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My friends talking about the experience of living in the UK and whether to return or not return back ‘home’

Sunday, April 8th, 2007 @ 11:49 am
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Posted in  Personal Process, Reflexivity

I spent Easter day with 7 greek friends of mine here in Manchester. We had arranged to meet and cook together ‘greekstyle’, as a way of connecting with our own culture whilst being abroad. We spent the whole day together, from early afternoon until late at night. There were a lot of converations during the whole day around our lives in the UK, the way our move abroad has impacted the relationships with the family back to Greece, the ways that personal relationships have developed, our work/study opportunities, the dilemmas around returning or not returning back to our home country, which does not feel like ‘home’ anymore…there were many emotions in the atmosphere and some of us admitted that they felt quite exhausted at the end of the day, as a result of discussing about those issues.

I actively participated in the conversations, sharing my own fears/anxieties/hopes/experiences. I was aware of the fact that two of us, out of the group of seven, are counsellors so, there were moments that the conversations went at a deeper level due to the ‘deeper insights’ that me and my colleague/friend brought into the conversation. I am times felt ‘over-exposed’ but I also knew that a. it is a personal characteristic of mine to reveal personal experiences with courage and b. my friends seemed to e drawn into my sharings, as if they wanted me to find the courage to ‘voice’ matters that feel important but also complex and painful and they weren’t sure if it was comfortable/safe enough for them to share. “Am I again becoming the ‘pot’ of difficult dynamics, like it usually happens with me in groups?” am just wondering…

Besides the personal stuff, i was aware that part of me was ‘observing’ the whole scene from the ‘researcher mode’. Like William would say (and  C.Moustakas, in Heuristics): “all this is data”, given that I was engaged in a real-life conversation around the topic I am looking at in my research.

If it was to list some of the themes that emerged during the conversations around the experience of moving to a host culture (and some returning back to original one), those would be the following (in my own words):

  • there are changes in terms of ‘identity’ as a result of moving abroad (“my mind has opened up”, “i became independent/stood on my own feet”, “i gained more freedom”, “i had the chance to study what I wanted”, “I could get a better job and earn good money”, “I had the chance to meet people from different cultures and as a result see the world in a different way” etc)
  • family relationships have changed as a result of moving away. Greek families tend to have strong family bonds, to the extent of emotional suffocation and over-involvement sometimes. Greek parents find it difficult to let go of their children, even when they become mature adults. When one memeber moves abroad, everybody has to adjuct to the new situation, both the immigrant and those remaining back ‘home’. Depending on the given family dynamics and roles, many challenges seem to emerge
  • When talking about to return or not to return back in Greece, the common, strong emotiona that appeared was the feeling of guilt. There seems to be a feeling of guilt cultivated to the pesron who has chosen to move to a new culture, it is as if he/she is made to believe that he/she has betrayed the value of family unity. There are also issues around loss. Loss of familiarity, loss of routine, loss of hearing own language, loss of important relationships, loss of habits…loss of ‘belongigness’ and ‘at-homeness’….a number of losses seem to emerge for those that remain in original culture, towards the person that has chosen to move
  • issues around professional opportunities were discussed. In Greece, unemployment and the phenomenon of nepotism is very high so people, especially young professionals are very anxious around finding a job. This impacts the sense of financial idependence as well, which leads to creating more ‘dependence’ towards the family (money may become a way of exercising ‘control’ in Greek families, a way of not letting children-who have become adults- go)
  • there was discussion around family values (comparisons between UK and Greece). There were different opinions discussed. I notices a tendency to reject those attitudes that either once felt suffocating in original culture or feel totally ‘lacking’ in host culture and idealise  those attitudes that seem much preferred but would probbaly feel as ‘alien’ depending on cultural context

I guess i could write much more in here but part of me feels still ‘overwhelmed’ by the proces. The whole area feels very interesting to me but I am also concerned about the impact of the research topic upon me. Can i do research on a topic that is so personal and challenging and often painful to me? I see this causing me a lot of anxiety…unless i manage to adopt a different attitude/stance towards it. I guess I am now experimenting, testing the waters kind of thing…let’s see what comes out of it, really

I would like to thank my friends for the ‘get together’, the delicious meal and the whole stimulation….somebody could say that, from the research point of view, this meal-gathering was fieldwork!!!

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