Keep the Ties or Not?

I come from China, and I am also a student of a university in Sweden. I meet many immigrants there, because the city that I dwell in is said to be a place in which the Swedish government put immigrants. I don’t know if that’s true, but when I traveled to the north part of Sweden, I felt there were not as many immigrants as the city I live in.

My landlord family is from China originally, and all the family members are immigrants in Sweden now, including the third generation. My landlord and his wife can speak Swedish, Chinese and their hometown accent very well, their daughter can speak Swedish fluently and a little Chinese, but their grandson can only speak Swedish. In my opinion, though they have Swedish citizenship, this family has not lost the ties to China yet. For example, the landlord couple go back to China once a year, and when I asked the reason for this, they said “we are Chinese, and we have relatives in China. We want to celebrate some festivals with them.” In China, people have the custom to celebrate the festivals with the whole family. My landlord family will invite some students who are also from China (like me) to celebrate the festivals together. We cook together, eat at one big table and talk in Chinese, which makes everyone feel we are in China instead of Sweden. As immigrants, they have lived in Sweden for 30 years, but they still enjoy the feeling of speaking Chinese and the Chinese atmosphere. I think this is because they grew up in China, and there is a strong lifestyle in their deep mind. However, for their later generations, the ties to China are weaker and weaker. Though the old couple tries to push their children to learn Chinese language and customs, the children seem to be unwilling. They may believe that they are Swedish, not Chinese, and they can live well in Sweden without knowing Chinese things.

As a foreign student in Sweden, I haven’t learned Swedish language or know many Swedish customs. But when I came back to China in summer holiday, my family members joking said “hey you are Swedish now”. Then a strange feeling appeared to me and I said a little angrily “I’m Chinese” to them. I don’t know why I got the anger, but I felt it was so uncomfortable to be “Swedish” when I knew little about Sweden.

Thus I think whether people, especially the immigrants want to keep the ties to their homeland or not, is depending on how they identity themselves. They can choose which lands’ culture and customs they want. For instance, if a person identity himself as a Swedish, he will absorb Swedish culture and customs, and the point is finally he is Swedish indeed.

by Xue Wang

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