Monday, November 8, 2010
I never really thought about my cultural values when I lived in my home country. It is not that I wasn’t aware of them, I was, but it was so ingrained in me that there was no need to think about it, I lived it. It was something that we all shared and because of it, there was no need to be reminded of it, it just took place in our commonly shared experiences. We all knew what to expect from each other in how to behave, to think about certain things, our values, in general. And I don’t mean that we all had to have the same opinion about everything, certainly not, and that was ok, but we saw the world through the same lenses and shared the same worldview. In a certain way it brought some comfort, a comfort I only understood or became aware of later on.
After migrating permanently to a new country, I felt the loss of my cultural environment and some of the clues that glued and defined my sense of self, my identity. I remembered that what mostly affected me was being deprived of taking things for granted. In the beginning, I felt the excitement of exploring the new place, everything seemed different, and the difference carried in itself some curiosity, it was fascinating. But my excitement about the new faded away the more I got used to, and I was left with a feeling that it was lacking what constituted me- like knowing the restaurant which served my favorite food, showing up at my best friend’s home without planning in advance, being able to speak my language… How I missed the sounds of my language after a couple months living abroad! I remember how much my throat muscles hurt in adjusting to sounds of the new language. How I missed the sense of heat in my skin from my home’s hot weather. I missed so much that I turned the heater on so high to the point that I could sweat so I could feel in my skin that sensation. Does it seem crazy for you? For me it was nourishing, and helped me to deal with my loss of the sense of belonging and the threats on my identity. I needed things and to do things that brought back my sense of self, which reminded me of who I was and what I liked, which brought my own home to the new place where I was now. Some American friends told me that after feeling so homesick, going to a McDonalds and ordering a Big Mac brought back to them the feeling of what meant to be at home. Lucky Americans that there is one McDonalds everywhere around the world, and we face the challenge of bringing home to our new home.
Eu nunca realmente pensei sobre meus valores culturais quando eu vivia em meu país natal. Não é que eu não estivesse atenta aos meus valores, eu estava, mas eles estavam tão arraigados no que eu sou, que eu não precisava pensar sobre, eu apenas vivia. Nós sabíamos o que esperar uns dos outros em relação a como se comportar ou pensar sobre certas coisas, nossos valores, em geral. E eu não quero dizer que tenhamos que ter as mesmas opiniões sobre tudo, certamente que não, e isso era permitido, mas nós víamos o mundo através das mesmas lentes e partilhávamos uma mesma visão de mundo. De uma certa forma, isso trazia algum conforto, um conforto que eu somente pude entender ou me dar conta momentos mais tarde.
Depois de migrar permanentemente para um novo país, eu senti a perda do meu ambiente cultural e das pistas sociais que definiam a minha identidade. Eu me lembro que o que mais me afetou foi o fato de não poder antecipar o significado de certas coisas, ou o que as pessoas estavam pensando.No começo, eu sentia uma empolgação em explorar o novo lugar, tudo parecia diferente, e o diferente continha uma curiosidade em si mesmo, era fascinante. Mas essa empolgação sobre o novo foi se desfazendo àmedida que não era mais tanta novidade, e eu ficava com uma sensação de que estava faltando o que me constituía - por exemplo saber onde estava o restaurante que servia a minha comida favorita, aparecer na casa do meu amigo sem ter que planejar com antecedência, e poder falar a minha língua nativa... Como eu sentia falta dos sons da minha língua nativa depois de viver alguns meses em outro país! Eu me lembro que meus músculos da garganta doíam ao tentar se ajustar aos sons da nova língua. Como eu sentia falta da sensação de calor na minha pele provocada pelo clima quente da minha cidade! Eu sentia tanta falta que ligava o aquecedor no máximo ao ponto de poder suar, assim eu podia sentir na pele aquela sensação de novo. Parece louco pra você? Para mim era muito nutridor, e me ajudava a lidar com a perda de um sentimento de pertencimento e das ameaças à minha identidade. Alguns amigos americanos me contaram que depois de sentir tanta falta de casa, ir ao McDonalds e pedir um Big Mac os fazia relembrar um pouco de como era se sentir em casa.
Sorte deles que existe um McDonalds em toda parte do mundo! Nós ficamos com o desafio de trazer um pouquinho de casa pra nossa nova casa.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Globalization has increased the number of professionals deciding to leave their home country hoping to start a new life elsewhere. However, after moving some are faced with the idea that real globalization may not exist when we refer to engaging oneself professionally in a different country. Degrees acquired from respected universities in the home country are devalued. Accumulated years of professional experience are denied. We feel lost and confused, considering that the profession we choose contributes a lot for our sense of self-being. It is an intense and profound loss of identity and unfortunately only those who go through this experience is able to understand the magnitude of this loss. Can you imagine what it means to see years of professional investment in studies, work and trainings taken away from you suddenly? Despite the natives’ attempt to empathize, unfortunately, it is not possible for them to really understand the impact of this loss to someone’s life. And in this experience, we feel misunderstood and devalued.
Having my professional identity taken away from me abruptly was accompanied by constant losses and intense grief which seems to be endless, regardless of how long I have been living in a different culture. In facing the losses, first I felt a lot of anger, and astonishment, and a question came up frequently to me “What am I doing in a country which “rejects” me as a professional?” In facing the grief, I decided to accept the reality and regain the professional recognition. For some people it means to come back to university and repeat the same program, for others it means to change profession and start from zero. It is a daily struggle, just like elsewhere worldwide; however, it is accompanied all the time by questions like “Is it really worth being apart from family, friends and our own culture?”, One day will I be recognized in what I can contribute professionally?, Or will I always be a foreign professional?... And what does it really mean to be a foreign professional?
Com a globalização muitos profissionais passaram a deixar seus paises com a esperança de construir uma nova vida. Entretanto, alguns deles descobrem que a globalização de verdade não existe, não quando se trata de se reinserir profissionalmente no mercado de trabalho. Diplomas de universidades conceituadas são desqualificados. Anos de experiências são negados. Ficamos sem eira nem beira, já que a profissão que escolhemos também nos define como pessoa. Uma verdadeira perda de identidade e infelizmente só quem já passou por isso, pode entender a dor desta perda. Você sabe o que é ver anos de investimento em estudo, trabalho e especializações serem simplesmente desqualificados sem a menor consideração? Por mais que os nativos se proponham a entender, infelizmante não conseguem apreender a dor desta perda. E neste momento ficamos indignados, incompreendidos.
Ter a minha identidade profissional arrancada de mim abruptamente trouxe um sentimento de perdas constantes e de um luto que parece não ter fim, independente de quantos anos eu tenho vivido numa outra cultura. Ao me deparar com as perdas, primeiro veio a raiva, a indignação, a pergunta "O que estou fazendo aqui, já que o país me "rejeita" como profissional?” Depois de muito luto, resolvi aceitar o fato e correr atrás do tal reconhecimento profissional. Pra algumas pessoas isso signifca voltar a universidade e repetir o mesmo curso, pra outras significa trocar de profissão e começar do zero. A luta é diária, assim como em qualquer lugar do mundo, porém ela é acompanhada o tempo todo por perguntas do tipo: "Será que vale a pena estar longe da família, amigos e da nossa cultura?” Será que um dia eu poderei ser reconhecida pelo que posso oferecer profissionalmente? Ou serei sempre uma profissional estrangeira?... E o que signifca mesmo ser uma profissional estrangeira?
Mit der Globalisierung gehen vielen Fachkräfte ins Ausland in der Hoffnung ein neues Leben aufzubauen. Allerdings einige finden heraus, dass reale Globalisierung, wenn es um Wiedereingliederung in den Arbeitsmarkt geht, nicht existiert. Diplome von angesehenen Universitäten werden ignoriert und nicht anerkannt. Die gesammelten beruflichen Erfahrungen über die Jahren werden verkannt. Wir sind verwirrt, da wir auch durch den ausgewählten Beruf definiert werden. Wir erleben einen starken Identitätsverlust und nur, wer das durchgemacht hat, weiß, wie schmerzhaft dieser Verlust ist. „Weißt du, wie das ist, wenn deine Jahren, die du im Studium, Arbeit und Fortbildungen investiert hast, einfach ohne Rücksicht nicht anerkannt werden?“ Trotz des Versuchs der Einheimischen die Schmerzen dieses Verlusts zu verstehen, schaffen sie das leider nicht. Darüber sind wir verärgert. Wir fühlen uns missverstanden.
Als die berufliche Identität von mir abrupt abgerissen wurde, bekam ich ein Gefühl des ständigen Verlusts und Trauer. Dieses Gefühl kam mir vor, als würde kein Ende nehmen, unabhängig davon, wie viele Jahre ich in dieser anderen Kultur lebe. Als mir dieser Verlust bewusst wurde, kam zuerst die Wut, Aussichtslosigkeit und die Frage: „Was mache ich hier, wenn das Land mich als Fachkraft zurückweist?“. Nach dieser großen Trauer, beschloss ich das zu akzeptieren und habe angefangen, um meine berufliche Annerkennung zu kämpfen. Für einigen Leute bedeutet dies, die Rückkehr zur Universität, um das bereits absolvierte Studium zu wiederholen. Für die anderen bedeutet dies ein Berufwechsel und von Null anzufangen. Der Kampf im Alltag ist hier genauso hart wie überall auf der Welt. Allerdings wird er von den folgenden Fragen immer begleitet, „ Lohnt es sich weit weg von der Familie, Freunden und Kultur zu sein? Werde eines Tages für meine beruflichen Fähigkeiten endlich anerkannt? Oder werde ich immer eine ausländische Arbeitskraft sein?“…“ Aber was bedeutet eigentlich ein ausländische Arbeitskraft zu sein?
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I remember the first time I landed in foreign lands... everything seemed so NEW and different, nothing familiar to my "old world." I could feel in my body a mixture of feelings, excitement and fear at the same time... fear of not knowing what to expect, but also the excitement that fed my curiosity and desire to get to know “the new.” All the signs were in a different language I was not used to, all the different sounds I heard, some of them I understood, others... it just passed through my ears without making any sense to me. The signs on the road didn't tell me where I was going... I had no idea about the geographic location of my new house, I didn't know a lot of things. Have you ever experienced what it is like to not know anything and just watch the moments unfold in front of you? That is what I experienced when I migrated to an unfamiliar place I could not call home yet, that seemed so foreign for me.
But there was no time to think about the newness, because I was interacting with “the new” all the time. I remember meeting my husband's family for the first time and my body moved to greet them with a kiss- to express "nice to meet you" as I was used to do. They didn't kiss when greeting someone they didn't know, they actually didn't kiss, for my surprise. You can imagine the awkwardness of you trying to kiss someone and seeing the person’s face turn away. You stand there for a couple seconds, confused and ... Without having time to think, I was hugged, a not very touchy hug, but a hug. I felt confused, weird and not able to express myself. In a certain level, I felt framed to be in a certain way someone I was not. That wasn't me, or at least, I didn't know that "me" greeting people. In the new place, I wasn't supposed to kiss people when greeting them, at least not for the first time, if I was lucky enough to find someone who enjoyed the kisses of my cultural greeting. My kisses meant too much intimacy. In my culture, that was very normal, and it didn't carry the "too much intimacy," but surely expressed my pleasure to meet someone, with some affects, why not?
As time passed, I exercised learning the rules of the foreign land, not always very successfully, because my known "me" always was brought back. I remember how my body just betrayed my rational intention in a matter of seconds... as I intended to shake people's hand or to hug, when appropriate, and my body just moved almost automatically, jumping to kiss people. I have recollections of discomfort from those moments. But that was my way of greeting. It took me time to learn, I think I had to integrate this "other" way of greeting, so my kissing wasn't so automatic, but one expression of "nice to meet you."
I can't say I am used to stand my arm and shake someone's hand... sometimes it seems still very formal when it shouldn't be in certain situations, like when you are meeting your friends' friends. But that was only one way of greeting people. I got to learn that some cultures don't even touch each other.
It is only when you leave the comfort of knowing, the familiarity that living in "your place" brings to you, that you can learn new things and invite people to get to know you too. It is an invitation for the new, but the new brings the surprise, the fear of the new, but also brings an invitation for the encounter of the differences, an encounter that can also promote connection. After sometime, I felt less rejected, less framed and more opened for the new styles of greeting. I actually started to be surprised by some kissers, coming to greet me without me expecting it, and I got to learn "Oh, now you kiss to say hello!”