What’s in a name? Meeting your foreign family and encountering your inherited culture first-hand.

I would like to dedicate this week’s entry to my family, both with us and passed wherever they are in the world. Sending buckets of love and hope this is both amusing and explanatory 🙂

Immigration has affected the continuation of family lines around the world for what i’m going to guess is an incredibly  long time. This week I am going to explore the experience of second, third (or early) generation immigrant children visiting or ‘returning’ to the place their family immigrated from. One common aspect of this experience is meeting the ‘un-immigrated’ counterparts of your family and learning about how you fit in.

Coming from Australia (via Irish and mixed British-Australian parentage) I have been privy to the conflicting experience of feeling both more and less Australian simultaneously as a result of my background. Many factors play a part in when  I identify with particular cultures and which ones I associate with more but the one consistency is that this seems to be a very individual matter for people and I can guarantee my sisters’ experiences have been entirely different. So when visiting a country (in my case Ireland) what are the differences that I have come accross?

  • Religion- coming from a country with a low level of religious presence (and a presence of many) it was a new experience to witness a general observance of Catholic practices such as mass and lent.
  • Socialising- being used to meeting and socialising at people’s houses it was a notable difference to see the pub used as the main venue for this in Ireland
  • Food- While much of the same food is available, clear traditions exist in Ireland that have not travelled to the southern hemisphere en masse.
  • Routine- much of this variation would change from household to household anywhere but learning another one was educational

So with all this in mind, these factors are all discoveries that I was to make about the country and the people in it, including my immediate family. Having been updated (albeit somewhat briefly) on their lives, ages, and personalities, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other Irish (and British) family still existed more in the realm of familiar storybook characters than real-life relatives. This then was my challenge to attempt that transformation of our relationships and learn about myself in the process.

I feel a stronger connection with my relatives (from any faction of my family) that have travelled/lived overseas not just based on common interest but the fact that this has allowed them a greater capacity to understand my perspective. Facebook has been an invaluable opportunity to both keep in contact and learn more about my family as the years have gone on.  In Australia I have a tendency to feel more Irish (than the people I went to school and grew up with), this said, Living in Ireland and the UK has given me an undeniable demonstration of how Australian many of my values and mannerisms are. This is sure to have been the opinion of my non-Australian family members upon meeting me, (hideous flashbacks of Australian sporting matches come to mind).

Living both overseas and with my family who have grown up there, I have also come to view my Australian family members differently, noticing general trends (and deviations from them) that are common amongst Australian people in general. On this kind of topic it is possible to spend endless amounts of time analysing and reminiscing so for this week I will leave you on the note that if you have a second (or numerous) culture(s), get amongst it, there is nothing like it on the path to self-discovery.