The battle of cultures

Op-eds Opinions

Canada is a tapestry of different ethnicities and cultures. Our immigration policy has given people all over the world a chance to experience life in a developed country. And boy is the life here wonderful—the streets are clean and uncrowded, opportunities are endless,and the independent lifestyle can liberate any individual.  But what is left behind? I immigrated from India to Vancouver when I was 16 years old, and this completely changed me as a person. Many students, such as myself, and their families immigrate from countries with cultures different than that here. In my theory, the main difference is a family-oriented mentality—this may be seen more in immigrants originally from African and Asian backgrounds.

Leaving behind a culture to start a new life is the biggest challenge that families face. Students become two people—a duality of both the cultures that they are part of. We are shown that every dream here is possible and the sky’s the limit. In countries like India or China, the system differs completely—only a few career options or universities are seen as favourable: in India, many students go into engineering or medicine, regardless of their interest, because these jobs are seen as reputable and pay well.

Everywhere around the world, education is a big deal—we have been trained since childhood to believe that getting a degree will guarantee any job. Shivangani Murti, a fourth-year psychology student at UVic, moved to Canada with her family when she was five years old from Fiji. She recently got a job offer in Uganda with AIESEC (from French, International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences), a student-run organization that sends students overseas on paid and unpaid internships. Murti, thrilled at the opportunity, decided to leave Canada in June, for a year.

“When I told [my parents] I was going to Uganda for a job for a year, they didn’t take it very well. They didn’t congratulate me for going through an intensive process,” says Murti. The fact that she will not fully complete her degree is a huge stress factor for Murti’s parents. Murti was raised to value education and feels confident that she will go back to school, regardless of whether her parents think so or not. However, she cannot give up this opportunity to work abroad, experience a new culture and learn more about herself outside of the Canadian environment.

In my opinion, dating becomes an aspect of life neglected by most immigrant families: “My parents’ measure of success is how educated I am, and for them this is a higher priority than dating,” says Murti about her parents’ reactions to relationships. She admits that she always kept her dating life hidden, because her parents saw it as nothing but a distraction from education. When a youth gets into a relationship, some parents look more at the education and career opportunities of the prospective partner. This may come from an idea that security and stability are the most important aspects of life. These parents tend to come from a highly competitive and developing nation.

Unfortunately, some students feel they must become a completely different person than what their parents perceive them to be. Murti defines herself as both a Canadian and a Fijian—she adopts the positive aspects of both cultures, such as having the freedom to choose what she wants to do, but at the same time respecting and understanding her parents’ opinions. The people themselves become a tapestry of different cultures—they become an amalgamation of the old and the new.