There is so much to say when it comes to Caribbean nationals, especially when they live in another country, be it temporary or permanent. It is quite an experience when one decides to move to a completely different country and with that comes various benefits and struggles that Caribbean immigrants face.
It is inevitable to experience culture shock as cultures differ. This can range from mild to severe once you move to another country for an extensive period. With culture shock comes persons having many problems adjusting to the culture which is presented to them, while others adapt quiet well. Culture shock is defined as a sense of confusion and uncertainty sometimes with feelings of anxiety that may affect people exposed to an alien culture or environment without adequate preparation.- (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
At first you feel a level of excitement being exposed to a new environment with endless opportunities. Some persons feel that it gives them a sense of independence and a new beginning. But then you realize the differences between your culture and theirs and things become more apparent at how much harder of a time you will have maneuvering things that once was second nature to you. The result is, what once felt new and exciting now becomes more challenging and frustrating; thus comes emerging feelings of withdrawal and alienation. You then become more in tuned with your possessions from your native home which tend to give you a sense of security, even food that you once hated becomes your safe haven.
Then you start to reject your surroundings, feeling no one understands you, becoming more alienated. However, based on your ability to bond with your surroundings, the people and you develop a strong support group, more positive feelings and actions emerge. Feelings like assertion and confidence and an acceptance for what you cannot change you begin to adapt. You then feel relieved that you passed through the stages of culture shock unscathed and feel like you belong even though you experience a few adversities here and there.
If you previously lived in a country where the dollar was significantly lower than the present country you are residing, there may be plenty benefits and drawbacks. Persons who have funds being sent to them from relatives or family members have difficulties sustaining their day to day living, especially if they get below average income when converted. They then have to rely on getting a job or re-evaluate their living arrangements. However, sending money to family members back in their home country makes living in that country advantageous. For example, Jamaica’s exchange rate is $128 JMD to $1 USD; therefore, students have to rely solely on scholarships if they migrate.
When you first go to a new country there will be a language barrier since not only are they not used to your way of communicating, but they honestly do not understand your language. Even if you are speaking English, you might as well be speaking another language because they will not easily comprehend what you are trying to say. Caribbean nationals have a trying time when they migrate to another country as the way they pronounce their words and sometimes formulate their sentences is very different from the countries to which they move. A popular place where this occurs is America and Europe among other places. Not to mention the fact that they have an accent and a different dialect that the average foreigner would have to try and decode but none-the-less loves to mimic.
“I remember when I went to McDonalds I think it was, and I wanted to order a bottle of water. I’m from Jamaica, so we pronounce water as ‘wah-tah’ so that’s what I said and for the life of me the woman didn’t know what I was saying. I even tried saying ‘water’ with the e-r and she still never got it. Eventually I had to mimic the Black American accent and then she said “OH! WATER!” I was so upset.” – Jamaican resident.
Racism and prejudice is everywhere in the world and while some don’t blatantly convey it to others who seem different from them, it is sometimes done unconsciously. The assumptions and perceptions that are made also influence whether or not a person is considered or discriminated against by another, for example on a job interview.
Racism, like prejudice, is an attitude and this has lifelong effects on the victims. Caribbean natives find that they can react in one of two ways when living in the United States, or other parts of the world. One way is—having not been exposed to racism or prejudice—it affects them negatively and just makes them experience issues like self-doubt, low self-esteem, social isolation, etc.
Another way—having not been exposed to racism or prejudice—is to adopt the ‘water off the back’ approach where they do not let it affect them in a negative way.
6 Tips on How to Cope/Overcome These Struggles:
- Get busy /preoccupied, take up a sport/activity, training, or find employment.
- Socialize, making friends isn’t such a bad thing after all; try to get to know persons in your university, community or even country.
- Don’t assume that everyone is like you and has the same cultural norms and beliefs, however try to get to know their culture while sharing yours; you both can learn something.
- Keep fit, this decreases the probability of you getting lethargic and it is another way to get active.
- Keep an open mind and try to stay away from negative perceptions and feelings if you don’t easily and readily understand it yet.
- Use your homesick feelings to your advantage and decorate your abode with family pictures and keep close to your roots.
By Alexandra Daley