Sunday, February 24, 2008

Livio about Friendships

My friend Livio commented on the previous post about Friendships in the US and I think it deserves a post of its own.

Hi Rodrigo,

You do have a point about not many immigrants sharing their cultural pains. In fact, I was thinking exactly about cultural differences the last few months. As you know, I have been in Canada for the last 3 years. Here, I get to observe a lot of different immigrants and their reactions to living a different culture.

It seems that one important aspect that influences (the lack of) sharing cultural shock is the conflict between expectations of living abroad versus reality. Let me clarify. There is an inherent expectation from _both_ immigrants and their family/friends who stay behind, that life in the country X should be much better. While this may be true for many aspects of life, it is certainly not true for others.

Friendships, and other intrinsic cultural issues are certainly among the more difficult aspect of living abroad. However, discussing these issues seems to antagonize the wildly held expectation of an improved life.

I have heard stories, from multiple immigrants, about the lack of understanding their families and friends have towards their situation and hardships they face. Sometimes the expectation is also financial. However, explaining financial hardships in North America is often met with disbelief and/or disappointment.

These situations motivate immigrants to minimize discussing their hardships, or even worse, creating the image/illusion that their situation is, in fact, coherent with the expectations.

A second aspect (and sorry to make this post so long), is that of communication. I have seen that it is very hard for immigrants to communicate some of their different experiences to people "back home". Sometimes, it is just plain simply hard to describe the struggles of having to speak a second language daily. The experience is more acute then the verbalization of the experience. Also, it is sometimes very hard for people to relate to some of the experiences immigrants face. As such, the perception of the experiences felt by the immigrant can be far from accurate.

Of course, as with most things, it is a matter of personality. There are quite some number of people blogging about their experiences as immigrants. But, somehow, I don't think it is the common practise.

My 2 cents,

Livio
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