Home? – Immigration from an Immigrant’s Point of View
(Editor’s note: This article was written and sent to me by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous.)
As an immigrant, people often asked me for an opinion about immigration. Due to my experiences of immigration experienced first hand, here’s why I am critical of it:
Growing up is hard. Everybody remembers their teenage years as a phase of awkwardness, self discovery and trying to find one’s own place in the society. Migrating as a child, growing up as a teenager in a foreign country and trying to fit in to a society with values vastly different as a young adult made these years even more unbearable. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone and here is why and how it occurred.
I moved with my family from Poland to Scotland when I was 9 years old. Of course I didn’t have any say in this. It was the year 2005 at the time, just one year after Poland joined the European Union. We were one of the first families out of about a million Poles to move to the British Isles after the EU vote. I didn’t realise at the time how much would this affect me and what of impact it would have on my development. I remember treating this as a long vacation at first until the plane landed on the British soil. Seeing everything in English terrified me because I realised that I will have to learn this language and use it everywhere from then on.
The culture shock was rather difficult for me to handle and still is, 11 years later. Listing the differences in values between these countries would be enough for a separate article, so I’ll just focus on the less obvious ones. In Poland I attended a prestige private school, and was in a class full of ambitious children competing for the best grades. My first home in Scotland was in a typical “council estate”, a place where pretty much everyone is unemployed and has lived off government welfare for their entire lives, with my parents being the only employed people there. Unlike immigrants coming in later to take advantage of the generosity of the country, we had no idea about such things. This kind of lazy attitude to life was completely foreign to me, along with many other things.
Having a mother who completed a Masters degree in English and taught the language at a Polish university and me attending English lessons ever since I could speak, ought to have prepared me for this. Yet speaking a foreign language for few hours a week at school is nothing compared to being completely immersed in it. It was difficult at first. I was only able to answer a few basic questions about myself and understood only a very small part of what the teacher was saying. It took me three years to get on the near fluent level and I was on par with the English speaking natives in all school subjects, including English. I thought things would get only easier from here. I was wrong.
As we all know, a lot of teenagers are dumb, insecure about themselves and will go great lengths to project their insecurities on others. Experiencing racism was also such a strange experience for me, something unthinkable and too abstract to grasp if I tried to explain it to my younger self. I so wished I could have been bullied on things that I could change about myself instead. I was almost jealous of the girls who were teased only for being fat or dressing weirdly, because they could always lose weight and get different clothes. I however was stuck with my nationality and my accent. After some people mocked every single word I said, I became too shy and self conscious to speak. In Poland I was a confident, talkative and extroverted child, and in less than 4 years I transformed into a shy, anxious mess.
The most annoying thing about this whole ordeal was people thinking that I was only as literate as my ability to express myself in English, people assuming I was ignorant on many topics, when in reality I just didn’t know the specific English vocabulary. The absolute worst was when I joined serious conversations about complex topics, which I was perfectly capable of discussing, only for the people to suddenly to dumb it down and use kindergarten vocabulary around me as soon as they heard my accent.
My family moved across half of the country and lived in a soulless, middle-class suburb at this point in my life. I wanted to stop being an outcast desperately. I wanted to fit so I could have deep and meaningful friendships. I wanted to be treated the same by my peers as everyone else. I did the best I could to mask my accent, to raise my English grades even higher but it wasn’t enough. I still was too different from everyone else. So I tried even harder. I dressed the same as all the girls (I remember how painful it was not being able to afford the same clothes as everyone else in the school because of my family being one of the very few of the lower-middle class living in the suburbs). I forced myself to listen to the same pop music and enjoy the same generic things as everyone else my age did. I even started developing (gasp!) liberal views, believing that if I think the same as them, I might finally get some close friends. I tried assimilating as best as I possibly could.
Then one day I had enough of pretending. The very same liberals to whom I was likening myself to, the very people who claimed to be against racism and supportive of diversity and multiculturalism (yes, they voted against Brexit), mocked my accent, insulted my religion (Christianity, as about 90% of Poland) and told me to go back home one time too many. I snapped. I had enough of lying and hiding myself. From then on I decided to not be ashamed of my roots, to be proud of them. I also had enough of the liberal hypocrisy. I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. Luckily for me, patriotism and antiliberalism went together hand in hand.
I started to notice even more hypocrisy about the majority of my peers’ views about multiculturalism and their attitude towards the immigrants. I remember being surprised how there was no Polish (or most of central/eastern European) nationality on posters for the school’s Diversity Week, yet they included every single small country from Asia and Africa. I noticed how Muslims were praised for “keeping in touch with their cultural roots” for praying 5 times a day meanwhile I got made fun of for going to church on Sundays. I watched how sensitive and secretive media was about reporting crimes from certain minorities but reporting every single little thing that was caused by a Pole. For some reason I wasn’t the “right” type of an immigrant.
Did my realisation stop me from being ostracised? Not completely. But it did make it much more bearable. Ever since I’ve kept in touch with my own roots I became much happier with myself. Because I knew that while I will always feel out of place in Scotland, there exists a place in my country, a place where people speak the same language as me, have the same beliefs. For the brief visits that I go there, I like to pretend that I’m a local, that I’ve always lived there and nothing brings me more relief than people not asking me about my accent.
Perhaps this is why my parents urged me to seek luck abroad, as they themselves are descendants of German immigrants and Germanic minorities in Poland. They didn’t feel at home in Poland either. In the next chapter of my life, I will fix this mistake and move to where my true home is.
I’m now much more confident. I have many friends among the fellow conservatives, right wingers and patriots. Despite being from all over the world we can agree on one thing; love your country. There is no other place like it. Appreciate it, even if you hate your government, you can always vote for the right people to make it better. Appreciate the little things, such as everyone celebrating holidays in the same way as you and being able to recall the same games and songs from childhood. But remember, once you move, it will be very difficult to feel at home again. Contributing towards the greater good for your country is so much easier and worthwhile rather than trying to find yourself in a foreign land and pretending you’re someone who you are not.