5 things I love about being an immigrant

The author and her nephew tasting falling snow in Winnipeg.

Photo of the author tasting snow  by Len Loza.  © Used by permission

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It is not easy to leave a life to which you have grown accustomed. It’s comfortable, familiar and warm.

So, why are we here? Why did we choose to fly halfway across the world to a new place where we would need to start from zero, work extra hard to be accepted, and learn to embrace the cold?

Well, some may be fleeing wars, famine or oppressive conditions. Others move because they need better paying jobs, clean air, or a better environment. There could be a multitude of reasons but it all boils down to our desire to have a better life for ourselves and our children.

So for the moment, let me set aside my worries and rave about my new home. Allow me to share with you the top five things I love about being an immigrant:

Tell me, the first time you experienced snow, did you stick out your tongue to taste it? Well, I did. I felt foolish and exhilarated at the same time!

  1. Your sense of awe is activated

    When you move to a new country, you observe everything closely and with great interest. Even the simplest things can cause wonder. You’ll be saying things like “Wow, I didn’t know that they had that here! “Oh, so that’s the way they do it.”. And somehow you feel more alive because you’re experiencing new things. Tell me, the first time you experienced snow, did you stick out your tongue to taste it? Well, I did. I felt foolish and exhilarated at the same time!

  2. You can be a new person

    Not everyone is given a chance to reboot and live their lives in a totally new way. When you’re an immigrant, you have the option of choosing a new path, maybe a new career, style of clothing, even a new perspective in life. Most of the people you’ve grown up with aren’t here to judge you or mock you about your new choices. You get a chance to leave baggage from the past and start fresh.

  3. You are shaken out of complacency

    We take many things for granted when we’ve lived for a long time in a certain place. At a certain point, you become satisfied with the status quo. The danger is that you don’t strive for anything more or learn anything new in this comfort zone. When you’re an immigrant, you have to observe, learn, analyze and strategize to survive. Continuous learning becomes a way of life. Assimilating requires breaking free from old ways of thinking and embracing new concepts and perspectives.

  4. You develop a new appreciation for your home country

    Absence does make the heart grow fonder. Those who’ve had native food cravings would know! As for me, I know now that nothing compares to the pristine beauty of the beaches in my country and I regret not having spent more time appreciating them while I was there.

    It also comes as a surprise that I sometimes miss some of the most annoying aspects of my life back home. For instance, there are ubiquitous jeepneys that ply the streets almost 24 hours a day in the city that I lived in. These cause traffic jams (because jeepney drivers never follow traffic rules) and pollution (both noise and air). But after a particularly challenging day of figuring out which bus number goes where, I realized that I would not be in this predicament if there were jeepneys here.

  5. You appreciate your strengths more

  6. It was not until I experienced starting from zero in my career that I discovered that I could be resilient and mature in handling adversity. I’m still working on it, but I know now that it’s possible to develop patience, expand your way of thinking, make mistakes (and forgive yourself for them), and continue learning new things at whatever age or stage in life you are in.

What’s the top five on your list?

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CLB 3-4: 5 things I love about being an immigrant

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