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Across the Atlantic: Life as a Cultural Chameleon

Fri, 1 Jul 2005 Source: Blay-Amihere, Zandile

It only strikes me at certain times: when my mother and aunt engage in long conversations in twi, I cannot understand; when I attend Ghanaian events featuring ceremonies I am not familiar with; or when I speak on the phone with a relative from Ghana, I barely know: it's the vivid realization that I was born in Ghana, but I am not really from there.
Yet, my refusal to refer to adults by their first name, my habit of passing items only with my right hand, and my inability to participate in conversations with friends on events that happened before I landed here, hint at an alternate truth: I may live in America, but I am not really from here, either.
Like many others who grew up abroad, I am simultaneously a part of and apart from both countries. My traits, characteristics, and customs make me strange to Americans, but my "accent," clothing and customs make me a stranger to Ghanaians.
So how do I, and countless others in similar circumstances, reconcile these two realities? You don't. The single solution lies in assuming two identities.
At home you go by Kwesi, or Nana Ama, enjoy shito and kenkeye and listen to high life. In public, your name, interests and even accent change. The changes in your personality as you switch between cultures and identity are so subtle, that it often happens without your knowledge. Ironically, neither identity is false. Both are equally authentic aspects of an immigrant's personality, and almost necessary for living and surviving life abroad.
Look out for Zandile's Next Column "Great Expectations" on July 12th, 2005



Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

It only strikes me at certain times: when my mother and aunt engage in long conversations in twi, I cannot understand; when I attend Ghanaian events featuring ceremonies I am not familiar with; or when I speak on the phone with a relative from Ghana, I barely know: it's the vivid realization that I was born in Ghana, but I am not really from there.
Yet, my refusal to refer to adults by their first name, my habit of passing items only with my right hand, and my inability to participate in conversations with friends on events that happened before I landed here, hint at an alternate truth: I may live in America, but I am not really from here, either.
Like many others who grew up abroad, I am simultaneously a part of and apart from both countries. My traits, characteristics, and customs make me strange to Americans, but my "accent," clothing and customs make me a stranger to Ghanaians.
So how do I, and countless others in similar circumstances, reconcile these two realities? You don't. The single solution lies in assuming two identities.
At home you go by Kwesi, or Nana Ama, enjoy shito and kenkeye and listen to high life. In public, your name, interests and even accent change. The changes in your personality as you switch between cultures and identity are so subtle, that it often happens without your knowledge. Ironically, neither identity is false. Both are equally authentic aspects of an immigrant's personality, and almost necessary for living and surviving life abroad.
Look out for Zandile's Next Column "Great Expectations" on July 12th, 2005



Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Blay-Amihere, Zandile

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