I woke up in the middle of the night very excited. I had a dream: I was happily mingling with colleagues while speaking German. Woohoooo!!! That is great news, I thought. That means that the German language was finally making its way into the corners of my brain… but what is going on with me and my native language? All of the sudden I realize that I was using my mother tongue less and less and increasing the time I speak English and German. In addition, I must confess I find myself thinking in English most of the time, talking to fellow teachers in German and addressing daily activities with these two languages in mind… better said, at the tip of my tongue.
Since language is a huge part of a country’s heritage, I have been dealing with ambiguous feelings. On one hand, I feel proud of myself and the language skills I have developed both in English and German. But on the other hand, it seems to me that I’m separating myself from the rich culture of my country and its people. How to manage to stay really Venezuelan when living so far away, experiencing diverse traditions and communicating in different languages? It seems that the answer was right there in front of my eyes, or inside of my heart for that matter.
Since language is a huge part of a country’s heritage, I have been dealing with ambiguous feelings. On one hand, I feel proud of myself and the language skills I have developed both in English and German.
Staying Venezuelan doesn’t depend on how many times per year I visit this country or how much Venezuelan paraphernalia I decorate my house with. I don’t even own a Venezuelan flag. Staying true to my roots is determined by my commitment to be a better mother, worker and citizen of the world. It depends on my ability to share my traditions with family, friends, and students and still admire theirs. Being a true Venezuelan means to represent my country overseas the best way possible. It means to asmilate to other cultures and respect (and like, why not?) their traditions.
Staying true to my roots is determined by my commitment to be a better mother, worker and citizen of the world.
As a matter of fact I am not forgetting about my country when I meet with friends from other cultures, or when I learn to cook traditional dishes from the United States, Germany and beyond. I’m faithful to my origins when I tell my children stories about the beauty of Angel Falls and when I’m honest and impeccable at work. When I address my clients with high standards while showing them a huge smile always inspired by the blue of the Caribbean Sea (I keep a mental picture of it) and the rhythm of Tamunangue (traditional dance from my hometown). I am a Venezuelan citizen of the world. That’s it. Plain and simple. Magical and challenging.
So, how to deal with feelings of regret and shame when enjoying traditions from a country different from your own?
Just focus on embracing diversity
Ethnocentrism has no purpose in the way of a world citizen.
Being able to appreciate diverse cultures is a powerful resource to adjust to a new place faster and smoothly. Having an ethnorelativistic attitude allows us to enjoy the host country’s traditions while still feeling proud of our own heritage. Remember that we all believe that our country is the best one, avoid making the mistake of harboring arrogant feelings about your origins: ethnocentrism has no purpose in the way of a world citizen.
Today I feel better. The ambiguity of my feelings has faded and now I allow myself to fall in love again. I enjoy every blooming flower of this German spring, every sun ray that goes through the stained glass of Fulda’s cathedral. My feelings for the amazing things found here neither diminish my appreciation for my own culture nor makes me less Venezuelan. It is a more complete me. Undoubtedly Venezuelan, uniquely from every corner of the world… And you, would you allow yourself to fall in love again with every country you experience?