Traveling to your "Roots"
Anyone else have similar (or strikingly different) experiences? Did you feel a pull to travel to the country of your ancestry?
I guess this applies more to second gen and third gen immigrants who strongly identify themselves with the country they are born in (in my case, America) and the country their ancestry is from (in my case, Japan)...I know a lot of people who are pretty ambivalent about their roots (for example, many Caucasian Americans say that they are American, rather than German-American, French-American, etc.) and therefore don't have the same pull towards "going back" Reply to this
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It seemed like I actually "fit in" and was a "native"
Wonder if my daugher will have that experience.
People sometimes critisise me for taking her to live in a country where we 'dont really belong' and will never fit in like the natives do. Even the school psychologist tells me that foreign kids have a hard time in these situations, even though we have been living here in Germany since she was 1 year old. I didnt think moving from Ireland to here would create distress for a kid. It is still Europe afterall, and not a vastly different culture where people dont even look like we do. Kinda distressing for me to hear this as a parent, when I want my daugter to be happy and have all opportunities I can provide. I thought making her trilingual by living here is the best I can provide, but now not sure. Maybe a feeling of truely belonging in a place is what is important for a kid. Reply to this
Look at the effort we have to go to as adults to pick up a second language even...... Reply to this
How did you feel as a kid Gen? Did you wish you were living in Japan where everybody looked like you do, and where there were family members nearby that were there for several generations? Did you wish your parents spoke more like and behaved more like the neighbours, instead of having a bicultural mixiture? We celebrate Irish holidays, Dutch holidays and German holidays and pick and choose traditions from them too so we are very different from the people around us. And then there is the travelling where I picked up all kinds of things like international cooking, so we dont even eat the same as other people here. Or did you like being so mixed and see the advantages of being so, when you were a kid?
I wanted to have "roots" so very badly - growing up with friends whose families had such diversity of customs and traditions and food it seemed to very boring for me to say "Oh well, my family has lived in Kentucky for 200 years, and then my dad flew on a plane to Seattle - let me cook you some dry beans and cornbread to celebrate my roots!"
Andras is different - his father is Hungarian (although paperwork says Yugoslavia, and he's from the area that is now in Serbia) and a lot of information about his family has been lost. There's definitely a sense of curiosity about his family history and we definitely feel a pull to go back there.
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Do you speak Japanese generationk? If so, how do you think not being able to speak Japanese would have affected your impression of Japan?
I do speak Japanese, but a very limited amount. If you are familiar with the Japanese language, I can speak only a bit of the very informal form, so Japanese people immediately know I'm not a "native". I think if I didn't speak Japanese, I wouldn't have even gone to Japan. To go to Japan and hope to assimilate without knowing a word is impossible.
Mell-I wouldn't change my upbringing for anything. In fact, I think being in a place where everyone looks and acts the same is completely boring. As a kid, I loved my upbringing in diverse NYC...I lived in a rundown neighborhood where I was basically the only Asian kid amongst a sea of Latino and blacks (with a smattering of caucasians). It's just that I felt a pull to go to Japan, and strangely I felt a pull to stay and reside in Japan that I didn't with other places. I guess the easy route would be to say that Japan is the land of my roots, but in another sense, I guess I could just really like Japan for some other inexplicable reason. Reply to this
To go to Japan and hope to assimilate without knowing a word is impossible
I definitely agree with you there. :-)
I live in a reasonably rural area, so most people around here know me (the foreigner sticks out like a sore thumb) and know I speak Japanese.
If I go to a main city even though I speak to them in Japanese they seem to assume I won't understand their reply.....or maybe they just want to practise English.
I'm assuming your parents still speak Japanese - do they use it at home. That's a great opportunity for you if they do. Reply to this
I always felt like an outsider because I just didn't view things the same way. In grade 6, I was the only one in my class who had been outside of North America. We ate different foods, and everyone in my family has a different accent. But as a kid, it didn't bother me. In fact, I was proud to be different. It was only after high-school graduation when I went on a little "Eurotrip" that I felt the identity crisis.
The funny thing was, I was always proud to say I was Swiss as a kid, but I certainly stick out like a sore thumb when I visit my grand parents. Everyone in the village knows who I am, but I don't speak Swiss German so I can't communicate with them very easily. And very often, they don't understand how I could have the passport and not the language.
As a kid, I never really identified with my Canadian roots, because we just didn't visit that often. We went to Switzerland every few years to visit family.
When I moved to Montreal, I finally found "home". I found the place where I fit in. So now, I identify myself as Canadian instead of Swiss, even when traveling in Switzerland.
Mell - in raising your daughter, it's great that she's already speaking the 3 languages!! :) Don't let her lose them! As a kid, I lost my French. I blame that on my parents, who became frustrated with me always answering in English, and they ended up switching to English entirely. Ah, the trials of parenting in another country!
But as she gets older, make sure you don't give up in your quest to have her be trilingual, even if she seems to pick only 1 language to respond in! As long as you keep speaking it, she'll have the ear for it and won't lose it completely. :)
(I did relearn my French by the way...fluent now!) Reply to this
I took my eldest son to the Philippines with me 2 years ago to know about his Filipino heritage and ancestral roots. He felt uncomfortable witnessing the poverty in my homeland but learned to embrace it at the end. He enjoyed playing with the local kids and island hopping around the country. I am very pleased that he felt a strong connection to his ancestral roots and wants to go back there whenever possible. Reply to this
Well, not to sound offensive, but many Japanese people I know say that even if a foreigner speaks perfect English, their accent makes it impossible to hear so they quickly switch to English...which is funny, because now the Japanese person has the accent in the conversation. Reply to this
Actually Jo, my parents try not to speak Japanese at home...
Sometimes the schools and childrens doctors here advise the foreign parents not to speak their languages with their kids. It does make them a little slower with learning German and the parents panic I suppose and take the professional advice. A pity really, because with persistance they speak fluently their parents languages as well as the one of their local friends. But, I suppose it is difficult to be calmly patient for parents when they fear their kid might miss out somehow at school if they dont speak and understand as well as the other kids.
Sometimes, parents think early language learning is not important and that the school can take care of it later. Also a pity.
My last boyfriends father is English and his mother is German. One of his grandparents is Russian. He grew up in England and does not speak any German or Russian. Reply to this
....but I don't speak Swiss German so I can't communicate with them very easily.
Did your parents speak Swiss German?
I myself sometimes feel a bit left out her in Germany, because I dont speak German as well as some people think I should be able to. I am making progress with my German, but they have such strong accent and dialect here in the South of Germany..... And when they hear my foreign accent they immediately brush me off as not being able to speak German. I had it a bit easier when we lived in N. Germany. As well as being more foreigner friendly, they spoke much more clearly in German. But, I suppose I dont feel as weird about it as you would, because neither of my parents are German. Reply to this
....but I don't speak Swiss German so I can't communicate with them very easily.
We are purposely saying in Germany while she goes to school to make sure Germany is as naturally unforgetable as her other languages are for her. I am very proud of these languages she speaks because Irish people(and probably other native English speakers) tend to be not so great with other languages with English being so widely used around the world.
...even if she seems to pick only 1 language to respond in!
I think kids learn in patterns without even realising which language they are speaking. I dont think it matter which language they respond in, as long as they are doing it in complete sentences(appart from a word here and there).
(I did relearn my French by the way...fluent now!)
You are obviously good with languages! Reply to this
Being a Malaysian Chindian (Chinese Indian), born in Singapore and brought up in England, for a long time I was somewhat unsure of where I belonged (not something my brother experienced though, he considers himself British through and through). People would often ask me where I'm from, a question that confused me somewhat. Whenever I answer 'England', I'm normally asked - because I of course don't look English - where my ethnic roots are from. To answer Malaysia would not be entirely correct, because although both my parents were born and brought up in Malaysia and hold Malaysian passports, they are not ethnically Malay, my father is Indian and my mother Chinese. And when people then ask where I was born, as if this would help clarify things... answering 'Singapore' just confuses matters even more!
I was lucky enough to go to Malaysia on family holidays every 2 years or so when I was younger, but I always felt a little out of place. I don't look anything like my Chinese relatiaves, nor do I look much like my Indian side (I actually somewhat Malay looking) and not speaking the languages of my family (which is a point of distress between myself and my parents since for their own reasons decided not to teach myself and my brother their languages) meant I was left out of many conversations and didn't really get to know them. However, over the past 4 years or so, I've visited Malaysia and my relatives there once, sometimes twice a year and as I get older I feel more of a connection with Malaysia and my ancestry than I ever did before when I was growing up.
Now I've come to relish in the fact that I'm so different to my peers, coming from such a diverse background only enhances my life now, not complicating it like it seemed to when I was growing up. I feel lucky to belong to 2 totally different countries, I'm slowly learning the languages of my heritage and when I do eventually have children I'll make sure that they too can converse in more than just English.
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...my parents since for their own reasons decided not to teach myself and my brother their languages...
When this happens, is it because the parents want to totally embrace all that is new in their new life in a new country and that includes making sure their children are as much part of the new life as possible by making sure they speak only the language of the new country? Is seems like a waste of opportunity when the parents dont teach their children their own languages, but maybe it is more that the parents are feeling so hopeful and excited about what the new country has to offer.
I was told by a guy who immigrated to Germany from Afghanistan that I should be speaking German with my daugher and not English, because according to him German is the language of the future. His future maybe and he presumes it is everybodies?
...not complicating it like it seemed to when I was growing up.
Would it have helped you feel more comfortable growing up, if your parents made sure you had contact with kids from other countries and other races. We have made sure that our daughter has plenty of contact with kids of foreign parents by sending her to a Kindergarten where only 30% of the kids are German. There is quite a mixture of nationalities and races there. None of them are my daughers mix, but at least it means that she is not the only one who is different. We also encourage kids of foreign parents as well as German parents to come play in our house with my daugher.
I do eventually have children I'll make sure that they too can converse in more than just English.
It sure is encouraging for me to hear so many mixed people saying that they think teaching all the languages is a good idea, because that is what I am doing with my daugher. :)
We had a lot of Dutch culture growing up - foods, phrases, decorations in the home, etc. Even in the area I grew up there were a lot of Dutch immigrants with thick Dutch accents.
So I definitely identify with being Dutch as much as being a Canadian and whenever I travel to The Netherlands I feel like I'm at home! I feel like I'm just in Canada because my parents happened to move there but life as I know it makes more sense in Holland because I see the roots of it there. I feel more "normal" - because I'm over 6' tall which makes me a giant here but in Holland that's very common!
Just wish I could speak Dutch better - wish my parents had taught us more while we were young. It would make traveling there, conversing with my older relatives, and being able to fit in much easier. I would encourage anyone who can speak a language other than English to teach it to their children at home. Reply to this
Sylvia and I have been travelling through Asia, Europe and the UK for the last six months. We are presently in Brighton in the UK (we swapped our Oz house for a house here). We have been researching our family's roots in the UK and Eire, which go back to the 1700s (so far), while we are here.
It seems to me that geographical origins don't seem to have much of a relation to where someone feels "at home".
I was born in Glasgow, grew up as a child in NZ, spent my teenage years in London (in the 1960s), travelled to Oz on the old hippy trail for a two year holiday and never left! Now I feel totally at home there.
Sylvia, who was born in Victoria in Australia, feels totally at home in the UK and, after several visits, now wants to live here.
My Aunt and Uncle, now dead, moved from Scotland to NZ in the late 1940s but when I met them in NZ in the 1980s, their identification with Scotland was stronger than their identification with New Zealand even though they had taken out NZ nationality and had lived there for 40 years.
I am not sure whether a persons "roots" are relevant any more. It's fun and instructive to know where your historical origins are but it doesn't mean you belong there. There seems to something more involved.
John Reply to this