In Australia, 50% of the population has at least one parent born abroad (according to the 2016 census). Melbourne has an especially high density of migrant population; as soon as you step off the plane you can feel that it’s incredibly diverse. Last time I picked someone up at the airport I heard more Italian spoken around me than English. The suburb where I work is predominantly Asian; you can get all kinds of Asian food (really good, too!) but you will not find pizza, burgers, fish&chips or the like.
In Melbs, you’re bound to encounter all sorts of migrants, from all over the world. I find it fascinating how different people undergo the settling process quite differently, depending on things such as cultural baggage, values and mindset.
The cultural baggage depends on the person itself, because some people are well entrenched in their culture while others find it easy to assimilate, and also the culture they’re part of. Some cultures tend to be quite traditional and strict, covering stuff from what one eats to whom a person marries (India), while other cultures are more flexible, as is the case with newer countries (such as New Zealand or Canada). Some cultures require a high level of conformity (Japan) while others accept some level of being different. It’s not a level playing field.
The values play an important role in two different ways. The first is how they align with the society: it’s obviously easier to make the transition of one already holds similar values. This one guy was confronted for parking crooked and taking more than one spot and his answer was “if I don’t agree with the government I won’t obey their traffic laws” – something that in Australia is quite baffling, because that is not how values are applied here. Values also dictate how one measures success in life. I talked to this one guy who was originally from India and had moved to Australia from Dubai. He thought he wasn’t saving enough money compared to UAE (what he earned minus expenses), was severely disappointed, and finally moved back to Dubai. His main success criterion was the amount of money he could save. I have a different set of values and how I evaluate life in a different place depends on how that place measures up to things that are important to me.
Finally, the mind set has a role in it. This is quite a complex concept to describe; simply put that some people are willing and able to go to great lengths to reach their goal of settling in Australia, while others are have a harder time rolling with the punches. It’s worth noting it is not constant and that the same person can change their attitude along the way, many times over. There is no right or wrong and there are several internal and external factors that contribute to this. Being introverted or extroverted influences how easily one establishes connections to other people. This also depends, of course, on the kind of social and affective needs of each individual. Some need physical proximity to feel connected while others don’t. People coming from a safe environment with a loving family and supportive friends are likely to experience the move differently from people who feel that they haven’t left much behind. Some tend to look forward at what’s ahead while others focus on the past. I would argue that those who are more aware of their own needs, capabilities and limitations are better equipped to work with these aspects to achieve a state of mind that is more conducive to integrating into a new society. A combination of determination, personality and emotional intelligence is really what this mindset is about.
To all this, add a healthy dose of luck / fate / divine intervention. I find this process fascinating. What I also find great is the way in which every person settling here contributes to the overall Melbourne that I absolutely love. We are all so different; perhaps the one thing we have in common is the determination and courage to take this step, adapt and make it work.