Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Immigrant Experience


I don't know why, but James has invited me to post something during his blog hiatus. I guess he thinks something is better than nothing, which in my case remains to be seen. Of course he's worried about the retention of his fan base and if I can't keep you here, even drive you to click on, maybe some of the other guest bloggers will perk your interest.

Who am I, you ask? I'm a "little old lady", retired from hospital pharmacy, some years ago. I write a very obscure blog called, Nobody Important, which James has been kind enough to highlight on occasion here. I wrote this post very early in my blogging career and I hope you find it interesting enough to keep on reading.

James wrote a post about Immigration in April and he certainly set the cat among the pigeons, with lots of heated comments as a result. This is a gentler post about my experience as an immigrant.

THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE

Emigrant, a person who leaves one's own country to settle in another.

Immigrant, a person who comes to reside permanently in a country other than one's native land.

The fact is that the emigrant and the immigrant are the same person.

The one departs from his homeland with great sorrow and regret, leaving behind family and friends. For whatever reasons he leaves, the sorrow and regret are felt, for this is the land of his birth. No matter that perhaps life there has become intolerable. No matter that perhaps the reasons for leaving are happy ones: to join a loved one in another country; to take advantage of a better job; for a better business opportunity; better education opportunities. There is still sorrow and regret.

The other arrives with great hope and expectations for a better life, or at least a different life. New challenges have to be met, involving jobs, housing, cultural differences, religious differences, language difficulties, maybe even racial differences. To be met with hope and excitement.

Yes, this is one and the same person, an emigrant as well as an immigrant who feels both the sorrow and the hope.

I am an immigrant.
I am the daughter of an immigrant.
I am married to an immigrant.
I am the mother of an immigrant.
I am the mother-in-law of an immigrant.
I was the daughter-in-law of an immigrant.
Ninety percent of my friends are immigrants.
For more than 45 years the immigrant experience has been my world.

I, the Australian daughter of a Scottish immigrant to Australia, immigrated to Canada with my Australian husband, whose father had emigrated from New Zealand to Australia. We came, after a two year stay in England, so that he could take a position as a university professor. We really hoped to return to Australia after two years, however we stayed here instead. We had none of the difficulties faced by so many immigrants. Yes there were minor cultural differences and we used different words for some things, like petrol for gas, but still English words. We settled in immediately.

Luckily for us, since Vancouver is such a young city, even the Canadians we met were from the Prairies or Eastern Canada. Very few people our age had family here, so we became each other's families. We had no one else and we relied on each other totally. The most incredible bonds were forged, maybe even stronger than familial bonds because we didn't have the emotional baggage that many families carried. My family has celebrated Christmas with the same Scottish family for more than 40 years. My friends are Scottish, New Zealander, Hungarian, English, Welsh, Spanish, French, Chinese, German, American, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Japanese, and yes, there are even some Canadians.

We all left our homes and families and settled in Canada. Here we established new families and new friends. Yes we are proud Canadians, but we'll always be Australian, Scottish, New Zealander, and so on. But to my mind, the greatest thing that has come out of this immigrant experience is the tolerance we have learned to have for each other.

Sixteen years ago, my daughter left Canada to do graduate studies in the USA. Ten years ago, she married an Italian who had come to do graduate work there, as she had. They have settled in the States and have a daughter. Where will she finally settle? She has three citizenships, American, Canadian, Italian. Unfortunately my daughter, herself a dual citizen, Canadian and Australian, was unable to pass on the Australian citizenship for technical reasons.

Our immigrant line may well continue into the fourth generation, for this is the reality of the world of today.

6 comments:

Colin Campbell said...

Having done the immigrant experience a number of times, I can identify with your post. It has many challenges and rewards. I have lived and established residences in the USA twice, the Philippines, Singapore, Nepal and now in Australia. I am done with that and am very happy to be a dull immigrant here in Australia.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Excellent, jmb. Your blog is not obscure, you know! You are right in that there is always some regret, even when you emigrate as a matter of choice. I have had my difficulties and regrets so I often think how much worse it must be if you are FORCED to flee your country. And even when you "know" a culture and don't have language difficulties, there are difficult moments. You sum uo the experience well in pointing out that the emigrant and immigrant are one and the same person so he /she a lot to deal with! I was very interested to read about the bonds you have made there, too.

lady macleod said...

I am about to run on a' the mouth a bit, so anyone other than jmb can feel free to scan.

jmb,
before I comment on what is OBVIOUSLY an excellent and touching post I have a bone to pick with you.
"I don't know why, but James has invited me to post something during his blog hiatus. I guess he thinks something is better than nothing, which in my case remains to be seen. Of course he's worried about the retention of his fan base and if I can't keep you here, even drive you to click on, maybe some of the other guest bloggers will perk your interest."

So what you are saying is that James has no taste and no judgement? We the DAILY readers of your blog have no taste and no judgement? Have I got it then? No? NO? then why say that? Now listen up I get it, you are a modest woman of excellent manner, however the above statement says more about our judgement than your modesty. I have a touchy trigger on this subject (we all have something), but I was given this lecture when I was quite young - the example being if someone tells you are pretty or smart and you say "No, I'm not." you just called them a liar or a bad judge of what is; how much better to duck your head and just say "Thank you." :-) there I'm done, I feel all better.

Now as to this EXCELLENT post m'lady. It is so timely. There was a headline on CNN.com today, "Refugees struggle to cope" with stories of the horrors of the more than nine million Iraqis that must immigrate somewhere or die.

Your point is so well made that we are all each other. We have to learn to love each other's histories. The world is indeed flat these days and becoming more so with jet travel and cyber communication.

Thank you for being your lovely, well written, attuned to the world self.

Ruthie said...

This is lovely.. it's great to see the immigrant experience from your perspective. I wonder what things were like when people stayed within 50 miles of their birthplace? Before planes and cars and ocean vessels... must have been a different world.

jmb said...

Well thank you all for the kind words. I guess what I mean is that James's blog is often very political and loaded with discussion of current affairs. People with ideas gather here, sometimes off the wall but ideas none the less. So I feel out of place here in some ways. My blog is just so different, me writing about my life and what I think about things.

Still I get your point Lady Mac, accept a compliment graciously. So I do. Even though my immigrant experience was not dramatic it certainly has shaped me as a person. I was truly amazed when I listed the immigrant connections in my family. Sometimes posts take on a life of their own.

I'll be back here again during these two weeks.

james higham said...

The Immigrant Experience

I, the Australian daughter of a Scottish immigrant to Australia, immigrated to Canada with my Australian husband, whose father had emigrated from New Zealand to Australia.

Ah, now it all falls into place. I'd been wondering a lot about certain references. Interesting indeed.