|Challenges of preserving cultural identity|
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 00:00Written by Free Hand
As humans instinctively define themselves by their culture, immigrants often struggle to find a sense of self-identity.
My father is Italian and my mother is South African. On meeting in Africa they decided to immigrate to Australia to have their children. Often they sensed that they did not fit in, and even within the confines of their relationship they had to work to overcome cultural differences.
My father initially struggled with the language barrier between his Italian tongue and the English/Africans mix of South Africa. Dad was quick to assimilate to the African way, but often found that he missed the punch line of jokes because of the language gap. It was when he began mixing with other misplaced' individuals of varying backgrounds did he begin to feel more accepted.
Dad's progress in Africa was impeded by the fact that his whole family still was Italian' at home and spoke their native tongue. Dad found this a hindrance at the time, but in retrospect found it a blessing as it gave him a deep sense of history and culture. He discovered that when he accepted that he was different and was comfortable with this. This meant that he was able to relate to others with greater ease.
The transition from Africa to Australia, while tough, was easier for my parents. They decided from the offset that they would immerse themselves in the Australian way of life and would choose friends, not based on cultural identity, but rather on the quality of the individual. Having children being schooled in the country also helped to build networks. My parents were keen to raise their kids with a sense of culture, and thus decided to select the best elements of Italian, South Africa and Australian culture to create a cultural offshoot. This enabled them to retain their own identity, whilst allowing us children to develop one of their own.
My parents are currently in New Zealand yet again learning the cultural challenges and absorbing the aspects that appeal to them.