus onto people being the theme of how an immigration journey plays out and impacts a personal viewpoint. I hope to shed light on how interactions can imprint on a person’s immigration story.
Depending on whether you are caught up in a movement or completely attached to a place; other engagements in your life just happen. The idea of going with the flow, given that people come in and out while we are pursuing our goals, dreams and going through our tribulations is a fact. There’s NO PLAN or TERM that describes the phenomena of strangers meeting and becoming friends, family to some extent. Experiences like that shape how goals are refocused.
The flow of the questions I posed and some answers for this read-bite are from an unwilling interviewee. To respect their anonymousness and privacy; I’ll dub them with the name Interviewee X. The alias Paul/Pauletta was discussed, however, X is more fitting. If we mix it with sugar and spice and everything nice. X has travelled through Europe and Africa. X was about to embark on a journey home, for a more permanent set up, in pursuit of a professional start for the next chapter of their life.
Q: Tell me about your experience. What made you leave your home country to start off with.
A from X: Well, culturally, there is a social obligation when you reach a certain age, economic responsibilities begin to mount on your conscious. Where I am from, families encourage people to leave home in hope of finding better economic standing.
Q: From your movements through Africa and Europe; what has been the most pleasant memory you reflect on and you find yourself grateful for?
A from X: For me, curiosity and adventure make up my personality and intrigue to see other societies. I had the opportunity to visit Europe for studies, it was Italy first and then United Kingdom. But those were opportunities that weren’t really choices, more circumstantial. I had means at the time so that movement for me can not be inspired or romanticised. However, I ended up in Germany for 2 months along the way, in the middle of writing a dissertation, it was exciting. I lived with a very nice German family, so nice that they considered me as part of the family. I ended up with them as a result of a friendship from my German housemate while I was studying. He invited me to visit him at their family home in Berlin.
Q: So what was the experience like?
A from X: Visiting their society and I think their way of life is quite interesting. I met a lot of people who were very friendly and accommodating. They were not reserved in regards to interactions and all that. I learnt that societies are very very different from my travels. For example; Europe is a unified combination of different countries which have aligned political-economic interests but each place is quite different. Moving from Italy; people were quite assertive with regards to the way they talk, a beautiful way of cooking and all that. However, when I went to Germany I could see the subtle differences.
Q: So could you speak on the subtle differences from your own experience?
A from X: Well they are really nice, they compose themselves a little different from Italians. They are pretty busy people, quite industrious so finding the time to cook is not a luxury they afford. Then when you go to Denmark, they have relaxed and reserved persona, similar to Swedish people and then people from the United Kingdom are pretty different too. These societies are all different.
Q: Any other aspects that make up these societal differences?
A from X: The architecture set up tells a story too. Like in Italy, the environment is very beautiful, Turin in Italy has really big plaza’s and quite archival in nature. Its different when you go to Sweden, Germany and United Kingdom, they are more modern with their history of the changes ingrained in the buildings.
Q: So I can imagine moving to a place you have no idea about, lets talk about the challenges?
A from X: I think generally people can be reserved towards foreigners. From my experience, I went to Italy at a time when there were high incidents of abnormal migration. The preconception of fitting into that stereotype’s appearance and their activities followed me through some interactions. I’d have questions posed to me like, ‘What are you doing in Italy?’, ‘Why are you in Italy?’. Getting boxed is unpleasant for anyone.
Q: So my final question for you, in all your movements, how and where did you found a sense community and defined it for yourself?
A from X: Well like I said, Germany. This is more underpinned by the fact that I had time to integrate into the society. Living with a family, with a friend, it was really interactive and what lifted my spirit at the time.
From X’s responses I found myself contemplating and wandering in my own thoughts for a week; reflecting.
Mindfulness around how people are treated when they arrive in a place is just as important as how a gesture is delivered or a gift is exchanged. Just the time taken to give directions, offer a smile as they walk past could alter the imprint of a place on a person’s memory of a place.
People shape places just much as places shape people…