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Network for Peace through Dialogue

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February 13, 2008

How Does Migration Affect Us

Facilitated by Virginia Dorgan, RSHM

Adhering to the principles of "high quality dialogue" listed on the Network for Peace dialogue cards, we broke into small groups, and reflected on our personal experience with migration by choosing one move we had made and discussing: 1) what aspects of the culture we left behind and why, 2) what was similar and what was different about each culture, and 3) how what we kept from our original culture affected our new place. Then we came together and discussed our findings.

1) What aspects of culture we left behind and why

One participant felt that leaving her original culture was "wrenching" because it meant leaving people and things she loved. Another felt that what she had left behind was the person she would have been had she stayed in her old environs, that her self identity had changed because of her migration. Yet another felt that she didn't leave anything behind, that she brought "the old" with her intact. One participant who moved only a matter of blocks noted that cultures in close proximity can be very different from each other and that one doesn't have to move a great distance to experience a different culture.

What was similar and what was different about each culture

One dialoguer noted that what was common in both her old and new cultures was the strength of the relationships with the people she met and the fundamental importance of those relationships to who she was. Another observed that the language and humor were different. Another discussed the differing emphasis on materialism from one culture to another and the differing motivations in acknowledging a person from one's original culture in the new culture.

What we kept from our original culture and its affect on our new place

Some participants brought physical reminders of their original cultures such as photographs or mementos; some brought more intangible reminders such as language, habit and humor. One participant spoke of the universality among cultures of smiles and friendliness. Another spoke of the importance of bringing an attitude of learning and a recognition that self acceptance encourages a learning attitude.

To sum up, the feeling of the majority of the participants was that migration was a challenging experience on many levels. It opens one up to new experiences and encourages self-knowledge by defining what aspects of self come from the surrounding culture and what aspects of self are more "portable" or elemental. The first migration -- coming through the birth canal into the world – shows the importance of moving out of our comfort zones towards something better. However, it is often necessary for time to pass before comprehending the import of the migration.

The Living Room Dialogue participants tonight each had made their migration out of choice. They imagined that people forced to migrate would answer the above questions very differently. Consequently, the next Living Room Dialogue will focus on forced migration and its impact on the migrant.


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