I was 7 years old when my mother first decided to move to the UK from Pakistan to start a new life. I had no idea what to expect. I was too young to have an identity which was solid. The cultural differences within the UK and Pakistan are drastic and when you suddenly move from the East to the West, you will automatically struggle to fit in. Therefore, I struggled.
There is a poem by Rupi Kaur which has my heart.
‘they have no idea what it is like
To lose home at the risk of
Never finding home again
Have your entire life
Split between two lands and
Become the bridge between the two continents.
- First generation immigrant – Rupi kaur
I am in fact a first-generation immigrant. Who was once bullied for not being able to speak a proper sentence in English but ironically has got a degree in Comparative literature?
When you are a first-generation immigrant, you experience cultural hybridity, you belong neither to the East or the West. You become part of a unique culture in which, your identity fluctuates with the people around you. You are the translator for your mother when the lady at Asda has spoken too quickly and your mum was not paying attention. You have to speak in your native language, not because your parents would not understand but sometimes out of respect. you can eat any type of food outside but when you come home nothing tastes better than your mum’s biryani. Your Spotify list is risky to be played out freely because it could go from Uk’s top 50 to the sad Bollywood songs you listen to during sad boy hours.
Despite that sounding standard as everyone in this world behaves according to their surroundings, when you belong to this unique culture, you are in no man’s land. You are alienated, sometimes too Pakistani for the British and sometimes too British for the Pakistanis. You are torn between the two cultures because you belong to neither or to both but at different times.
However, ironically even though you are alienated within this unique culture, you are not alone. As 1000s of people experience the same cultural hybridity. It is ironic because we all experience that alienation in solidarity. Being part of this unique culture is not exactly a struggle. It is just a trait we have and sooner or later we just become very good at managing our own identity. For instance, we know we can enjoy an 18+ Netflix show with our friends but when we are watching a 12+ movie with your family and a kissing scene comes on, awkwardness spreads around the room, everyone reaches out for their phones and the remote is tossed around in panic.
That is normal for anyone who belongs to this unique culture. A culture that is formed due to a lack of belonging in first place.
I enjoy being part of this culture. I enjoy being able to not belong to just one culture. This culture allows me to see life in different colors, it allows me to value my own background, as well as cherish the society that I live in. I know like myself many other brown people experience this culture hybridity. It becomes the norm to live the life where you know how to behave around different people and respect their values and morals. Whether that be your parents, uni mates or friends. You can adapt to the changes in your environment respectfully.
If you experience cultural hybridity embrace it. Be proud of yourself and this unique culture that simply exists because you have too many to choose from.
Here are a few movies/shows you could watch that discuss Cultural hybridity.
Blinded by the light
East is East