The Struggle Of Identifying With Multiple Nationalities
Nationality is born from the passion in one’s tone of voice when they answer the question, “so, where are you from?”
How many times have you been asked about your residence country or background when meeting someone for the first time? (Extra points if you physically look or sound like you’re from a country different to your own.) This isn’t anything new or some spectacular fact, but your response immediately has an effect on the other person in this imaginary (yet very practical) conversation. And while the idea of belonging to a massive community has its pros and cons, we are going to talk about what happens when you feel like you belong to more than just one.
I was born in South Africa and raised there until I was six-years-old, until I moved to Canada, where I have lived ever since. It’s a strange feeling when you identify with multiple nationalities. Let me explain: whenever I meet someone in the place in Toronto – the place where I’ve grown up and spent most of my life – I tell people that I’m South African.
That was where I was born, so it is my homeland. I have such an immense pride for this place, which is kind of weird since I really don’t remember a whole lot about it. I’ve also never been back as an adult so I have a child’s vision and idea of what it was like, which may not even live up to my expectations. Nonetheless, this is part of who I am.
However, whenever I travel outside of Toronto and I am asked where I am from, I always say I’m Canadian. I feel Canadian in that I know Toronto almost like the back of my hand. I know the slang, the streets and I appreciate the land that has sculpted so much of who I am.
And THEN, there’s this undying feeling inside of me that tells me that I need to live someone else, at least for a little while. I need to be part of something else that I identify with even more than Toronto. There have been plenty of times I have visited a new country and came back exclaiming to anyone that would listen how this could be my next home.
Places like Amsterdam; a laid-back cycling city, where I could picture myself waking up every morning and riding alongside a canal with the beautiful buildings around me, and just being happy.
Places like Singapore, where I spent five months submerging myself into a completely new culture, and found yet another little part of my identity.
Places like British Columbia – a state in Canada I have never been to in my life, yet a place I have a giant sense that I know I will call my home one day… even if it’s just for a week or two.
My point is, some people can spend their entire lives in one place and be completely content, while others crave a city that fulfills them in other ways. Society has crafted its citizens to believe that the place in which they spend a large amount of time is a major part of who they are.
Regardless, it’s okay to belong to twenty places or none. There is no magical number or no wrong way to feel national pride. We are all citizens of the world and, with us, we take a little piece of something that feels right to us in order to make us feel alive.