Newcomers can take several months, years and even generations to successfully accept and integrate into their new identity. Many struggle with the need to live their life according to the rules and values they left behind in their home country, and, as a result, will find themselves living as if they are in a cultural time warp.
Change, after all, can be hard. But it is inevitable — and not just in Canada. But some immigrants either don’t know or don’t care that even their place of origin is evolving in today’s world.
Newcomers are often confronted by feelings of trauma, grief, loss and denial while transitioning to a new country. In fact, many experts agree that the first year of an immigrant’s move is the time when newcomers often deal with issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychosocial or mental conditions. But this is also a time they should also be adjusting to their new environment and finding their new identity as a Canadian immigrant. But if someone cannot eliminate extreme feelings of sadness and socially isolate themselves from new experiences and people, then their resettlement journey also doesn’t evolve.
State of limbo
When adapting to a new country, most immigrants who are in this cultural time warp are then also stuck in a state of limbo. They are unable to identify with and reject the new culture, while overvaluing everything from their previous culture.
Many of us in the first, second or third generations of this cycle may have grown up in families who have been stuck in this limbo state. Many may even continue to live silo communities with family members who still haven’t accepted their new identities or changing times. For many families, staying isolated in this way is a very strong coping mechanism, but one that isn’t positive or useful. In fact, it will only reinforce their feelings of grief, loss and denial.
One way to resolve these issues is by creating a healthy balance between past memories and new memories. It’s fine to value tradition, but it’s also important to experience new things and adapt to a new comfort zone. For example, try initiating friendships with those who aren’t from your cultural background, getting involved in your child’s school by volunteering or participating in activities that you normally wouldn’t have.
Conscious efforts to find this balance will hopefully replace feeling stuck and living in a cultural time warp, with thriving relationships and ultimately a new identity. Together, we can get out of the past and live in the present!