We were talking this week about what different people – in this case non-Norwegians attending my Intercultural Communication at Work course – think about the term ‘integration’. What did it really mean to them?
A woman raised her hand and asked, “What do you think? Is it okay to hang around with people from your own country?”
Others nodded in understanding to this question.
How sad. The anxiety and guilt non-natives live with that don’t normally come to the surface but which by degrees affect them negatively on a daily basis while trying to carve out a life for themselves in their new country.
The pressure these people feel, so much that it makes them start believing that spending time with ‘their own kind’ is somehow wrong.
That it makes them kind of a failure.
The relief is being able to express that kind of thought out loud among people who signal that they get what you’re saying and not judging you for it.
My reply? I wrote on the board, ‘Find Your Tribe’, pointing out that while you’re in the middle of integrating:
- Don’t worry about hanging out with ‘your own’
- Know that needing the familiar is okay – language, humor, food, etc.
- Know that transitioning from one culture to another is easy for some people and rough for others
Who will your tribe turn out to be? That’s up to you and only you.
Maybe it’ll be just Norwegians, maybe it’ll be just your own, maybe it’ll be a mix of the two.
But whatever it turns out to be, try to let go of the guilt that is holding you back while you’re finding your people.
After all, life is what happens while you’re busy worrying about what you should and shouldn’t do to fit into your adopted country:
Don’t let it happen to you.