Imraan Shah discusses his struggles as a Singaporean in Melbourne, and how joining a Singaporean community has helped him.
Moving to new country is a life changing experience. While it is an exciting journey for some, it can be a very daunting task for others. People of different ages have different social needs. However, there are always those needs that people have regardless of age, gender or place of origin. A sense of community in a new place, maintaining one’s cultural identity while assimilating with another, and understanding that we’re not alone when facing challenges are all part of adapting to living in a new country.
“Navigating in a new place while not having of a community that we can turn to in times of need, can be a lonely and dreadful experience for many.”
Leaving our home country means leaving behind important parts of our lives – family, friends, support groups, and lifestyles. Some of us will find that there is something missing in our lives if we don’t fulfill these needs. A lot of us feel a strong sense of nostalgia when we can relate to people of similar backgrounds and experiences. We long to create new memories with the same kind of people, and to gain that sense of familiarity wherever we are in the world. Navigating in a new place while not having of a community that we can turn to in times of need, can be a lonely and dreadful experience for many. However, we don’t have to go through it alone. There are always people and groups that are willing to help, and the exploration of a new country can be an exciting journey when it is shared with people we are comfortable with.
“No Australian could possibly understand Singlish.”
Everyone faces challenges when they move to a foreign land. Many Singaporeans have trouble understanding everyday Australian lingo. The reason is not necessarily because Singaporeans speak bad English, but rather that English is used in a casual context that Singaporeans are not used to. In reverse, no Australian could possibly understand Singlish.
This can make people – especially students – feel a sense of separation and isolation from their Australian counterparts in their everyday lives.
When a person feels this sense of separation from general Australian society, they now have more challenges to deal with socially. For example, he or she might feel awkward or silly when asking an Australian about something they don’t understand, because of the fear that they might sound stupid or not be understood. Giving in to such a fear ends up holding that person back from learning something new. However, this does not have to be the case.
Turning to a community support group can enable a person to ask questions openly to someone who understand both the country and the challenges that come along with living in a new place.
“Giving in to such a fear ends up holding that person back”
One of the most valuable things is a person’s cultural identity. We all identify with cultural practices that we grew up with, and experience an emotional connection when it happens. Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and Deepavali are some of the iconic festivities that many of us share with family and friends, year after year. Not being able to carry on these practices in a new environment can lead to feeling a strange sense of isolation, for many. Celebrating these important moments with community members allows us to assimilate into a new culture with ease, while having a strong sense of cultural identity and comfort.
Being part of a community from our homeland is beneficial to us on many levels. While everyone has different needs from a community, there is surely much to be gained for anyone who is a part of it.