Its been a busy month and I’m afraid my already erratic blogging schedule has suffered. I’ll be writing about some of the things that I’ve been working on over the coming weeks but today I’m going to talk about identity which is the topic for Friday’s Expat Partner Online Coffee.
When the psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term “identity crisis” in 1970, he was talking about the process of identity formation as experienced by adolescents. Erikson spoke of an idenitiy of sameness and continuity, a relatively static concept. However, those of us who move overseas know that moving to a new country can challenge our identity, our sense of self, on many levels. We often start to appreciate as we become accustomed to living overseas, that the experience has, on some level, changed us fundamentally. Looking at my own experiences, here are some of the ways that they have changed me:
1. When I first moved, my cultural identity was very much tied into my national identity. While I still identify myself as Scottish, my views are more multi-cultural. I understand the relativism of cultural perspectives and am not only more tolerant of cultural mores which are not my own but have adopted some which are definitely not those I grew up with.
2. Re-learning how to do simple daily tasks in several new countries where I don’t know the language has challenged my sense of self as a competent and confident person (though this is usually only temporary). On the positive side, I’m a person who can organise and execute and international relocation in 6 weeks and I can get things done in unfamiliar places.
3. Relinquishing my career to stay at home with the children has been a huge shift in identity. I’m part of a generation of women who expected to have careers and continue them when we had our families – we actively rejected the 1950s/1960s ideal of a mother who stayed at home with the children. Like many women, my identity was deeply entwined with what I did. So when I stopped working because moving internationally, maintaining a career and having young children seemed impossible, well, let’s just say it was definitely (maybe on some level still is) an identity CRISIS!
4. My foreign language capabilities in school were not that great. I never thought of myself as a linguist. In the last 15 years, I’ve learned to function in 4 languages besides my mother tongue.
5. Like women around the world, whether they’ve moved or not, being a mother has become a key part of my identity. On some days that’s a good thing, on others not so much, but it’s part of me that is not going to change.
6. I’m an introvert by nature; happy in my own company, but moving around, making new friends and becoming part of new communities has made me step out of my introvert’s shell and take on some more extrovert characteristics.
Those are just some aspects of my identity that have changed but other things about me remain relatively unchanged; my fundamental values, I’m still an introvert at heart, there is still a core of me which is (for better or worse) tied up in having grown up in a very small community.
What challenged your identity when you moved overseas?
What aspects of yourself have remained unchanged?
How has living in a different culture and forming new social groups changed you?
Louise Wiles, Judy Rickatson and I will be discussing these and other questions when we talk about the “Impact of Relocation on Identiy and Sense of Self ” at the Expat Partner Online Coffee this Friday May 4th at 13:00 London/08:00 New York/20:00 Hong Kong (if you’re not sure about the time in your own location check here ‘http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html). Join us by clicking on this link https://www.linqto.com/rooms/thesmartexpatlive
We’ll continue the discussion on the Expat Partner Online Coffee Facebook Group (its a closed group, so you’ll have to ask to join). Join us for what promises to be a lively discussion.